Predator avoidance and dietary fibre predict diurnality in the cathemeral folivore Hapalemur meridionalis


Though numerous mammalian taxa exhibit cathemerality (i.e. activity distributed across the 24-h cycle), this includes very few primates, exceptions being species from Aotinae and Lemuridae. Four non-mutually exclusive hypotheses have been proposed to explain the ultimate determinants for cathemeral activity in lemurs: thermoregulatory benefits, anti-predator strategy, competition avoidance and metabolic dietary-related needs. However, these have only been explored in the frugivorous genus Eulemur, with some species increasing nocturnality as a possible response to avoid diurnal raptors and to increase their ability to digest fibre during resource-scarce periods. Since Eulemur lack specializations for digesting bulk food, this strategy would allow for processing fibres over the full 24-h. The folivorous lemurids, i.e. genus Hapalemur, provide a divergent model to explore these hypotheses due to gastrointestinal adaptations for digesting dietary fibre and small body size compared to Eulemur. We linked continuous activity data collected from archival tags with observational behaviour and feeding data from three groups of adult Hapalemur meridionalis from January to December 2013. We tested the effects of thermoregulation, predator avoidance and the weighted proportion of digestible dietary fibre on the daily diurnal/nocturnal activity ratio using a Linear Mixed-Model. Our best-fit model revealed that increased canopy exposure and dietary fibre predicted greater diurnality. Our findings partly contrast with previous predictions for frugivorous lemurids. We propose a divergent adaptive explanation for folivorous lemurids. We suggest that the need to avoid terrestrial predators, as well as longer digestive bouts during bulk food periods, may override cathemerality in favour of diurnality in these bamboo lemurs.

Eppley TM, Watzek, J, Ganzhorn JU, Donati G (2017) Predator avoidance and dietary fibre predict diurnality in the cathemeral folivore Hapalemur meridionalis. Behav Ecol Sociobiol 71:4. doi:10.1007/s00265-016-2247-3

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