Wild mouse lemurs revisit artificial feeding platforms: implications for field experiments on sensory and cognitive abilities in small primates



Dealing effectively with space to find important resources in a natural environment is a fundamental ability necessary for survival. Evidence has already been provided that wild gray mouse lemurs revisit stationary feeding sites regularly. In this study, we explore to what extent two sympatric mouse lemur species, Microcebus murinus and M. ravelobensis, revisited artificial feeding sites during a period of food scarcity. As the tested populations are marked with individual transponders, we built up artificial feeding platforms equipped with a transponder reader at nine different locations where mouse lemurs had been previously caught. We baited them with a liquid reward and recorded the visitors' ID, the time and frequency of their visits, as well as all encounters that occurred on the platforms. Only mouse lemurs visited platforms and a total of sixteen individuals across both species were identified. Mouse lemurs visited a platform with a frequency of 2.02 (±0.95, range: 1–3.4) times in a night and they revisited it on several consecutive nights following their first visit (percentage of revisits 90.6%±11.7, range: 73.3–100%). First visits on a platform occurred on average 44 min (±35; range: 13–131) after sunset. We identified encounters between mouse lemurs on platforms: all of them were agonistic and within a species. Within a dyad, chasers were significantly heavier than chasees (N=7 dyads). Our design of platform experiments offers the advantage of observing wild individually known small primates in their natural environment and of setting up controlled experiments to gain insight into their sensory and cognitive abilities. Am. J. Primatol. 70:892–896, 2008. © 2008 Wiley-Liss, Inc.