Term of Award

Fall 2012

Degree Name

Master of Science in Biology (M.S.)

Document Type and Release Option

Thesis (open access)

Department

Department of Biology

Committee Chair

Michelle Cawthorn

Committee Member 1

C. Ray Chandler

Committee Member 2

Lissa M. Leege

Committee Member 3

Lissa M. Leege

Abstract

Madagascar is undergoing habitat destruction and degradation that is threatening its unique species, including ring-tailed lemurs. Ring-tailed lemurs (Lemur catta) live in matriarchal groups composed of a dominant female, adult males, subadult males and females, and young. Due to their dominance, it has been suggested that female ringtailed lemurs have access to the highest quality resources and can monopolize food patches. Lemurs on St. Catherine's are free ranging and have unlimited access to natural food sources, but they are also provisioned with supplementary food to ensure a balanced diet. My study aimed to determine the impact of provisions on female dominance behavior and individual foraging behavior and whether or not this varied seasonally. During the summer of 2011, lemurs were presented with doubled amount of provisions;differences in foraging behavior and female dominance were determined. To assess the effect of season on foraging behavior and provision use, data collected in the summer (July-August 2011) were compared with winter (January 2012). Gender had no effect on type of food consumed naturally, but females spent more time at provision sites overall and during the first half of a provisioned feeding bout. Doubling of provisions resulted in equal time spent at provision sites for males and females, but no difference in activity pattern occurred. No difference was been found in food type consumed between genders, but acorns seemed to be the favorite in both seasons. Lemurs were less active during the winter, and spent less time at provision sites. Overall, females are spending more time at provisioned food bowls than males suggesting females are consuming more. However, they are spending the same amount of time naturally foraging and foraging on the same types of natural food items. Overall, females seem to be eating more than males during the summer, indicating a possible increased need for sustenance by females possibly due to lactation. Season had an apparent effect on interest in provisions, on number of species consumed, and on activity type. My results provide valuable information to be used in future ring-tailed lemur translocations.

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