Ringtailed Lemurs: Behavioral Ecology and Biology

Abstract

Ringtailed lemurs are truly the flagship species for Madagascar, given their recognizable features and a role as “King of the Lemurs” in a computer-animated film produced by DreamWorks Animation. Shortly before Ringtailed Lemur Biology was published, students conducting a primary school science project contacted me for information on population sizes of these amazing primates. I was embarrassed to admit that no such data existed at that time, despite the wealth of information on lemur behavior. The nascent primatologists were not impressed, given that their classmates had “tons of cool stuff” on other tropical mammals. In the future, I can point interested students to this book as the perfect place to get “cool stuff” on ringtailed lemurs. The book is organized into four sections: distribution, feeding and ranging, social behavior, and health and disease. The distribution section contains four chapters, two of which provide short overviews of the main sites where detailed field studies have been conducted. The other chapters in this section really shine. The first paper by Goodman et al. describes the biogeography of ringtailed lemurs, illustrating the ability of this species to survive in a variety of habitat types. The second paper by Sussman et al. integrates abundance patterns of ringtailed lemurs with satellite analysis of forest cover. The authors do a commendable job of interpreting their model. They also point out how omission and commission errors are serious issues in conservation models. By uniting data from an old discipline (biogeography) with a very new discipline (satellite imagery), Sussman et al. highlight the value of landscape approaches for studies of the conservation biology of mammals. This paper is a ‘must read’ for primatologists and mammologists pursuing similar work. The second section on feeding and ranging behaviors contains seven chapters, each of which highlights the importance of tamarind trees (Tamarindus indica) as a keystone resource for ringtailed lemurs. Soma’s chapter on exploitation of exotic food resources and the resulting population growth has important implications for lemur health, a topic explored in detail later in the book. The take-home message in this section is that if there are no tamarind trees, then J Mammal Evol (2008) 15:151–153 DOI 10.1007/s10914-007-9061-7

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