Reproductive Schedules of Female Microcebus rufus at Ranomafana National Park, Madagascar
I examined the reproductive status of female brown mouse lemurs (Microcebus rufus) from October 2005 to early January, 2006 at Ranomafana National Park, an eastern rain forest in Madagascar. I employed intensive capture/mark/recapture techniques to track individual changes in vaginal morphology and body mass and collected vaginal smears for individuals with open vaginas. I observed moderate estrous synchrony (vaginal openings between October 11 and November 18), with clusters of females showing strong estrous synchrony (6 of 15 on or around October 15, and 3 of 15 on or around October 25). My findings weakly support the proximity hypothesis—that closer females will enter estrus simultaneously—and offer virtually no support for the notion that body mass influences the timing of estrus in brown mouse lemurs. Females gave birth during the second and third weeks of December. Two females showing signs of abortion or perinatal death of offspring also showed renewed vaginal swelling in late December, suggesting that some form of polyestry, i.e., as reproductive compensation for infant loss, exists at Ranomafana. I discuss the implications of the data, in conjunction with other evidence of polyestry in wild mouse lemurs, in light of data on patterns of seasonality at Ranomafana and other sites. More data are needed to determine the frequency and pattern of polyestry in Microcebus rufus.
Keywordsbrown mouse lemurs Madagascar Microcebus rufus polyestry Ranomafana National Park reproduction timing of estrus vaginal smears
This project would not have been possible without the help of many people, particularly Laurie Godfrey, who provided advice at every stage. I thank Anja Deppe for her collaboration with mouse lemur research as well as Patricia Wright for advice and support in the field. Additional thanks go to my local (Centre ValBio-trained) research assistants, Victor Rasendrinirina and Jean Claude Rakotonirina, at Ranomafana; the Centre ValBio director Anna Feistner, Jean Claude Razafimahaimodison; and Aimée Razafiarimalala and other personnel of the Centre ValBio for logistic support. Staff from the Association Nationale pour la Gestion des Aires Protégées (ANGAP), the Institute for the Conservation of Tropical Environments (ICTE, Stony Brook), and the Madagascar Institute pour la Conservation des Ecosystèmes Tropicaux, (MICET), especially its director, Benjamin Andriamihaja, facilitated the research at Madagascar. I thank Rafael Fissore, Michael Bedford, and Kay Izard for technical assistance and Stacy Gebo for assistance in taking the photographs. I thank Cathy Williams and Jeff Wyatt for veterinary advice. I also greatly appreciate comments on an earlier draft of the manuscript by Sylvia Atsalis, Diane Brockman, Stephen King, Lynnette Sievert, and Patricia Wright, as well as 2 anonymous reviewers. I wrote the article under the support of a National Geographic Society Grant to Laurie Godfrey.
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