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Living in tiny fragments: a glimpse at the ecology of Goodman’s mouse lemurs (Microcebus lehilahytsara) in the relic forest of Ankafobe, Central Highlands, Madagascar

Abstract

Habitat fragmentation is one of the major types of anthropogenic change, though fragmented landscapes predate human intervention. At present, the Central Highlands of Madagascar are covered by extensive grasslands interspersed with small discrete forest patches of unknown antiquity. Ankafobe, an actively protected site, comprises two such fragments of 12 and 30 ha, respectively, known to harbor three lemur species and other endemic wildlife. At this location, we conducted a survey of resident Goodman’s mouse lemurs, Microcebus lehilahytsara, to determine baseline behavioral and ecological conditions for this isolated population. By studying primates in forest fragments, investigators can characterize the effects of shrinking habitats and decreasing connectivity on species diversity and survival, thus providing a glimpse into the potential resilience of species in the face of anthropogenic disturbance. Investigating the behavioral ecology of Goodman’s mouse lemurs across their geographic range could help us understand their metabolic and ecological flexibility and predict species long-term survival prospects. We conducted night transect walks, using capture techniques and telemetry, to track eight radio-collared individuals. Preliminary density estimates based on a limited number of sightings (n = 18) were 2.19 ind/ha, and home range assessments ranged between 0.22 and 3.67 ha. Mouse lemurs traveled an average of 425 m nightly during the 5-h tracking periods and primarily fed on fruits of the mistletoe Bakerella clavata. The finding that Goodman’s mouse lemurs apparently thrive in the seasonally cold and arid forest fragments in the Central Highlands indicates that they may be among the most tolerant and adaptable lemur species in Madagascar. These results point towards an exciting research program that focuses on ecological tolerance as a mechanism for long-term species survival.

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Acknowledgements

We thank the Government of Madagascar for authorizing us to conduct research at Ankafobe. We are indebted to Madame Beatrice, P. Rafanomezantsoa, A. Bendrainy, L. H. Ramerina, and T. Ralainaorina for their assistance in the field. Financial support was partly provided by the Duke Tropical Conservation Initiative Seed Grant to J.J. Swenson and A.D. Yoder, and Primate Action Fund to M.B. Blanco. This is Duke Lemur Center publication # 1490.

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Contributions

MBB, ADY designed study; JBA, AA, TVR, MBB collected field data; MBB, JBA, NW analyzed data; JBA, MBB, CB, ADY wrote the paper.

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Correspondence to Marina B. Blanco.

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The authors declare no conflict of interest.

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Our research adhered to the legal requirements of the Government of Madagascar, under Research Permit N°225/15/MEEF/SG/DGF/DAPT/SCBT, reissued by the Ministry of Environment, Ecology and Forests (current MEDD), and our research protocols complied with the Duke Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC) under protocol A263-17–12. In addition, prior to beginning research, we informed local state representatives (Ankazobe) of the proposed work and asked them to validate our research permit, and also informed local communities through VOI-Sohisika so as to avoid misunderstandings concerning our work at this site.

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Andriambeloson, JB., Blanco, M.B., Andriantsalohimisantatra, A. et al. Living in tiny fragments: a glimpse at the ecology of Goodman’s mouse lemurs (Microcebus lehilahytsara) in the relic forest of Ankafobe, Central Highlands, Madagascar. Primates (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10329-021-00947-1

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Keywords

  • Savannah
  • Cheirogaleid
  • Ecological flexibility
  • Radio collar
  • Tracking