Sociality in the gray mouse lemur (Microcebus murinus) in northwestern Madagascar



The mating system and social organization of the gray mouse lemur (Microcebus murinus) was investigated in two three-month field studies (covering a period before, during, and after the first mating season) in Ampijoroa, northwestern Madagascar. The spatial and temporal distribution of the sexes within a population was studied using mark/recapture techniques and radiotelemetry to assess possible contest or scramble competition between the males. Sociality was inferred from the occurrence and probability of nocturnal social encounters, the temporal stability of daily sleeping groups, and nocturnal ranging patterns of co-sleepers. Males and females were evenly distributed in the study area within a network of highly overlapping home ranges. No indications were found for the spatial monopolization of the females by certain dominant males. Males and females had spatial access to several potential mates; the mating system is therefore characterized as a multi-male/multi-female system. Male home range sizes increased during the first mating season, which was interpreted as an indicator for scramble competition between the males. Competitive mate searching, sperm competition, and temporary mate guarding as well as female mate choice are suggested as the most probable reproductive strategies. Over the course of the study the animals lived continually within the study area, and most females formed stable individualized sleeping associations. Females that slept together shared a higher percentage of their home range than did females that slept at different sites. It is suggested that this network of social relationships should be described as a dispersed but individualized neighborhood. Am. J. Primatol. 51:21–40, 2000. © 2000 Wiley-Liss, Inc.