Wednesday, 10 January 2018

Some lemurs are loners, others crave connection

January 9, 2018 by Robin Smith, Duke University

If lemurs were on Facebook, Fern would have oodles of friends, liking and commenting on their posts. Captain Lee, on the other hand, would rarely send a friend request.

These are just two of the distinct personalities discovered in a recent study of group dynamics in ring-tailed lemurs, primate cousins that live in groups of up to two dozen on the island of Madagascar.

First author Ipek Kulahci spent several years studying ring-tailed lemurs housed at the Duke Lemur Center in North Carolina and the St. Catherines Island Lemur Program in Georgia. Along the way, she noticed a lot of variation in social behavior from one lemur the next. She observed socialite Fern, loner Captain Lee, best buddies Limerick and Herodotus and other lemur characters.

Some individuals seemed more outgoing than others. To try to quantify that, she followed four groups of ring-tailed lemurs over two consecutive years and recorded their behavior a minimum of four times a week for at least two months.

Using a method called social network analysis, she was able to measure how many connections each lemurhad, with whom, and how strong those connections were. She was also able to figure out which lemurs were most influential in each group—either because they connected others, or because they had well-connected friends.

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