Ring-tailed lemurs (Lemur catta) are probably the best known and most well researched of all Malagasy primates. Populations and subpopulations of this species have been studied since 1963, when Jolly spent a year studying groups of ring-tailed lemurs at Berenty Private Reserve in southern Madagascar (Jolly, 1966). Shortly afterwards, Sussman (1972, 1974) examined ecological distinctions between L. catta and Eulemur fulvus rufus at Antserananomby, a dry forest in Madagascar's southwest, and so began the legacy of research on this extremely adaptable primate. Since those early studies, a number of researchers from many countries as well as from within Madagascar have travelled to the island's southern forests and even into mountainous habitat to conduct research projects on the behavior, ecology, demography, endocrinology, and population health of this species. Much has been written about their adaptability, their abilities to withstand the marked climatic seasonality of southern Madagascar, and their resilience in the face of natural disasters such as drought and cyclones (e.g., Gould et al., 1999; Jolly, 1984; Jolly et al., 2002; Mertl-Milhollen et al., 2003; Pride, 2005). Jolly et al. (2006:vi) sum it up well when they suggest that ring-tailed lemurs are "at home in discontinuous habitat, and individually, as tough as old boots" (p. vi).
Lisa Gould • Department of Anthropology, University of Victoria, Victoria, BC, Canada V8W-3P5
In this chapter, I review a number of aspects of L. catta ecology: what is currently known of its geographic distribution, variation in habitat and population density, diet and feeding ecology, and the importance of the tamarind, or kily tree, a keystone resource. I also summarize some important life-history variables such as sex ratios, fecundity, infant mortality, male dispersal, and life span, and discuss the impact of both anthropogenic and natural change in gallery forest habitat.
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