Feeding ecology and diet

Fruits and insects are the staple diet for most dwarf and mouse lemurs, but each species shows a particular specialty, sometimes involving plant exudates (gums). Whereas dwarf lemurs feed mainly on fruits, mouse lemurs tend to eat a relatively balanced diet of fruits and insects. However, Coquerel's mouse lemur also consumes secretions produced by insects as part of its diet. Gum-feeding occurs to a limited extent in both

A western fat-tailed dwarf lemur (Cheirogaleus medius) feeds on gum. (Photo by Harald Schütz. Reproduced by permission.)
The gray mouse lemur (Microcebus murinus) is native to Madagascar. (Photo by Animals Animals ©Mark Stouffer. Reproduced by permission.)

Cheirogaleus and Microcebus species, but fork-crowned lemurs are heavily specialized on this food source as the main dietary intake. Some species also feed on nectar from flowers (e.g., Cheirogaleus and Phaner).

Most species tend to concentrate foraging activity for fruits and insects in the fine branches of trees and bushes, but fork-crowned lemurs spend much time on tree trunks searching for gums.

A red mouse lemur (Microcebus rufus) marking its territory. (Photo by Harald Schütz. Reproduced by permission.)

As an adaptation to gum-feeding, fork-crowned lemurs have a particularly well-developed tooth comb in the lower jaw. They also have sharply pointed tips (needle-claws) on the nails of all digits, except the big toe, for clinging to broad trunk surfaces while feeding on gums. The caecum (located at the extreme of the colon) is enlarged in Phaner as an adaptation for digestion of gum assisted by symbiotic bacteria. The presence of needle-claws in the hairy-eared mouse lemur suggests that this species also feeds regularly on gums.

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