Energy Expenditure and Body Composition in Two Sympatric Lemurs does NOT Support Theories Accounting for Unusual Socio-Ecological Traits and Life History Features

27 03 2010
This image is from Wikimedia Commons and is in the Public Domain

Lemur Catta, also known as the Ring-tailed Lemur

In an article published March 25, in the Online journal PLoS one, researchers present evidence showing no support for the theory that energy conservation behaviors and mechanisms are the result of evolutionary adaptation in response to unusual socio-ecological traits and life history features of those species.

Following is the abstract from the article.  For the complete article, please see the following URL:
http://www.plosone.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0009860.

Abstract

Background

Evolutionary theories that account for the unusual socio-ecological traits and life history features of group-living prosimians, compared with other primates, predict behavioral and physiological mechanisms to conserve energy. Low energy output and possible fattening mechanisms are expected, as either an adaptive response to drastic seasonal fluctuations of food supplies in Madagascar, or persisting traits from previously nocturnal hypometabolic ancestors. Free ranging ring-tailed lemurs (Lemur catta) and brown lemurs (Eulemur sp.) of southern Madagascar have different socio-ecological characteristics which allow a test of these theories: Both gregarious primates have a phytophagous diet but different circadian activity rhythms, degree of arboreality, social systems, and slightly different body size.

Methodology and Results

Daily total energy expenditure and body composition were measured in the field with the doubly labeled water procedure. High body fat content was observed at the end of the rainy season, which supports the notion that individuals need to attain a sufficient physical condition prior to the long dry season. However, ring-tailed lemurs exhibited lower water flux rates and energy expenditure than brown lemurs after controlling for body mass differences. The difference was interpreted to reflect higher efficiency for coping with seasonally low quality foods and water scarcity. Daily energy expenditure of both species was much less than the field metabolic rates predicted by various scaling relationships found across mammals.

Discussion

We argue that low energy output in these species is mainly accounted for by low basal metabolic rate and reflects adaptation to harsh, unpredictable environments. The absence of observed sex differences in body weight, fat content, and daily energy expenditure converge with earlier investigations of physical activity levels in ring-tailed lemurs to suggest the absence of a relationship between energy constraints and the evolution of female dominance over males among lemurs. Nevertheless, additional seasonal data are required to provide a definitive conclusion.

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