Feeding Ecology

Quantitative data on the feeding ecology of mouse lemurs are notoriously difficult to obtain, since continuous contact time with focal animals is impossible to maintain due to their small body size and quick locomotion in mostly dense vegetation. Therefore, we rely heavily on qualitative data and sometimes even anecdotal evidence as well as on results from fecal analyses (e.g., Martin, 1972; Atsalis, 1999a; Radespiel et al., 2006). All mouse lemur species studied so far have been reported to have an omnivorous diet.

Most feeding data are available on M. murinus (Hill, 1953; Webb, 1953; Petter, 1962; Martin, 1972, 1973; Sussman, 1978; Hladik et al., 1980; Barre et al., 1988; Corbin and Schmid, 1995; Schmelting, 2000; Lutermann, 2001; Genin, 2003; Radespiel et al., 2006). This species consumes animal matter such as insect secretions (of homopteran larvae, Flatidae), arthropods, or even small vertebrates as well as vegetable matter that consists of fruits, flowers, nectar, gum, and even sometimes leaves and buds (Table 2 for a complete list of all published plant species eaten by mouse lemurs). Seasonal variation in the diet is probably high (e.g., Schmelting, 2000; Lutermann, 2001) but remains to be studied in detail. However, it seems to be well supported that insect secretions and gum are of major importance during the dry season when fruits and insects are relatively rare (Corbin and Schmid, 1995; Genin, 2003; Radespiel et al., 2006).

A preliminary study on the feeding ecology of M. ravelobensis (Radespiel et al., 2006) also revealed a broad dietary regime with insect secretions and gum constituting the major food components during the second half of the dry season, similar to M. murinus (see Table 2 for plant species). Arthropods were regularly found in the feces, whereas fruits and nectar were consumed less frequently during this time of the year. In a neighboring study site (Jardin Botanique B [JBB]) with exclusive occurrence of M. ravelobensis, this species was regularly observed to eat leaves during the first half of the dry season (Hagenah, 2001; Weidt, 2001; Table 2).

The diet of the M. rufus group has been most intensely studied by Atsalis (study site: Ranomafano National Park, 1999a) and by Ganzhorn (study site: Analamazoatra/Andasibe, 1988). These authors as well as Harste et al. (study site: Ranomafano National Park, 1997) and Ratsirarson and Ranaivonasy (study site: Tampolo forest, 2002) emphasized the major importance of fruits (see also Table 2) and arthropods in the diet of M. rufus. As described by Atsalis (1999a), beetles (Coleoptera) were almost continuously present in the feces of M. rufus and were therefore defined as a staple food together with the fruit of the epiphytic, semiparasitic, endemic Bakerella that appeared year round in approximately 42% of all fecal samples. Martin (1972), Atsalis (1999a), and Ratsirarson

Table 2.

Mouse Lemurs Plant species consumed by mouse lemur species

M. murinus

M. ravelobensis

M. rufus group

Fruits Canthium sp.7,10

Adenia firingalavensis 8

Alberta humblotii1

Evonymus pleurostyloides5

Cabucala erythrocarpa13

Anthocleista amplexicaulis1

Garessia sp.9

Maerua cylindrocarpa12

Aphloia theaeformis1

Grewia sp.9

Mapoutria berizokae13

Bakerella sp.1

Grewia trifolia2

Protorhus ditimena14

Bakerella clavata subsp.11

Homollea leandri11

Strychnos spinosa13

Bakerella grisea 1

Maerua cylindrocarpa8,9

Tamarindus indica13,14

Canthium sp.I4

Mapouria boinensis11

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