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Keywords:

  • primate;
  • breeding success;
  • testicular size;
  • estrous cycle sex differences

Abstract

The eastern rufous mouse lemur is one of the smallest primate species. It inhabits the eastern rain forest of Madagascar. Its reproductive biology has not been examined because of its rarity in laboratories. We present the first data on reproduction and variation in reproductive success from a breeding colony of wild-caught Microcebus rufus. The eastern rufous mouse lemur shows a seasonal change in testicular size and in the occurrence of estrus. Females had 2.5 cycles (range, one to four) per season. The estrous cycle length was 59 days (range, 51–66), the duration of vaginal opening during estrus was 7.5 days (range, 5–8), receptivity occurred on the third day of estrus, gestation length was 56.5 days (range, 56–57), litter size was two neonates (range, one to three). The frequency and duration of mating behavior varied widely among the pairs. Copulation seemed to occur on a single day per estrus within the first to fourth hour after light change to red light. In four cases (three pairs), copulation lasted between 15 and 240 seconds. Breeding success can be increased by choosing mates carefully. Microcebus rufus seems to be a seasonal breeder like its sibling species Microcebus murinus. In wild-caught animals, males seemed to adapt quickly (first season) to the conditions of captivity, whereas in the females, individual variation (first to third season) in reproductive activity was observed. Air humidity of >60% seems to facilitate the breeding success in wild-caught pairs. First pregnancy and successful rearing of offspring occurred in the second and fourth year of captivity in two of three females. Wild-caught eastern rufous mouse lemurs seemed to demonstrate variation in adapting to the conditions of captivity with regard to sex and individuality. Zoo Biol 20:157–167, 2001. © 2001 Wiley-Liss, Inc.