Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology

, Volume 68, Issue 8, pp 1273–1286 | Cite as

The development of sex differences in ring-tailed lemur feeding ecology

  • M. Teague O’Mara
  • Cathriona M. Hickey
Original Paper


Sex differences in feeding ecology may develop in response to fluctuations in physiological costs to females over their reproductive cycles, or to sexual size dimorphism, or function to minimize feeding competition within a group via resource partitioning. For most mammal species, it is unknown how these factors contribute to sex differences in feeding, or how the development of males and females reflects these intraspecific feeding differences. We show changes in dietary composition, diversity, overlap, and foraging behavior throughout development in ring-tailed lemurs (Lemur catta) and test how the development of sex differences in feeding is related to female costs of reproduction and year-round resource partitioning. Sex differences in dietary composition were only present when females were lactating, but sex differences in other aspects of feeding, including dietary diversity, and relative time spent feeding and foraging, developed at or near the time of weaning. Sex difference in juveniles and subadults, when present, were similar to the differences found in adults. The low year-round dietary overlap and early differences in dietary diversity indicate that some resource partitioning may begin with young individuals and fluctuate throughout development. The major differences between males and females in dietary composition suggest that these larger changes in diet are closely tied to female reproductive state when females must shift their diet to meet energetic and nutritional requirements.


Behavioral development Diet Juvenile Female dominance Reproduction Resource partitioning Lemur catta 



The authors would like to thank Ayden Sherritt, Paul Stephen, and Andy Fogel for their help with data collection. The authors thank Madagascar National Parks, the Ministére des Eaux et Forêt, and ESSA-Forêt Université d’Antananarivo for research permission, and to the staff at Beza Mahafaly and MICET for facilitating logistics. Michelle Sauther, Frank Cuozzo, Jacky Antho, Stephanie Meredith, Andry Randrianandrasana, Jeannin Ranaivonasy, Benjamin Andriamihaja, and the members of the Beza Mahafaly Ecological Monitoring Team were all supportive of the fieldwork, as were Alison Richard and Robert Dewar. Leanne Nash, Kate Ihle, Meg Crofoot, Stephanie Meredith, and two anonymous reviewers greatly improved this manuscript. This work was supported by the National Science Foundation DDIG (BCS 0851761), the J. William Fulbright Foundation, Sigma Xi and its ASU chapter, the ASU Graduate and Professional Students Association, and the ASU School of Human Evolution and Social Change.

Ethical standards

All methods conformed to the Guidelines for the Use of Animals in Research of the Animal Behavior Society and were approved by the IACUC at Arizona State University (08-983R) and by Madagascar National Parks (135/07; 257/09).

Supplementary material

265_2014_1738_MOESM1_ESM.docx (44 kb)
ESM 1 (DOCX 44 kb)


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© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Smithsonian Tropical Research InstitutePanamáPanamá
  2. 2.School of Human Evolution and Social ChangeArizona State UniversityPhoenixUSA
  3. 3.Zukunftskolleg and Department of BiologyUniversity of KonstanzKonstanzGermany
  4. 4.Department of Migration and Immuno-EcologyMax Planck Institute for OrnithologyRadolfzellGermany
  5. 5.CIRCLE, Environment DepartmentUniversity of YorkYorkUK

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