Abstract # 355 Event # 12:

Scheduled for Sunday, June 2, 2002 09:45 AM-12:00 PM: Session 2 (Room 18, Cox Convention Center) Symposium


NEW DEVELOPMENTS IN THE BEHAVIORAL ECOLOGY AND CONSERVATION OF RUFFED LEMURS (Varecia)

N. Vasey
Howard University, College of Medicine, Department of Anatomy, Howard University College of Medicine, 520 W Street NW, Washington, DC 20059, USA
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     Ruffed lemurs possess an unusual suite of characters for a relatively large-bodied primate, and have long been viewed as enigmatic. Though diurnal, they bear litters, use nests, and orally transport their young, as do many smaller-bodied nocturnal primates. Like most diurnal primates, they can be gregarious, (but are not always so). Genetic studies recently demonstrated that Varecia was the first genus to branch off within the Lemuridae, so presumably Varecia possesses some basal lemurid traits. Long-term field studies on Varecia have recently been completed at six different localities in Madagascar (Nosy Mangabe, Masoala Peninsula [2], Betampona, Ranomafana, Manombo), demographic studies are on-going at several of these sites, and work on captive populations has informed us about many aspects of Varecia biology. It is therefore an auspicious time to synthesize the available information on this basal lemurid. Field studies yield concordant findings for many ecological variables, but much variability in terms of behavior (e.g., grouping, home range size, territoriality). Thus, field studies have, in part, dispelled the view of Varecia as enigmatic, but have also prompted further questions. The variation documented provides crucial insight into understanding the ruffed lemur’s multiple roles in Malagasy forests, and in turn, for improving in situ conservation efforts and captive management. We here share findings from different field sites and cross-fertilize our work with those working on captive populations. Key topics explored include seasonal variation and inter-site comparisons.