Parental behavior and infant development in ruffed lemurs (Varecia variegata) in a northeast Madagascar rain forest

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Abstract

Parental behavior and infant development of black and white ruffed lemurs (Varecia variegata) were studied on Nosy Mangabe Island in northeast Madagascar. Ruffed lemur females produced twins, prepared nests for neonates in the trees, transported infants by mouth, and parked them in the trees. During two consecutive birth seasons, the average birth rate for nine females was 0.58. Two females reproduced in one social group. Lactating females spent most of their time resting with their infants or foraging for food. Infants developed rapidly and were fully mobile by 3–4 months. No female reproduced successfully in 2 consecutive years. In 1988, infant mortality within 3 months of birth was very high (64%). Accidental falls may have been one major cause. Adults of both sexes, including a reproductive female, exhibited alloparental behavior such as guarding infants and nonmaternal nursing. Alloparental care may increase the likelihood of infant survival. Some of these observations are not compatible with the idea that ruffed lemurs live in small pair-bonded groups, as other researchers have suggested.

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