Food choice from endemic North Carolina tree species by captive prosimians (Lemur fulvus)



Seven captive-born lemurs (Lemur fulvus) at the Duke University Primate Center were presented with leaves of different maturity from five species of North Carolina trees. The animals demonstrated three distinct behaviors toward the novel plant material. They sniffed, tasted, and/or ingested it. New leaves were sniffed, but little tasting and ingestion was observed. Intermediate pine needles were sniffed and ingested but little tasted. Mature leaves were sniffed equally, but the mature leaves of tulip trees and honeysuckle were tasted significantly more than pine, sweetgum, and red maple. Pine, sweetgum, and red maple were ingested significantly more than tulip trees and honeysuckle. Male lemurs ate significantly more mature pine needles and new sweetgum leaves than did the females. Chemical analysis of these plant materials indicated that the new and mature leaves of tulip tree and honeysuckle contained alkaloids. Captive-born lemurs apparently use their sense of smell and taste in choosing what to eat and seem just as capable as free-ranging animals in finding food when faced with the chemical defenses that protect trees from insect predation.