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Bamboo shortage gives these lemurs a tougher diet

Bamboo shortage gives these lemurs a tougher diet

  • These lemurs are now eating culm, the woody trunk of the bamboo, for longer stretches of the year.
  • Researchers first showed that the greater bamboo lemurs are equipped with highly complex and specialized teeth, just as giant pandas are—the only other mammal capable of feeding on culm.
  • Those data showed the lemurs spend 95 percent of their feeding time eating a single species of woody bamboo.
  • Over the past two years, there has been a three month delay in the rainy season and new tender shoots that great bamboo lemurs use for sustenance are appearing in January and February—14 days after the first rainfall, says Patricia Chapple Wright, a primatologist, anthropologist, and conservationist at Stony Brook…
  • In Asia, the geographical ranges of both giant and red pandas are diminished and similarly, in Madagascar, the two larger bamboo lemurs, the greater bamboo lemur and the golden bamboo lemur, have highly restricted distributions within the island.

“Making the lemurs rely on a suboptimal part of their food for just a bit longer may be enough to tip the balance from existence to extinction.”

Human disturbance of tropical rainforests in Madagascar is changing the diets of critically endangered greater bamboo lemurs, report researchers. These lemurs are now eating culm, the woody trunk of the bamboo, for longer stretches of the year.

Ultimately, the researchers report, the dietary constraint will affect the lemurs’ ability to thrive and reproduce and could shorten their lifespan, further pushing them to the brink of extinction.

Researchers first showed that the greater bamboo lemurs are equipped with highly complex and specialized teeth, just as giant pandas are—the only other mammal capable of feeding on culm. Those teeth make it possible for them to consume and survive on woody culm for parts of the year.

A team of scientists spent hours watching them in their natural habitat in Madagascar’s Ranomafana National Park over a period of 18 months, collecting more than 2,000 feeding observation in all. Those data showed the lemurs spend 95 percent of their feeding time eating a single species of woody bamboo. But they only eat the culm from August to November, when dry conditions make tender shoots unavailable.

Findings show rainfalls are changing annually. Over the past two years, there has been a three month delay in the rainy season and new tender shoots that great bamboo lemurs use for sustenance are appearing in January and February—14 days after the first rainfall, says Patricia Chapple Wright, a primatologist, anthropologist, and conservationist at Stony Brook University.

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Bamboo shortage gives these lemurs a tougher diet

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