Skip to main content

Plant Species Fed on by Wild Ring-Tailed Lemurs (Lemur catta) at Nine Sites

Abstract

A key aspect of a primate’s ecology is its food source, the very nature of which is spatially and seasonally dependent and may be affected by anthropic pressures. One of the most endangered, yet best-studied, strepsirrhine primates is the ring-tailed lemur (Lemur catta), a species that has experienced significant human-induced habitat loss over many decades. To help understand feeding variability across time and space, I present a literature review of plant species (and parts) fed on by ring-tailed lemurs at nine sites in Madagascar: Ambatotsirongorongo, Andringitra Massif, Anja Reserve, Antserananomby, Berenty Reserve, Bezà Mahafaly Special Reserve, Cap Sainte-Marie, Tsaranoro Valley Forest, and Tsimanampetsotsa National Park. I gathered literature using keyword searches on Google Scholar (https://scholar.google.com/) and verified scientific names using the “Catalogue of the Plants of Madagascar” (http://legacy.tropicos.org/Project/Madagascar). From 24 studies, I identify 221 genera and 241 species of consumed plants, with 92 genera and 70 species consumed at two or more sites. Based on the available distribution data, 63% of species are endemic and 22% native. Sixty-seven plants are known only by Malagasy common names and excluded from analyses. When authors identify the plant tissue consumed, 52% of species in the diet are represented by a single tissue type, typically leaves (mature and immature) or fruit (ripe or unripe). This review highlights the importance of studying multiple populations when creating dietary summaries of species and should prove valuable to those exploring ecological trends and habitat use by ring-tailed lemurs.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

Fig. 1
Fig. 2

References

  • Britt, A., Welch, C., & Katz, A. (1998). The first release of captive-bred lemurs into their natural habitat. Lemur News, 3, 8–11.

    Google Scholar 

  • Britt, A., Welch, C., & Katz, A. (2004). Can small, isolated primate populations be effectively reinforced through the release of individuals from a captive population? Biological Conservation, 115, 319–327. https://doi.org/10.1016/S0006-3207(03)00150-2.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Cameron, A., & Gould, L. (2013). Fragment-adaptive behavioural strategies and intersite variation in the ring-tailed lemur (Lemur catta) in south-central Madagascar. In L. K. Marsh & C. A. Chapman (Eds.), Primates in fragments (pp. 227–243). New York: Springer Science+Business Media.

    Chapter  Google Scholar 

  • Chandrashekar, A., Knierim, J. A., Khan, S., Raboin, D. L., Venkatesh, S., et al (2020). Genetic population structure of endangered ring-tailed lemurs (Lemur catta) from nine sites in southern Madagascar. Ecology and Evolution. https://doi.org/10.1002/ece3.6337.

  • Crowley, B. E., Godfrey, L. R., Guilderson, T. P., Zermeno, P., Koch, P. L., & Dominy, N. J. (2012). Extinction and ecological retreat in a community of primates. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London B: Biological Sciences, 279, 3597–3605. https://doi.org/10.1098/rspb.2012.0727.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Cuozzo, F. P., & Sauther, M. L. (2006). Severe wear and tooth loss in wild ring-tailed lemurs (Lemur catta): A function of feeding ecology, dental structure, and individual life history. Journal of Human Evolution, 51, 490–505. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jhevol.2006.07.001.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Cuozzo, F. P., & Sauther, M. L. (2015). Patterns of dental macrowear in subfossil Lemur catta from Ankilitelo Cave, Madagascar: Indications of ecology and habitat use over time. Folia Primatologica, 86, 140–149. https://doi.org/10.1159/000369900.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Gabriel, D. N. (2013). Ecological flexibility in a disturbed landscape: An assessment of the behavioural and health ecology of ring-tailed lemurs (Lemur catta) in relation to forest fragmentation. Doctoral dissertation, University of Victoria.

  • Gemmill, A., & Gould, L. (2008). Microhabitat variation and its effects on dietary composition and intragroup feeding interactions between adult female Lemur catta during the dry season at Beza Mahafaly Special Reserve, southwestern Madagascar. International Journal of Primatology, 29, 1511. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10764-008-9316-z.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Goodman, S. M., & Langrand, O. (1996). A high mountain population of the ring-tailed lemur Lemur catta on the Andringitra Massif, Madagascar. Oryx, 30, 259–268. https://doi.org/10.1017/S003060530002175X.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Goodman, S. M., Rakotoarisoa, S. V., & Wilmé, L. (2006). The distribution and biogeography of the ringtailed lemur (Lemur catta) in Madagascar. In A. J. Jolly, R. W. Sussman, N. Koyama, & H. Rasamimanana (Eds.), Ringtailed lemur biology (pp. 3–15). Developments in Primatology: Progress and Prospects. New York: Springer Science+Business Media.

  • Google Earth (n.d). Google Earth version 9.3.115.1. Available at https://www.google.com/earth/

  • Gould, L., & Cowen, L. L. (2020). Lemur catta in small forest fragments: Which variables best predict population viability? American Journal of Primatology, 82, e23095. https://doi.org/10.1002/ajp.23095.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Gould, L., & Gabriel, D. N. (2015). Wet and dry season diets of the Endangered Lemur catta (ring-tailed lemur) in two mountainous rocky outcrop forest fragments in south-central Madagascar. African Journal of Ecology, 53, 320–330. https://doi.org/10.1111/aje.12186.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Gould, L., Kelley, E. A., & LaFleur, M. (2015). Reproductive female feeding strategies in spiny forest-dwelling Lemur catta in southern and southwestern Madagascar: How do females meet the challenges of reproduction in this harsh habitat? Folia Primatologica, 86, 16–24. https://doi.org/10.1159/000369580.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Gould, L., Power, M. L., Ellwanger, N., & Rambeloarivony, H. (2011). Feeding behavior and nutrient intake in spiny forest-dwelling ring-tailed lemurs (Lemur catta) during early gestation and early to mid-lactation periods: Compensating in a harsh environment. American Journal of Physical Anthropology, 145, 469–479. https://doi.org/10.1002/ajpa.21530.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Gould, L., & Sauther, M. L. (2016). Going, going, gone… Is the iconic ring-tailed lemur (Lemur catta) headed for imminent extirpation. Primate Conservation, 30, 89–101.

    Google Scholar 

  • Hemingway, C. A., & Bynum, N. (2005). The influence of seasonality on primate diet and ranging. In D. K. Brockman & C. P. van Schaik (Eds.), Seasonality in primates (pp. 57–104). New York: Cambridge University Press.

    Chapter  Google Scholar 

  • IUCN (2020). The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2020-2. https://www.iucnredlist.org.

  • Kelley, E. (2011). Lemur catta in the region of Cap Sainte-Marie, Madagascar: Introduced cacti, xerophytic Didiereaceae-Euphorbia bush, and tombs. Doctoral dissertation, Washington University in St. Louis.

  • Kelley, E. A., Sussman, R. W., & Muldoon, K. M. (2007). The status of lemur species at Antserananomby: An update. Primate Conservation, 22, 71–77. https://doi.org/10.1896/052.022.0105.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Kremen, C., Cameron, A., Moilanen, A., Phillips, S. J., Thomas, C. D., et al (2008). Aligning conservation priorities across taxa in Madagascar with high-resolution planning tools. Science, 320, 222–226. https://doi.org/10.1126/science.1155193.

    CAS  Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • LaFleur, M. (2012). Ecology of ring-tailed lemurs (Lemur catta) at the Tsimanampetsotsa National Park, Madagascar: Implications for female dominance and the evolution of lemur traits. Doctoral dissertation, University of Colorado at Boulder.

  • LaFleur, M., Clarke, T. A., Reuter, K., & Schaeffer, T. (2016). Rapid decrease in populations of wild ring-tailed lemurs (Lemur catta) in Madagascar. Folia Primatologica, 87, 320–330. https://doi.org/10.1159/000455121.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • LaFleur, M., & Gould, L. (2020). Lemur catta. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2020: e.T11496A115565760. https://doi.org/10.2305/IUCN.UK.2020-2.RLTS.T11496A115565760.en.

  • LaFleur, M., & Sauther, M. L. (2015). Seasonal feeding ecology of ring-tailed lemurs: A comparison of spiny and gallery forest habitats. Folia Primatologica, 86, 25–34. https://doi.org/10.1159/000369581.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Madagascar Catalogue. Catalogue of the Plants of Madagascar. Missouri Botanical Garden, St. Louis, MO. http://www.tropicos.org/Project/Madagascar.

  • Pinkus, S., Smith, J. N., & Jolly, A. (2006). Feeding competition between introduced Eulemur fulvus and native Lemur catta during the birth season at Berenty Reserve, southern Madagascar. In A. J. Jolly, R. W. Sussman, N. Koyama, & H. Rasamimanana (Eds.), Ringtailed lemur biology (pp. 119–140). Developments in Primatology: Progress and Prospects. New York: Springer Science+Business Media.

  • Razafindramanana, J. (2011). Behavioural ecology of sympatric lemur species Lemur catta and Eulemur sp. in forest fragments, south-eastern Madagascar. Doctoral dissertation, Oxford Brookes University.

  • Sauther, M. L., & Cuozzo, F. P. (2009). The impact of fallback foods on wild ring-tailed lemur biology: A comparison of intact and anthropogenically disturbed habitats. American Journal of Physical Anthropology, 140, 671–686. https://doi.org/10.1002/ajpa.21128.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Schwitzer, C., Mittermeier, R. A., Johnson, S. E., Donati, G., Irwin, M., et al (2014). Averting lemur extinctions amid Madagascar's political crisis. Science, 343, 842–843. https://doi.org/10.1126/science.1245783.

    CAS  Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Simmen, B., Hladik, A., & Ramasiarisoa, P. (2003). Food intake and dietary overlap in native Lemur catta and Propithecus verreauxi and introduced Eulemur fulvus at Berenty, Southern Madagascar. International Journal of Primatology, 24, 949–968. https://doi.org/10.1023/A:1026366309980.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Simmen, B., Sauther, M. L., Soma, T., Rasamimanana, H., Sussman, R. W., et al. (2006). Plant species fed on by Lemur catta in gallery forests of the southern domain of Madagascar. In A. J. Jolly, R. W. Sussman, N. Koyama, & H. Rasamimanana (Eds.), Ringtailed lemur biology (pp. 55–68). Developments in Primatology: Progress and Prospects. New York: Springer Science+Business Media.

  • Soma, T. (2006). Tradition and novelty: Lemur catta feeding strategy on introduced tree species at Berenty Reserve. In A. J. Jolly, R. W. Sussman, N. Koyama, & H. Rasamimanana (Eds.), Ringtailed lemur biology (pp. 141–159). Developments in Primatology: Progress and Prospects. New York: Springer Science+Business Media.

  • Sussman, R. W. (1974). Ecological distinctions in sympatric species of Lemur. In R. D. Martin, G. A. Doyle, & A. C. Walker (Eds.), Prosimian biology (pp. 75–108). London: Gerald Duckworth and Co..

    Google Scholar 

  • van Schaik, C. P., & Kappeler, P. M. (1996). The social systems of gregarious lemurs: Lack of convergence with anthropoids due to evolutionary disequilibrium? Ethology, 102, 915–941.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Yamashita, N., Cuozzo, F. P., Sauther, M. L., Fitzgerald, E., Riemenschneider, A., & Ungar, P. S. (2016). Mechanical food properties and dental topography differentiate three populations of Lemur catta in southwest Madagascar. Journal of Human Evolution, 98, 66–75. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jhevol.2015.09.006.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

Download references

Acknowledgments

I would like to thank Dr. Ethan Rogers (St. Joseph Medical Center) and Dr. Siobhán Cooke (Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine) for providing guidance on the direction of this project as well as revising earlier drafts and Zana Sims (Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine) for assisting me with converting coordinates data. I am extremely grateful for the time and effort given to greatly improving this manuscript by the anonymous reviewers of the journal and to the editor-in-chief, Dr. Joanna Setchell.

Author information

Authors and Affiliations

Authors

Contributions

The author conceived, designed, and executed this study and wrote the manuscript. No other person is entitled to authorship.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Stephanie L. Canington.

Additional information

Handling Editor: Joanna Setchell

Supplementary Information

ESM 1

(XLSX 37 kb)

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Canington, S.L. Plant Species Fed on by Wild Ring-Tailed Lemurs (Lemur catta) at Nine Sites. Int J Primatol 42, 16–25 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10764-020-00184-1

Download citation

  • Received:

  • Accepted:

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s10764-020-00184-1

Keywords

  • Diet
  • Foraging
  • Frugivore–folivore
  • Lemur catta
  • Ring-tailed lemur