Food mechanical properties in three sympatric species of Hapalemur in Ranomafana National Park, Madagascar


  • Nayuta Yamashita,

    Corresponding author
    1. Department of Anthropology, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, CA 90089-1692
    • Department of Anthropology, University of Southern California, 3601 Watt Way, GFS 120, Los Angeles, CA 90089-1692, USA
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  • Christopher J. Vinyard,

    1. Department of Anatomy and Neurobiology, Northeastern Ohio Universities College of Medicine, Rootstown, OH 44272-0095
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  • Chia L. Tan

    1. Conservation and Research for Endangered Species, Zoological Society of San Diego, Escondido, CA 92027-7000
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We investigated mechanical dietary properties of sympatric bamboo lemurs, Hapalemur g. griseus, H. aureus, and H. (Prolemur) simus, in Ranomafana National Park, Madagascar. Each lemur species relies on bamboo, though previous behavioral observations found that they specialize on different parts of a common resource (Tan: Int J Primatol 20 1999 547–566; Tan: PhD dissertation 2000 State University of New York, Stony Brook). On the basis of these earlier behavioral ecology studies, we hypothesized that specialization on bamboo is related to differences in mechanical properties of specific parts. We quantified mechanical properties of individual plant parts from the diets of the bamboo lemur species using a portable tester. The diets of the Hapalemur spp. exhibited high levels of mechanical heterogeneity. The lemurs, however, could be segregated based on the most challenging (i.e., mechanically demanding) foods. Giant bamboo culm pith was the toughest and stiffest food eaten, and its sole lemur consumer, H. simus, had the most challenging diet. However, the mechanical dietary properties of H. simus and H. aureus overlapped considerably. In the cases where lemur species converged on the same bamboo part, the size of the part eaten increased with body size. Plant parts that were harvested orally but not necessarily masticated were the most demanding, indicating that food preparation may place significant loads on the masticatory apparatus. Finally, we describe how mechanical properties can influence feeding behavior. The elaborate procurement processes of H. simus feeding on culm pith and H. griseus and H. aureus feeding on young leaf bases are related to the toughnesses of protective coverings and the lemurs' exploitation of mechanical vulnerabilities in these plants. Am J Phys Anthropol, 2009. © 2008 Wiley-Liss, Inc.