Sleeping Site Ecology

All mouse lemur species studied thus far sleep during the daytime in some sort of shelter which may fulfill at least two important functions. It may help in thermoregulation by buffering against high external temperature fluctuations (Schmid, 1998) and should also offer protection against predators (Radespiel et al., 2003a). Two main variables must be addressed when describing the sleeping site ecology of these species: (1) the type and quality of the substrate used as sleeping site and (2) the social grouping pattern and its temporary stability. These variables and the respective references are summarized for each studied species in Table 3.

Again, most information is available for M. murinus. Interestingly, throughout its whole distribution range, this species uses tree holes for sleeping whenever they are available. In contrast, other Microcebus species appear to use tree holes only as one of several options. Whether these differences can be interpreted as signs of ecological differentiation, as seen in the sympatric species pair M. murinus/M. ravelobensis (Radespiel et al., 2003a), or as interspecific competition as seen in sympatric M. murinus and M. berthae (Schwab, 2000; Schwab and Ganzhorn, 2004) cannot be answered in a generalized way.

The social grouping patterns during the resting period seem to be species-specific but relatively stable in intraspecific comparisons. We find a segregation of sexes with stable female groups/solitary males (type M. murinus) or periodic unisex male or female groups (type M. rufus) or mixed-sex sleeping associations with unstable (type M. berthae) or stable composition (with up to five adult members, type M. ravelobensis) over time. It has been suggested that "low-quality sites" may force both sexes either to form sleeping groups with a potential benefit of increased vigilance as in M. ravelobensis (Radespiel et al., 2003a), or to follow a solitary lifestyle with the potential benefit of crypsis as seen in M. berthae (Schwab, 2000), but these hypotheses still need more rigorous testing on the intra- and interspecific level.

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