• iron status;
  • hemosiderosis;
  • hemochromatosis;
  • lemurs;
  • prosimian;
  • iron overload


Significant concern has been generated about the susceptibility of captive lemurs to iron storage disease, which has led some researchers to propose husbandry changes regarding dietary iron. In the current study we sought to determine the history, severity, and prevalence of iron storage disease within a large captive lemur population. Iron concentration and hemosiderin accumulation in a target organ, the liver, were assessed in necropsy specimens from 15 different species (n=153) of lemurs over a 12-yr period at the Duke University Primate Center. Banked liver tissue was used to quantify liver iron concentration (LIC) via neutron activation analysis (NAA). Prussian blue staining was used to accentuate the presence of liver iron for evaluation using an established scoring system. Of the 153 reports examined, 49 (32%) of the animals were considered positive for the presence of hemosiderin in the liver, lymph node, duodenum, and kidney, with 36 of the 49 (73%) showing deposition of iron in the liver. Total iron scores (TIS) ranged from 0.3 ± 0.3 in Lemur catta to 33.3±1.7 in Cheirogaleus medius. The mean LIC ranged from 209±1.4 µg/g wet weight in L. catta to 2957±414 µg/g in C. medius. Management practices may have contributed to some of the results observed in this study. Although evidence of excess iron deposition in the liver was present across several species studied, the levels were not as pervasive as previously reported in other captive lemur populations. Hemochromatosis was not observed, and excess iron was not related to the cause of death in any of the animals studied. The current findings suggest that iron overload in lemurs may be more complex than was previously believed. Am. J. Primatol. 68:369–381, 2006. © 2006 Wiley-Liss, Inc.