Gentle lemurs (genus Hapalemur) are peculiar lemurs. They are the ecological equivalent of pandas in the primate world. No other extant primates are known to subsist almost exclusively on bamboo and/or grasses. Therefore, it comes as no surprise that these primates are also known as bamboo lemurs. Currently, the genus includes three species: H.griseus, H. aureus, and H. simus(Table 1). H.griseus, with several geographic variants, is distributed widely in Madagascar. H. aureus and H. simus, in contrast, have extremely narrow ranges limited to the southeastern central rainforests. Groves (2001) recently promoted H. g. occidentalis and H. g. alaotrensis to full species status and resurrected Prolemur as the genus for simus. Due to controversies involving Hapalemur phylogeny (see Fausser et al., 2002; Pastorini et al., 2002, 2003) and to avoid taxonomic confusion, Groves's nomenclature is not adopted here.
Because bamboo features prominently in the diet of Hapalemur, one cannot understand the animals without knowledge about the plant. Bamboo belongs to the grass family (Poaceae or Gramineae), which includes rice, millet, and reeds. The true bamboo (subfamily Bambusoideae) can be divided into woody and herbaceous bamboo (Clark, 1997). Approximately 32 endemic woody bamboo species,
Chia L. Tan • Conservation and Research for Endangered Species, Zoological Society of San Diego, Escondido, CA 92027-7000
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