Activity budgets and activity rhythms in red ruffed lemurs (Varecia rubra) on the Masoala Peninsula, Madagascar: seasonality and reproductive energetics.

Research paper by Natalie N Vasey

Indexed on: 18 May '05Published on: 18 May '05Published in: American Journal of Primatology


The activity budgets and daily activity rhythms of Varecia rubra were examined over an annual cycle according to season and reproductive stage. Given the relatively high reproductive costs and patchy food resources of this species, I predicted that V. rubra would 1) travel less and feed more during seasonal resource scarcity in an attempt to maintain energy balance, and 2) show sex differences in activity budgets due to differing reproductive investment. Contrary to the first prediction, V. rubra does not increase feeding time during seasonal food scarcity; rather, females feed for a consistent amount of time in every season, whereas males feed most during the resource-rich, hot dry season. The results are consistent with other predictions: V. rubra travels less in the resource-scarce cold rainy season, and there are some pronounced sex differences, with females feeding more and resting less than males in every season and in every reproductive stage except gestation. However, there are also some provocative similarities between the sexes when activity budgets are examined by reproductive stage. During gestation, female and male activity budgets do not differ and appear geared toward energy accumulation: both sexes feed and rest extensively and travel least during this stage. During lactation, activity budgets are geared toward high energy expenditure: both sexes travel most and in equal measure, and rest least, although it remains the case that females feed more and rest less than males. These similarities between female and male activity budgets appear related to cooperative infant care. The high energetic costs of reproduction in V. rubra females may require that they allot more time to feeding year round, and that their overall activity budget be more directly responsive to seasonal climate change, seasonal food distribution, and reproductive schedules.