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Lemurs detect predators by listening to alarm calls of birds

Last Updated: Monday, July 8, 2013 - 16:17

Washington: An endangered specie of Madagascan lemur has been found to listen to alarm calls of birds and other lemurs to warn it about the predators’ presence, a new study has revealed.

Very little is known about the Sahamalaza sportive lemur (Lepilemur sahamalazensis), other than the fact it roosts during the day in rather open situations, such as tree holes, and therefore risks falling victim to predators from both the air and the ground.

Prior to this research virtually nothing was known about this particular species despite the fact that it has been classified as Critically Endangered, the top threat category of the International Union for Conservation of Nature`s (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species, at a red-listing workshop in Madagascar in July 2012.

Dr Melanie Seiler, a researcher at Bristol Zoo and the University of Bristol, and lead author of the study, said that they were seeking any info they could gather that could help them to understand this species better, with the objective of improving targeted conservation efforts.

She said that one of the problems of small nocturnal species is that they don`t get a great deal of scientific or conservation attention.

She asserted that the Sahamalaza sportive lemur doesn`t have striking blue eyes like blue-eyed black lemurs or any other unusual features, which means that no-one had really looked into what these animals need to survive.

The researchers found that the vigilance of sportive lemurs significantly increased after they heard playbacks of the alarm calls of the crested coua and the Madagascar magpie-robin.

They also responded with increased vigilance to the aerial alarm calls of the blue-eyed black lemur, scanning towards the sky but never the ground which suggests they classified the alarm call correctly.

Dr Marc Holderied of the University of Bristol said that the results indicate that the Sahamalaza sportive lemur is capable of gleaning information on predator presence and predator type from the referential signals of different surrounding species.


First Published: Monday, July 8, 2013 - 16:16
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