Population Genetics of Mongoose Lemurs (Eulemur mongoz)

Dr. Jennifer Patorini

The mongoose lemur, Eulemur mongoz, belongs to the family Lemuridae. E. mongoz occurs in three geographically isolated populations; on two Comorian islands (Anjouan and Mohéli) and in the northwest of Madagascar. Both in Madagascar and in the Comores, forests are highly fragmented throughout the species range. The mongoose lemur is found in only one protected area, in the Ankarafantsika Nature Reserve. More then 100 mongoose lemurs live in captivity. Duke University Primate Center has the largest captive colony.

A 10-month study carried out on E. mongoz in Madagascar revealed a group composition consisting of small family groups (2-6 individuals), that is, an adult pair and associated offspring. The group composition remains relatively constant, with changes in group size being limited to births and emigration of subadult individuals. This implies a monogamous social structure. Mongoose lemurs exhibit a cathemeral (mixed diurnal/nocturnal) activity cycle throughout the wet and dry seasons. Fruit is the dominant food item in the diet of E. mongoz during both seasons (for review see Curtis 1997). A comprehensive genetic analysis, including not only nuclear DNA, but also mitochondrial DNA data, will give additional insight into the group dynamics and breeding systems of E. mongoz. The genetic characterisation of individuals from Anjamena will be used to assess kinship within and between groups, as well as for estimating genetic variability of the entire population. This project is carried out in close collaboration with D. Curtis (University of Surrey Roehampton, UK) and A. Zaramody (Université de Mahajanga, Madagascar) who conducted the field study on mongoose lemurs.

Genetic data describing the underlying structure of animal populations are extremely valuable for the development of any sound management plan. In the captive population of mongoose lemurs, the genetical data will be used to estimate the number of matrilines and to determine relatedness among the founder animals. Most mongoose lemurs in captivity are known to have either Comorian or Malagasy ancestors, but there are several individuals of unknown origin. Genetic differences between animals from the Comores and Madagascar need to be assessed. The results will yield comprehensive genetic guidelines for management of captive colonies of mongoose lemurs. This part of the project is carried out in close collaboration with T. Bettinger who is the mongoose lemur species coordinator (Bettinger 2000).

Bettinger T (2000) Mongoose Lemur Management Plan (Eulemur mongoz). Cleveland: Cleveland Metroparks Zoo.

Curtis DJ (1997) The Mongoose Lemur (Eulemur mongoz): A Study in Behaviour and Ecology. Dissertation, Universität Zürich.

Pastorini J, Fernando P, Melnick DJ & Forstner MRJ (2004) Isolation of 10 microsatellite markers for mongoose lemurs (Eulemur mongoz). Molecular Ecology Notes 4: 67-69. Abstract/Download

Dr. Tammie Bettinger

Dr. Deborah J. Curtis
Department of Anthropology & Geography, Oxford Brookes University, Oxford, UK

Alphonse Zaramody
Département des Sciences de la Terre, Université de Mahajanga, Mahajanga, Madagascar