Abstract # 7:

Scheduled for Thursday, August 17, 2006 10:45 AM-11:00 AM: Session 1 (Regency East #1) Oral Presentation

Visual snake recognition in wild brown mouse lemurs (Microcebus rufus)

A. M. Deppe
Interdepartmental Doctoral Program in Anthropological Sciences, Stony Brook University, Stony Brook, NY 11794-4364, USA
     Mouse lemurs share a long history with their snake predators making snake recognition mechanisms likely. This study investigated visual snake recognition in thirty wild brown mouse lemurs (M. rufus) at Ranomafana National Park, Madagascar. Still or moving rubber snakes, snake shed or a novel control object (plastic dish) were presented in seventy four-minute trials using an experimental cage. Several fear (mobbing, bipedal monitoring, avoidance) and non-fear (stepping on, ignoring object) behaviors were recorded. When presented with the skin of a local boa or non-local hognose snake, fifty-five percent and forty-four percent of the subjects, respectively, responded with fear (Chi Square test, p > 0.05). Only thirteen percent of the individuals responded with fear to an immobile snake, but forty-four percent responded with fear to a moving snake (Chi Square test, p < 0.05). Even though the initial reaction to motion was usually flight, subsequent fear behaviors were only displayed in response to the snake and not to the control. Movement may facilitate snake recognition because it indicates an object is alive and potentially dangerous. Mouse lemurs often re-approached objects probably to obtain additional information. With respect to snake skin, subjects may have responded to the distinctive scale patterns. However, nearly half of the subjects did not fear snake cues, suggesting that snake recognition may not be innate. Supported by Primate Conservation, Inc. and Conservation International.