Introduction

Lemurs are a diverse and varied group of primates of over 70 species which occupy a wide variety of niches (Richard and Dewar, 1991; Wright, 1999; Mittermeier et al., 2006). The niche breadth is even greater if the subfossil lemurs are considered (Godfrey et al., 1997; Simons, 1997; Jungers et al., 2002). Lemurs show many "special" traits not seen in other primates, such as hibernation (Wright and Martin, 1995; Schmid, 1998a; Dausmann et al., 2004), female dominance (Jolly, 1966, 1984; Pollock, 1979; Young et al., 1990; Radespiel and Zimmerman, 2001; Pochron et al., 2003), low basal metabolic rate (Schmid and Ganzhorn, 1996; Schmid, 1998b), and long lifespan coupled with high infant mortality (Overdorff et al., 1999; Sauther et al., 2001; Gould et al., 2003; Pochron et al., 2004; King et al., 2005). The breadth of the primate niche and the peculiar characteristics of these more primitive primates may be a result of their long isolation sympatric with a special subset of taxa on this micro-continent (Wright, 1999). This paper reviews what we have learned from studying Madagascar plant phenology, weather patterns, and effects on lemur behavior and

Patricia C. Wright • Department of Anthropology and Institute for the Conservation of Tropical Environments, Stony Brook University, Stony Brook, New York 11794 USA; Centre ValBio, Ranomafana, Madagascar, Dept of Ecology, Evolution and Organismal Biology, University of Helsinki, Helsinki, Finland ecology. There appears to be a delicate balance between plants and lemurs mediated by climate. Cyclones, droughts, and extreme rain can affect the balance, limiting reproductive success. Although the lemurs have evolved resiliency strategies (hibernation or multiple litters or low metabolic rate) we are finding that small changes in the forest composition or the amount of rainfall can impact on lemur populations. These changes are presently amplified by human disturbance.

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