Comparative Feeding Ecology of Sympatric Microcebus berthae and M. murinus

  • Melanie DammhahnEmail author
  • Peter M. Kappeler


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.


coexistence feeding ecology Microcebus seasonality 



We acknowledge the authorization and support of this study by Prof. O. Ramilijaona and Prof. D. Rakotondravony (Département de Biologie Animale, Université d’Antananarivo), the Commission Tripartite, and the CAFF of the Direction des Eaux et Forêts, the CFPF Morondava. We thank Rodin Rasoloarison, Léonard Razafimanantsoa, Tiana Andrianjanahary, the late Jean-Claude de Beroboka, Bruno Tsiverimana, and the Equipe Kirindy for support and assistance in the field. Roger Andriamparany, Vanessa Mass, and Hannah McLauchlin helped with insect collection. A previous version of the manuscript benefited greatly from comments of Mia-Lana Lührs, Jörg U. Ganzhorn, and discussions in the Behavioral Ecology & Sociobiology group of the DPZ. DFG (Ka 1082/10-1&2), Margot-Marsh Biodiversity Foundation, Deutsches Primatenzentrum Göttingen, and the Christian-Vogel-Fonds (GfP) provided financial support. All research reported here is in compliance with animal care regulations and applicable national laws of Germany and Madagascar. The appropriate Animal Use and Care committees of Germany (Bundesministerium für Naturschutz, BfN) and Madagascar (Ministère de l’Environment et des Eaux et Forêts, MINEEF) approved all research protocols.


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Abteilung Verhaltensökologie & SoziobiologieDeutsches PrimatenzentrumGöttingenGermany
  2. 2.Abteilung Soziobiologie/AnthropologieUniversität GöttingenGöttingenGermany

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