Female dominance in captive gray mouse lemurs (Microcebus murinus)



Female dominance or female feeding priority seem to be characteristic for many lemur species, but are rare traits in other primates and mammals in general. The nocturnal lemur species, however, are underrepresented in the quantitative studies on social dominance. The aim of this study is to investigate the pattern of intersexual dominance relationships in the gray mouse lemur (Microcebus murinus), a species that is generally thought to possess a number of ancestral lemur traits. The context, distribution, and outcome of intersexual conflicts are analyzed in four captive groups of gray mouse lemurs. Intersexual conflicts occurred in the study groups in different behavioral contexts and were mostly spatial interactions (chasing/fleeing, approach/avoidance). The majority of conflicts were decided, and were in all but one case won by females. This is the first evidence suggesting unconditional female dominance in a cheirogaleid primate. The existence of female dominance in most families of the Lemuriformes suggests it is an ancient trait that evolved in their common ancestor. Am. J. Primatol. 54:181–192, 2001. © 2001 Wiley-Liss, Inc.