Abstract # 904 Poster # 77:

Scheduled for Thursday, August 18, 2005 07:00 PM-09:00 PM: (Cambridge/Oxford Room) Poster Presentation

Visual predator recognition and response in wild brown mouse lemurs (Microcebus rufus) in Ranomafana National Park, Madagascar

A. M. Deppe
Stony Brook University, Interdepartmental Doctoral Program in Anthropological Sciences, Stony Brook, NY 11794, USA
     Due to their small size mouse lemurs are subject to heavy predation by birds, carnivores and snakes and the predation rate may be as high as 25 percent. I examined predator recognition and response in wild brown mouse lemurs at Ranomafana National Park, southeastern Madagascar. Thirteen Microcebus rufus were removed from the wild and exposed to a plastic snake dummy in an experimental cage before being released again. The snake was a generic toy but similar to species found in Ranomafana. Each individual was exposed to the snake only once for up to 10 minutes. Only five individuals showed a clear fear response including open-mouth threat, circling of the snake, bipedal approach-retreat, and sometimes even biting. Eight individuals showed no fear either ignoring the snake or approaching it curiously as if it was a control random novel object. A curious response differed from a fear response in that the object was approached quadrupedally, sniffed and then ignored. Control objects included gloves, flashlights and plastic cups, which were presented to the subjects and then removed before presenting the snake. Results suggest that visual recognition and fear of snakes may not be innate in mouse lemurs but a learned response possibly based on previous experience and exposure to snakes. Supported by Primate Conservation, Inc. and The Primate Action Fund.