Folivory in a Small-Bodied Lemur

The Nutrition of the Alaotran Gentle Lemur (Hapalemur griseus alaotrensis)
  • Thomas Mutschler


Hapalemur griseus alaotrensisa relatively small-bodied (1240 ± 140 g, n = 58), folivorous lemur, was studied over a period of 15 months at Lac Alaotra. The study showed thatH. g. alaotrensishad an exclusively folivorous diet and mainly fed on leaves and stems of grasses and sedges. However, since folivorous diets are known to be poor sources of readily available energy and small-bodied animals generally have high metabolic requirementsH. g. alaotrensisis expected to have adaptations at several levels (morphological, physiological, behavioral) to resolve this conflict. The present study onH. g. alaotrensisshowed that dietary diversity was extremely low and food choice highly selective, but chemical composition of the food items yielded no evidence thatH. g. alaotrensisselected higher quality foods than larger folivores, nor was there evidence thatH. g. alaotrensisminimized energy expenditure at the behavioral or physiological level. This lack of behavioral or physiological adaptations to folivory imply that the digestive ability ofH. g. alaotrensismay be higher than predicted for an animal of its size.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Altmann, J. 1974. Observational study of behaviour: sampling methods. Behaviour, 49:227–267.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Barton, R. A., A. Whiten, R. W. Bryne, and M. English. 1993. Chemical composition of baboon plant foods:Implications for the interpretation of intra-and interspecific differences in diet. Folia Primatologica,61: 1–20.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Bauchop, T. 1978. Digestion of leaves in vertebrate arboreal folivores, pp. 193–204.InMontgomery, G. G., ed., The Ecology of Arboreal Folivores. Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington, D.C.Google Scholar
  4. Cabre-Vert, N., and A. T. C. Feistner. 1995. Comparative gut passage time in captive lemurs. The Dodo, Journal of the Wildlife Preservation Trusts, 31:76–81.Google Scholar
  5. Curtis, D. J. 1997. The Mongoose Lemur (Eulemur mongoz): A study in behaviour and ecology. Ph.D. Thesis. University of Zurich, Zurich.Google Scholar
  6. Dahl, J. F., and C. A. Hemingway. 1988. An unusual activity pattern for the Mantled Howler Monkey of Belize. American Journal of Physical Anthropology, 75:201.Google Scholar
  7. Dasilva, G. L. 1994. Diet ofColobus polykomoson Tiwai Island: Selection of food in relation to its seasonal abundance and nutritional quality. International Journal of Primatology, 15:655–680.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Demment, M. W., and P. J. Van Soest. 1985. A nutritional explanation for body-size patterns of ruminant and nonruminant herbivores. The American Naturalist, 125: 641–672.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Engqvist, A., And A. Richard. 1991. Diet as a possible determinant of cathemeral activity patterns in primates. Folia Primatologica, 57: 169–172.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Fidgety, A. L., A. T. C. Feistner, and H. Galbraith. 1996. Dietary intake, food composition and nutrient intake in captive Alaotran Gentle LemursHapalemur griseus alaotrensis.The Dodo, Journal of the Wildlife Preservation Trusts, 32: 44–62.Google Scholar
  11. Ganzhorn, J. U. 1988. Food partitioning among Malagasy primates. Oecologia, 75: 436–450.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. J. P. Abraham, And M. Rakotomalala-Razanahoera. 1985. Some aspects of the natural history and food selection ofAvahi laniger.Primates, 26: 452–463.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Ganzhorn, J. U., And P. C. Wright. 1994. Temporal patterns in primate leaf eating: The possible role of leaf chemistry. Folia Primatologica, 63:203–208.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Glander, K. E. 1982. The impact of plant secondary compounds on primate feeding behavior. Yearbook of Physical Anthropology, 25: 1–18.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. P. C. Wright, D. S. Seigler, V. Randrianasolo, And B. Randrianasolo. 1989. Consumption of cyanogenic bamboo by a newly discovered species of bamboo lemur. American Journal of Primatology, 19: 119–124.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Harcourt, C. S. 1991. Diet and behaviour of a nocturnal lemur, Avahi laniger, in the wild. Journal of Zoology London, 223: 667–674.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Hill, W. C. O. 1953. Primates: Comparative Anatomy and Taxonomy. Vol. 1. Strepsirhini. Edinburgh University Press, Edinburgh.Google Scholar
  18. Hladik, C. M. 1978. Adaptive strategies of primates in relation to leaf eating, pp. 373–395. In Montgomery, G. G., ed.,The Ecology of Arboreal Folivores. Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington, D.C.Google Scholar
  19. Hladik, C. M. And P. Charles-Dominique. 1974. The behaviour and ecology of the Sportive Lemur (Lepilemur mustelinus) in relation to its dietary peculiarities, pp. 23–37. In Martin, R. D., G. A. Doyle, and A. C. Walker, eds., Prosimian Biology. Duckworth, London.Google Scholar
  20. Justice, K. E., And E A. Smith. 1992. A model of dietary fiber utilization by small mammalian herbivores, with empirical results for Neotoma. The American Naturalist, 139: 398–416.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Kleiber, M. 1961. The Fire of Life: An Introduction to Animal Energetics. John Wiley, New York.Google Scholar
  22. Klein, M. 1991. Digestibility of dietary fibre and passage rates in Brown Lemurs and Gentle Lemurs. M. S. Thesis. Duke University, Durham.Google Scholar
  23. Martin, R. D. 1990. Primate Origins and Evolution: A Phylogenetic Reconstruction. Princeton University Press, Princeton.Google Scholar
  24. Mcdonald, P., R. A. Edwards, And J. F D. Greenhalgh. 1988. Animal Nutrition. Longman Scientific and Technical, Essex.Google Scholar
  25. Mckey, D. B., J. S. Gartlan, R G. Waterman, And G. M. Choo. 1981. Food selection by Black Colobus Monkeys (Colobus satanas) in relation to plant chemistry. Biological Journal of the Linnean Society, 16: 115–146.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Mckey, D. B., and P. G. Waterman. 1982. Ranging behaviour of a group of Black Colobus (Colobus satanas) in the Douoala-Edea Reserve, Cameroon. Folia Primatologica, 39: 264–304.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Mcnab, B. K. 1978. Energetics of arboreal folivores: Physiological problems and ecological consequences of feeding on an ubiquitous food supply, pp. 153–162. In Montgomery, G. G., ed.,The Ecology of Arboreal Folivores. Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington, D.C.Google Scholar
  28. Mendes, S. L. 1985. Uso do espaco, padroes de atividades diaries e organizacao social de Alouatta fusca em Caratinga. Masters Thesis. Universidade de Brasilia, Brasilia.Google Scholar
  29. Milton, K. 1978. Behavioral adaptations to leaf-eating by the Mantled Howler Monkey (Alouatta palliata), pp. 535–549. In Montgomery, G. G., ed., The Ecology of Arboreal Folivores. Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington, D.C..Google Scholar
  30. Milton, K. 1979. Factors influencing leaf choice by Howler Monkeys: a test of some hypotheses of food selection by generalist herbivores. The American Naturalist, 114: 362–378.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Milton, K. 1984. Habitat, diet, and activity patterns of free-ranging Woolly Spider Monkeys (Brachyteles arach-noides E. Geoffroy 1806). International Journal of Primatology, 5: 491–514.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Moreau, I. 1987. Madagascar, pp. 595–606. In burgis, m. J., and j. J. Symoens, eds., african wetlands and shallow water bodies. ORSTOM, Paris.Google Scholar
  33. Mutschler, T., and A. T. C. Feistner. 1995. Conservation status and distribution of the Alaotran Gentle Lemur Hapalemur griseus alaotrensis. Oryx, 29: 267–274.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Mutschler, T., and C. M. Nievergelt. 1998. Preliminary field data on group size, diet, and activity in the Alaotran Gentle Lemur Hapalemur griseus alaotrensis. Folia Primatologica, 69: 325–330.Google Scholar
  35. Nash, L. T. 1998. Vertical clingers and sleepers: Seasonal influences on the activities and substrate use of Lepilemur leucopus at Beza Mahafaly Special Reserve, Madagascar. Folia Primatologica, 69, Supplement 1: 204–217.Google Scholar
  36. Oates, J. E 1977. The Guereza and its food, pp. 276–321. In Clutton-Brock, T. H., ed., Primate Ecology: Studies of Feeding and Ranging Behaviour in Lemurs, Monkeys and Apes. Academic Press, London.Google Scholar
  37. Overdorff, D. 1988. Preliminary report on the activity cycle and diet of the Red-bellied Lemur (Lemurrubriventer) in Madagascar. American Journal of Primatology, 16: 143–153.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Overdorff, D. And M. A. Rasmussen. 1995. Determinants of nighttime activity in “diurnal” lemurid primates, pp.61–74. In Alterman, L., G. A. Doyle, and M. K. Izard, eds., Creatures of the Dark: The Nocturnal Prosimians. Plenum Press, New York.Google Scholar
  39. Overdorff, D. J., S. G. Strait, And A. Telo. 1997. Seasonal variation in activity and diet in a small-bodied folivorous primate, Hapalemur griseus, in southeastern Madagascar. American Journal of Primatology, 43: 211–223.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Parra, R. 1978. Comparison of foregut and hindgut fermentation in herbivores, pp. 205–230. In Montgomery, G. G., ed., The Ecology of Arboreal Folivores. Smithsonian Institution Press, WashingtonGoogle Scholar
  41. D.C. Petter,. 1970. Observations éco-éthologiques sur les lémuriens malgaches du genre Hapalemur. La Terre et la Vie, 24: 365–382.Google Scholar
  42. Pidgeon, M. 1996. An ecological survey of Lake Alaotra and selected wetlands of central and eastern Madagascar in analysing the demise of Madagascar Pochard Aythya innotata. Unpublished Report, Missouri Botanical Gardens, Antananarivo.Google Scholar
  43. Pollocx, J. I. 1986. A note on the ecology and behaviour of Hapalemur griseus. Primate Conservation, 7: 97–100.Google Scholar
  44. Richard, A. F. 1978. Behavioral Variation: Case Study of a Malagasy Lemur. Bucknell University Press, Lewisburg.Google Scholar
  45. Robbins, C. T. 1993. Wildlife Feeding and Nutrition. Academic Press, San Diego.Google Scholar
  46. Rogers, M. E., E Maisels, E. A. Williamson, M. Fernandez, And C. E. G. Tutin. 1990. Gorilla diet in the Lopé Reserve, Gabon: A nutritional analysis. Oecologia, 84: 326–339.Google Scholar
  47. Ruhiyat, Y. 1983. Socio-ecological study of Presbytis aygula in West Java. Primates, 24: 344–359.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Santini-Palka, M.-E. 1994. Feeding behaviour and activity patterns of two Malagasy Bamboo Lemurs,Hapalemur simus and Hapalemur griseus, in captivity. Folia Primatologica, 63: 44–49.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Schaller, G. B., H. Jinchu, P. Wenshi, And Z. Jing. 1984. The Giant Pandas of Wolong. The University of Chicago Press, Chicago.Google Scholar
  50. Schmid, J., And J. U. Ganzhorn. 1996. Resting metabolic rates of Lepilemur ruficaudatus. American Journal of Primatology, 38: 169–174.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Stanford, C. B. 1991. The Capped Langur in Bangladesh: Behavioural Ecology and Reproductive Tactics. Karger, Basel.Google Scholar
  52. Strier, K. B. 1987. Activity budgets of Woolly Spider Monkeys, or Muriquis (Brachyteles arachnoides). American Journal of Primatology, 13: 385–395.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Tan, C. L. 1998. Comparison of food passage time in three species of Hapalemur. American Journal of Physical Anthropology, Supplement 26: 215.Google Scholar
  54. Tattersall,I. 1982. The Primates of Madagascar. Columbia University Press,New York.Google Scholar
  55. Tyler, S. 1979. Time-sampling: a matter of convention. Animal Behaviour, 27: 801–810.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Warren, R. D., and R. H. Cromrron. 1998. Diet, body size, and energy costs of locomotion in saltatory prosimians. Folia Primatologia, 69, Supplement 1: 86–100.Google Scholar
  57. Waterman, P. G., and K. M. KooL. 1994. Colobine food selection and plant chemistry, pp. 251–284. In Davies, A. G., and J. F. Oates, eds., Colobine Monkeys; Their Ecology, Behavior and Evolution. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.Google Scholar
  58. Waits, D. 1988. Environmental influences on Mountain Gorilla time budgets. American Journal of Primatology, 15: 195–211.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Wright, P. C. 1985. Costs and benefits of nocturnality for Aotus (the Night Monkey). Ph.D. Thesis. City University of New York, New York.Google Scholar
  60. Wright, P. C. 1986. Diet, ranging behavior, and activity pattern of the Gentle Lemur (Hapalemur griseus) in Madagascar. American Journal of Physical Anthropology, 69: 283.Google Scholar
  61. Wright, P. C. and M. Randriamanantena. 1989. Comparative ecology of three sympatric Bamboo Lemurs in Madagascar. American Journal of Physical Anthropology, 78: 327.Google Scholar
  62. Zar, J. H. 1984. Biostatistical Analysis. Prentice-Hall, Inc., Englewood Cliffs.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 1999

Authors and Affiliations

  • Thomas Mutschler
    • 1
  1. 1.Anthropological Institute and Museum University of ZurichZurichSwitzerland

Personalised recommendations