Journal Article

The influence of seasonal availability of young leaves on dietary niche separation in two ecologically similar folivorous lemurs


Traditional socio-ecological models consider that folivorous primates experience limited feeding competition due to the low quality, high abundance, and even distribution of leaves. Evidence from several folivorous species that experience similar constraints to frugivores does not support this hypothesis. The sympatric lemur genera Avahi (Indriidae) and Lepilemur (Lepilemuridae) are good models to understand how food availability constrains folivores since they are both nocturnal, folivorous, and have a comparable body mass. Here we investigate how two nocturnal folivorous primates, Avahi meridionalis and Lepilemur fleuretae, living in the lowland rain forest of Tsitongambarika, South-East Madagascar, partition their dietary niche and are influenced by seasonality of young leaves. To account for food availability, we collected annual phenological data on 769 trees from 200 species. We also collected behavioural data on 5 individuals per lemur species from August 2015 to July 2016 via continuous focal sampling. We found the phenological profile to be seasonal with peaks of leaf flushing, flowering, and fruiting occurring in the austral summer. The two species showed limited dietary overlap (37% rich period, 6% lean period), and A. meridionalis showed higher feeding time and longer daily distances travelled during the rich period. Lepilemur fleuretae showed a dietary shift during the lean period, relying more on mature leaves (73.3% during the lean period, 13.5% during the rich period) but maintaining similar activity levels between seasons. The time spent feeding on food items by A. meridionalis was positively correlated with the nitrogen content and negatively correlated with polyphenols during the rich period. We highlighted a clear effect of the seasonality of young leaves on the diet, nutritional content, activity patterns, and daily distances travelled by two folivorous species, which can be linked to nutrient balancing and time-minimising versus energy-maximising strategies.

Attached files


Campera, Marco
Balestri, Michela
Besnard, Fiona
Phelps, Megan
Rakotoarimanan, Faniry
Nijman, Vincent
Nekaris, K.A.I.
Ganzhorn, Jörg U.
Donati, Giuseppe

Oxford Brookes departments

Department of Social Sciences


Year of publication: 2021
Date of RADAR deposit: 2021-08-26

© Karger. Content may not be used for commercial purposes.

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