, Volume 20, Issue 6, pp 927-940

Female Coordination of Group Travel in Wild Propithecus and Eulemur

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Abstract

Coordination of primate group movements by individual group members is generally categorized as leadership behavior, which entails several steps: deciding where to move next, initiating travel, and leading a group between food, water sources, and rest sites. Presumably, leaders are able to influence their daily foraging efficiency and nutritional intake, which could influence an individual's feeding ecology and long-term reproductive success. Within anthropoid species, females lead group movements in most female-bonded groups, while males lead groups in most nonfemale-bonded groups. Group leadership has not been described for social prosimians, which are typically not female-bonded. We describe group movements in two nonfemale-bonded, lemurid species living in southeastern Madagascar, Propithecus diadema edwardsi and Eulemur fulvus rufus. Although several social lemurids exhibit female dominance Eulemur fulvus rufus does not, and evidence for female dominance is equivocal in Propithecus diadema edwardsi. Given the ecological stresses that females face during reproduction, we predict that females in these two species will implement alternative behavioral strategies such as group leadership in conjunction with, or in the absence of, dominance interactions to improve access to food. We found that females in both species initiated and led group movements significantly more often than males did. In groups with multiple females, one female was primarily responsible for initiating and leading group movements. We conclude that female nutritional needs may determine ranging behavior to a large extent in these prosimian species, at least during months of gestation and lactation.