International Journal of Primatology

, Volume 32, Issue 3, pp 566–586 | Cite as

Seasonal Changes in Feeding Ecology and Activity Patterns of Two Sympatric Mouse Lemur Species, the Gray Mouse Lemur (Microcebus murinus) and the Golden-brown Mouse Lemur (M. ravelobensis), in Northwestern Madagascar

  • Sandra Thorén
  • Franziska Quietzsch
  • Doreen Schwochow
  • Lalandy Sehen
  • Christopher Meusel
  • Kate Meares
  • Ute Radespiel


Because closely related species are likely to be ecologically similar owing to common ancestry, they should show some degree of differentiation in order to coexist. We studied 2 morphologically similar congeneric species, the golden-brown mouse lemur (Microcebus ravelobensis) and the gray mouse lemur (M. murinus). These species are found in partial sympatry in the dry deciduous forest in northwestern Madagascar. We investigated whether 1) feeding niche differentiation and/or 2) a reduction in locomotor activity during periods of food shortage, which might reflect an energy saving strategy, can explain the coexistence of these 2 lemur species. To obtain feeding and behavioral data, we conducted focal observations of 11 female Microcebus murinus and 9 female M. ravelobensis during 11 months from 2007 to 2008 and collected fecal samples for 6 mo. We monitored the phenology of 272 plant specimens and trapped arthropods to determine food availability. Results revealed interspecific differences in 1) relative proportion of consumed food resources, resulting in a merely partial dietary overlap, and in 2) relative importance of seasonally varying food resources throughout the year. In addition, females of Microcebus murinus showed a reduction in locomotor activity during the early dry season, which might reflect an energy-saving strategy and might further reduce potential competition with M. ravelobensis over limited food resources. To conclude, a combination of interspecific feeding niche differentiation and differences in locomotor activity appears to facilitate the coexistence of Microcebus murinus and M. ravelobensis.


Activity budget Diet Feeding ecology Niche differentiation Seasonality 



We thank the Department des Eaux et Forêts (DEF), the members of CAFF/CORE, the University of Antananarivo (D. Rakotondravony and the late O. Ramilijaona), and the Association pour la Gestion des Aires Protégées (ANGAP) for permission to work in the Ankarafantsika National Park. We also thank the staff of the National Park for their continuous support. We thank Blanchard Randrianambinina, Solofo Rasoloharijaona, and Romule Rakotondravony for their valuable help during the study. Many thanks go to Sonja Kunath, Miriam Linnenbrink, Pièrre Razafindraibe, Fanomezantsoa Rakotonirina, and Roger Randrimparany for their enthusiastic help during data collection. The Durrell Wildlife Preservation Trust is acknowledged for providing the climate data of Ampijoroa. We also thank Albert Melber, who helped with arthropod identification; Roger Edmont for botanical expertise; Angie Faust for proofreading the manuscript; and the editor and 2 anonymous reviewers for helpful comments on the manuscript. All field handling and sampling procedures adhered to the legal requirements of Madagascar and were approved by the Ministry of Water and Forests. We have complied with the ethical standards for the treatment of primates and with the national laws and research rules formulated by the Malagasy authorities.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Sandra Thorén
    • 1
  • Franziska Quietzsch
    • 1
  • Doreen Schwochow
    • 2
  • Lalandy Sehen
    • 3
    • 4
  • Christopher Meusel
    • 1
  • Kate Meares
    • 1
  • Ute Radespiel
    • 1
  1. 1.Institute of ZoologyUniversity of Veterinary Medicine HanoverHanoverGermany
  2. 2.Department of Ecology and Evolutionary BiologyUniversity of CaliforniaLos AngelesUSA
  3. 3.Institute of ZoologyUniversity of Veterinary Medicine HanoverHanoverGermany
  4. 4.Department of Botany, Faculty of ScienceUniversity of AntananarivoAntananarivoMadagascar

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