Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology

, Volume 61, Issue 8, pp 1237–1251 | Cite as

Feeding over the 24-h cycle: dietary flexibility of cathemeral collared lemurs (Eulemur collaris)

  • Giuseppe Donati
  • An Bollen
  • Silvana M. Borgognini-Tarli
  • Joerg U. Ganzhorn
Original Paper


Animals show specific morphological, physiological and behavioural adaptations to diurnal or nocturnal activity. Cathemeral species, i.e. animals with activities distributed over the 24-h period, have to compromise between these specific adaptations. The driving evolutionary forces and the proximate costs and benefits of cathemerality are still poorly understood. Our goal was to evaluate the role of predator avoidance, food availability and diet quality in shaping cathemeral activity of arboreal mammals using a lemur species as an example. For this, two groups of collared lemurs, Eulemur collaris, were studied for 14 months in the littoral forest of southeastern Madagascar. Data on feeding behaviour were collected during all-day and all-night follows by direct observation. A phenological transect containing 78 plant species was established and monitored every 2 weeks to evaluate food availability during the study period. Characteristics of food items and animal nutritional intake were determined via biochemical analyses. The ratio of diurnal to nocturnal feeding was used as response variable in the analyses. The effects of abiotic environmental variables were removed statistically before the analyses of the biotic variables. We found that diurnal feeding lasted longer during the hot–wet season (December–February), whereas nocturnal feeding peaked during the hot–dry and cool–wet seasons (March–August). Although the lemurs foraged mostly in lower forest strata during daylight and used emergent trees preferably at night, the variables which measured animal exposure to birds of prey failed to predict the variation of the ratio of diurnal/nocturnal feeding. Ripe fruit availability and fiber intake are the two variables which best predicted the annual variation of the lemur diurnality. The data indicate that feeding over the whole 24-h cycle is advantageous during lean periods when animals have a fibre-rich, low-quality diet.


Cathemerality Feeding strategies Lemur ecology Nutritional intake Eulemur collaris 



This study was carried out under the collaboration agreement between the Departments of Animal Biology and Anthropology of the University of Antananarivo, the Institute of Zoology of Hamburg University and QIT Madagascar Minerals. We thank the Commission Tripartite of the Malagasy Government, the Ministère des Eaux et Forêts, QMM and Missouri Botanical Garden at Antananarivo for their collaboration and permissions to work in Madagascar. In particular, we acknowledge Manon Vincelette, Jean-Baptiste Ramanamanjato and Laurent Randriashipara of the QMM Conservation Team for providing help at various stages of this research. We are grateful to Nicoletta Baldi and Valentina Morelli for providing additional data on E. collaris feeding ecology; many thanks as well to Dauphin Mbola, Givé Sambo, Ramisy Edmond, the local assistants who helped with the collection of behavioural and phenology data. Irene Tomaschewsky helped with plant analyses. We thank Peter Kappeler and the reviewers of BES for their constructive comments on earlier drafts of the manuscript. The first author would like to express a special gratitude to Sabine Groos for her continuous help during the elaboration of this paper. GD was supported by a doctoral grant of the Italian Ministry for Scientific Research (MURST) and the University of Pisa. AB was supported by a grant of the Belgian Fund for Scientific Research, Flanders (FWO).


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  • Giuseppe Donati
    • 1
  • An Bollen
    • 2
  • Silvana M. Borgognini-Tarli
    • 1
  • Joerg U. Ganzhorn
    • 3
  1. 1.Dipartimento di Biologia Unita’ di AntropologiaUniversità degli Studi di PisaPisaItaly
  2. 2.UNEP ROAP, UN BuildingBangkokThailand
  3. 3.Department of Animal Ecology and ConservationHamburgGermany

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