The hustle and bustle of city life: monitoring the effects of urbanisation in the African lesser bushbaby

Abstract

Urbanisation has become a severe threat to pristine natural areas, causing habitat loss and affecting indigenous animals. Species occurring within an urban fragmented landscape must cope with changes in vegetation type as well as high degrees of anthropogenic disturbance, both of which are possible key mechanisms contributing to behavioural changes and perceived stressors. We attempted to elucidate the effects of urbanisation on the African lesser bushbaby, Galago moholi, by (1) recording activity budgets and body condition (body mass index, BMI) of individuals of urban and rural populations and (2) further determining adrenocortical activity in both populations as a measure of stress via faecal glucocorticoid metabolite (fGCM) levels, following successful validation of an appropriate enzyme immunoassay test system (adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH) challenge test). We found that both sexes of the urban population had significantly higher BMIs than their rural counterparts, while urban females had significantly higher fGCM concentrations than rural females. While individuals in the urban population fed mainly on provisioned anthropogenic food sources and spent comparatively more time resting and engaging in aggressive interactions, rural individuals fed almost exclusively on tree exudates and spent more time moving between food sources. Although interactions with humans are likely to be lower in nocturnal than in diurnal species, our findings show that the impact of urbanisation on nocturnal species is still considerable, affecting a range of ecological and physiological aspects.

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Acknowledgements

We would like to thank the residents of Onderstepoort, Pretoria, as well as Nylsvley Nature Reserve, for the permission to work on their property for the duration of this study. In addition, we would like to thank Ms. L. Prinzloo for assisting in sample collection at Nylsvley Nature Reserve. We would also like to thank Prof. Dr. K.H. Dausmann for logistical support. The research conducted was accomplished with the financial assistance of the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG; DA 1031/3-1/2) and the DST-NRF SarchI Chair of Mammal Behavioural Ecology and Physiology.

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The authors declare that they have no competing interests.

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Correspondence to Juan Scheun.

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Communicated by: Sven Thatje

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Scheun, J., Bennett, N.C., Ganswindt, A. et al. The hustle and bustle of city life: monitoring the effects of urbanisation in the African lesser bushbaby. Sci Nat 102, 57 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00114-015-1305-4

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Keywords

  • Faecal glucocorticoids
  • Anthropogenic disturbance
  • Provisioned food
  • Increased weight