Abstract # 193:

Scheduled for Monday, September 21, 2009 08:15 AM-08:25 AM: Session 18 (Del Mar Room) Oral Presentation


IT TAKES A VILLAGE: COMMUNAL INFANT CARE AND SOCIALIZATION IN WILD RUFFED LEMURS (VARECIA VARIEGATA) IN RANOMAFANA NATIONAL PARK, MADAGASCAR.

A. L. Baden1,2
1Stony Brook University, Interdepartmental Doctoral Program in Anthropological Sciences, SBS Building, 5th Floor, Stony Brook, NY 11794-4364, USA, 2Centre ValBio, Ranomafana National Park, Madagascar
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Ruffed lemurs (Varecia variegata) are unique large-bodied, diurnal primates known to park litters of young in nests throughout early development. Current understanding of Varecia parking behaviors derives primarily from captive studies, as limited data are available from the wild. This study contributes to the present knowledge of Varecia infant-care strategies using behavioral observations from one V. variegata community in Ranomafana National Park, Madagascar. Data were collected on five parous females and their litters during the first 10-weeks following birth [October–December 2008; N=810 hours]. Instantaneous focal nest and focal mother sampling methods were used to determine overall patterns of maternal and allocare, while continuous focal nest observations detailed infant-care behaviors. Results support previous findings that mothers provide near-exclusive care for two weeks following parturition, rarely transferring infants between nests. Allocare is limited to infrequent nest-guarding by lone males. Socialization increases with time post-parturition, such that infants encounter significantly more con-specifics with increasing age [Pearson’s r=0.82, n=10, p=0.004]. Transport between nests also increases in frequency [Pearson’s r=0.91, n=10, p<0.001]. Unlike previous results, this study demonstrates that nest re-use continues throughout infant development and cohorts are often parked together. Based on these results, “kindergartens” are thought to lessen burdens of infant-care on energetically stressed mothers while providing increased infant socialization, which may be especially important in dispersed fission-fusion societies. Support: NSF, Fulbright, PCI, PAF, & Stony Brook.