Thursday, 5 April 2012

Tagged Lice Help Researchers Study Social Interactions of Shy Brown Mouse Lemurs

ScienceDaily (Mar. 26, 2012) — It can be difficult to uncover the behavior of small, shy, nocturnal primates like the brown mouse lemur (Microcebus rufus), especially in the dense rainforests of Madagascar where this lemur lives. New research published in BioMed Central's open access journal BMC Ecology shows that the social interactions of brown mouse lemurs can be monitored by mapping the transfer of tagged lice.



Brown mouse lemurs are the only known host of the parasitic louse Lemurpediculus verruculosus. The lice have evolved to stay attached to the sparse hair on the lemurs' ears, where they feed on the lemur's blood, and can only survive for a few hours if separated from their host. Most transfer of lice between hosts is therefore by direct contact. Sarah Zohdy from the University of Helsinki tagged individual lice from trapped lemurs using colored nail varnish to see if they were transmitted during social interactions between hosts in the wild.
The team of researchers from Finland, USA, and Madagascar, found that the lice were transferred between 43% of the population -- all of them males. The lice were found on their ears, testes, and eyelids and the pattern of louse transfer provided new information about the habits of these hard-to-study creatures.

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