Frugivory in four sympatric lemurs: implications for the future of Madagascar's forests

Authors

  • Patricia C. Wright,

    Corresponding author
    1. Department of Anthropology, Stony Brook University, Stony Brook, New York
    2. Centre Val Bio, Ranomafana, Madagascar
    3. Institute for Conservation of Tropical Environments, Stony Brook University, Stony Brook, New York
    4. Interdepartmental Program in Anthropological Sciences, Stony Brook University, Stony Brook, New York
    5. Department of Ecology and Evolution, Stony Brook University, Stony Brook, New York
    • Department of Anthropology, Stony Brook University, Stony Brook, NY 11794-4364
    Search for more papers by this author
  • Stacey R. Tecot,

    Corresponding author
    1. Department of Anthropology, Stony Brook University, Stony Brook, New York
    2. Centre Val Bio, Ranomafana, Madagascar
    3. Institute for Conservation of Tropical Environments, Stony Brook University, Stony Brook, New York
    4. Interdepartmental Program in Anthropological Sciences, Stony Brook University, Stony Brook, New York
    5. Department of Ecology and Evolution, Stony Brook University, Stony Brook, New York
    6. School of Anthropology, University of Arizona, Tucson, Arizona
    • School of Anthropology, University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ, 85719
    Search for more papers by this author
  • Elizabeth M. Erhart,

    1. Centre Val Bio, Ranomafana, Madagascar
    2. Department of Anthropology, Texas State University, San Marcos, Texas
    Search for more papers by this author
  • Andrea L. Baden,

    1. Centre Val Bio, Ranomafana, Madagascar
    2. Institute for Conservation of Tropical Environments, Stony Brook University, Stony Brook, New York
    3. Interdepartmental Program in Anthropological Sciences, Stony Brook University, Stony Brook, New York
    Search for more papers by this author
  • Stephen J. King,

    1. Department of Anthropology, Stony Brook University, Stony Brook, New York
    2. Institute for Conservation of Tropical Environments, Stony Brook University, Stony Brook, New York
    3. Interdepartmental Program in Anthropological Sciences, Stony Brook University, Stony Brook, New York
    Search for more papers by this author
  • Christina Grassi

    1. Centre Val Bio, Ranomafana, Madagascar
    2. Department of Anthropology, Skidmore College, Saratoga Springs, New York
    Search for more papers by this author

Abstract

Although some conservationists accept that not all species can be saved, we illustrate the difficulty in deciding which species are dispensable. In this article, we examine the possibility that the integrity of a forest relies on its entire faunal assemblage. In Madagascar, one faunal group, the lemurs, accounts for the greatest biomass and species richness among frugivores. For example, 7 of the 13 sympatric lemur species in Madagascar's eastern rainforests consume primarily fruit. Because of this, we suggest that some tree species may rely heavily on particular lemur taxa for both seed dispersal and germination. In Ranomafana National Park, the diets for four of the day-active lemur frugivores have been documented during annual cycles over a 5-year period. We predicted that, although the fruit of some plant taxa would be exploited by multiple lemur species, the fruit of others would be eaten by one lemur species alone. Analyses reveal that while lemurs overlap in a number of fruit taxa exploited, 46% (16/35) of families and 56% (29/52) of genera are eaten exclusively by one lemur species. We, therefore, predict local changes in forest composition and structure if certain of these lemur species are eliminated from a forest owing to hunting, disease, or habitat disturbance. We also suggest that this result may be of global significance because carbon sequestration by the tropical forests in Madagascar may be reduced as a result of this predicted change in forest composition. Am. J. Primatol. 73:585–602, 2011. © 2011 Wiley-Liss, Inc.

Ancillary