Comparative Feeding Ecology of Sympatric Microcebus berthae and M. murinus
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- Dammhahn, M. & Kappeler, P.M. Int J Primatol (2008) 29: 1567. doi:10.1007/s10764-008-9312-3
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Most Malagasy primate communities harbor a diverse assemblage of omnivorous species. The mechanisms allowing the coexistence of closely related species are poorly understood, partly because only preliminary data on the feeding ecology of most species are available. We provide an exemplary feeding ecology data set to illuminate coexistence mechanisms between sympatric gray and Madame Berthe’s mouse lemurs (Microcebus murinus, M. berthae). We studied their feeding ecology in Kirindy Forest/CFPF, a highly seasonal dry deciduous forest in western Madagascar. Between August 2002 and December 2007, we regularly (re-)captured, marked, and radiotracked females of both species. A combination of direct behavioral observations and fecal analyses revealed that both Microcebus species used fruit, arthropods, gum, insect secretions, and small vertebrates as food sources. However, Microcebus berthae and M. murinus differed in both composition and seasonal variation of their diets. Whereas the diet of Microcebus murinus varied seasonally and was generally more diverse, M. berthae relied mainly on insect secretions supplemented by animal matter. The differences were also reflected in a very narrow feeding niche of Microcebus berthae and a comparatively broad feeding niche of M. murinus. Resource use patterns of Madame Berthe’s and more so of opportunistic gray mouse lemurs broadly followed resource availability within the strongly seasonal dry forest. Feeding niche overlap between the 2 sympatric species was high, indicating that food resource usage patterns did not reflect niche partitioning, but can instead be explained by constraints due to food availability.