HomePrintE-MailSite NoticePrivacy Policy

Population Genetics of Ring-tailed Lemurs (Lemur catta)

Dr. Jennifer Pastorini

The ringtailed lemur, Lemur catta, who is a member of the family Lemuridae is found in the dry forests and bush of south and southwestern Madagascar. L. catta is the most common lemur in zoos and thus is the best known of all Malagasy lemurs. Interestingly, ringtailed lemurs spend more time on the ground than any of the other lemurs. Ringtailed lemurs are diurnal and live in multi-male female groups. Those groups usually contain 10 to 20 individuals with a balanced adult sex ratio. Their home ranges have highly overlapping boundaries. Females usually remain in their natal group, whereas males migrate (for review see Sauther et al. 1999).

In 1987, a long-term study of the demography of L. catta was begun at the Beza Mahafaly Reserve in southwestern Madagascar (Sauther et al. 1999). In wild-living ringtailed lemurs assessment of the social structure and mating system is currently possible only to the limited extent permitted by direct observation. A comprehensive genetic analysis, including not only nuclear DNA, but also mitochondrial DNA data, will give necessary insight into the group dynamics and breeding systems of this species in the wild. Mitochondrial DNA sequence data will allow the direct determination of the matriline, which is required to discern the social structure of those populations. The genetic characterisation will be used to assess kinship between and within groups of the population. Attention will also be paid to potential differences between the two molecular markers or between the sexes. The genetical data will further be used to investigate relationships between male dominance rank, age, residence status, and reproductive success.

The ringtailed lemur population genetics project is carried out in close collaboration with M. Sauther (University of Colorado, USA) and L. Gould (University of Victoria, Canada). L. catta samples were/will be collected from individuals of a free-ranging ringtailed lemur population from the Beza Mahafaly Reserve in southwest Madagascar from M. Sauther and L. Gould. I am receiving those samples to do the genetical analyses. A genetic marker system which permits study of group composition, social structure and mating patterns in L. catta will be of future use because the long-term behavioural and ecological study on ringtailed lemurs will be continued in the future.


Parga JA, Sauther ML, Cuozzo FP, Jacky IAY, Lawler RR, Sussman RW, Gould L & Pastorini . (2016) Paternity in wild ring-tailed lemurs (Lemur catta): Implications for male mating strategies. American Journal of Primatology 78:1316-1325. Abstract/Download

Parga JA, Sauther ML, Cuozzo FP, Jacky IAY, Gould L, Sussman RW, Lawler RR & Pastorini J (2015) Genetic evidence for male and female dispersal in wild Lemur catta. Folia Primatol - Folia Primatologica 86:66-75. Abstract/Download

Pastorini J, Sauther ML, Sussman RW, Gould L, Cuozzo FP, Fernando P, Nievergelt CM, & Mundy NI (2015) Comparison of the genetic variation of captive ring-tailed lemurs with a wild population in Madagascar. Zoo Biology 34:463-472. Abstract/Download

Pastorini J, Fernando P, Forstner MRJ & Melnick DJ (2005) Characterization of new microsatellite loci for the ring-tailed lemur (Lemur catta). Molecular Ecology Notes 5:149-151. Abstract/Download

Sauther ML, Sussman RW & Gould L (1999) The socioecology of the ringtailed lemur: Thirty-five years of research. Evolutionary Anthropology 8:120-132. Abstract/Download


Dr. Michelle L. Sauther
Department of Anthropology, University of Colorado, Boulder, CO, USA

Dr. Lisa Gould
Department of Anthropology, University of Victoria, Victoria, Canada

Dr. Joyce A. Parga
Department of Anthropology, California State University, Los Angeles, USA