Fork-crowned Lemur (Phaner furcifer)



MORPHOLOGY:
Average body mass is about 300 grams. This species has long hindlimbs with relatively large hands and feet with large digital pads. This species possesses tapetum behind retina in the eye. This species has claw-like fingernails and long anterior premolars that are caniform. The fork-crowned lemur has specialized bacteria in cecum to assist in digesting gum. It also has a long and narrow tongue to assist in obtaining gum (Fleagle, 1988). This species has a pelage color which is light brown on the dorsal side and cream, white, or pale brown on the ventral side (Tattersall, 1982). The face is covered with short hair and is the same color as the crown (Tattersall, 1982). There are dark rings surrounding the eyes which sometimes extend down the muzzle and always goes backwards, meeting in the middle forming a dorsal stripe that extends down the back (Tattersall, 1982). The tail of the fork-crowned lemur is bushy and is lightly colored like the dorsal half proximally and becomes darker distally (Tattersall, 1982).

There are four recognized subspecies of the fork-crowned lemur and there is slight variation between the subspecies in terms of pelage color (Groves and Tattersall, 1991):
RANGE:
The fork-crowned lemur is found in Western Madagascar in the coastal forests. This species lives in both humid and dry forests and is also common in secondary forests (Harcourt and Thornback, 1990). Phaner furcifer furcifer is found on the Masoala peninsula of northeastern Madagascar (Groves and Tattersall, 1991). Phaner furcifer pallescens is found in western Madagascar from the Fiherenana River to the region of Soalala (Groves and Tattersall, 1991). Phaner furcifer parienti is found in the Sambirano region south of Ambanja, which includes the Ampasindava Peninsula south to the Andranomalaza river (Groves and Tattersall, 1991). Phaner furcifer electromontis is found on Mt. d'Ambre in northern Madagascar (Groves and Tattersall, 1991).

The fork-crowned lemur is found in the following parks and reserves:

ECOLOGY:
Because of the dental adaptations the fork-crowned lemur has a diet that primarily constitutes gum, with arthropods consumed for protein. This species also consumes other exudates from trees (Charles-Dominique and Petter, 1980). The main tree species used to consume gum from is members of the genus Terminalia (Charles-Dominique and Petter, 1980). The fork-crowned lemur consumes gum from orifices in the trees that are created by larvae of Coleopterans who live between the wood and the bark of the trees (Charles-Dominique and Petter, 1980). This species also consumes gum from the species Commiphora sp. and Colvillea racemosa (Charles-Dominique and Petter, 1980). Bud exudations are consumed from the species Zanthoxylum tsihanimposa and sap is consumed from Adansonia sp. (Charles-Dominique and Petter, 1980). This species will also consume the honeydew produced by insect larvae from the family Machaerotidae (Homoptera) (Charles-Dominique and Petter, 1980) and from the family Flatidae (Homoptera) (Petter, 1978). These insect larvae are found on the thin branches of the species Rhopalocarpus lucidus (Charles-Dominique and Petter, 1980). The fork-crowned lemur uses its procumbent tooth comb and long tongue to consume the exudates from trees (Charles-Dominique and Petter, 1980). The long sharpened nails of this species allows it to climb and cling to the smooth trunks and large branches of the trees species for which exudates are consumed from (Charles-Dominique and Petter, 1980). The gums, which constitute the major portion of the diet, are poor in nitrogen, so insects are consumed to make up for the lack of protein (Charles-Dominique and Petter, 1980). The fork-crowned lemur usually forages at height of 8-10 meters and often in the tops of trees (Hladik et al., 1980). This is a nocturnal species.

The fork-crowned lemur leaves its den 15-20 minutes before complete darkness, emits vocalizations, and then feeds on exudates from trees (Charles-Dominique and Petter, 1980). This species follows a regular pattern when feeding which is based upon the position of gum-producing trees and the best places where exudates are found on the individual trees (Charles-Dominique and Petter, 1980). The routes used are memorized, and the learning is based on vision (Charles-Dominique and Petter, 1980). This species sleeps during the day in tree holes found in large trees or in the abandoned nests of Microcebus coquereli (Charles-Dominique and Petter, 1980). The size of the territory of this species depends on the distribution of Terminalia trees (Charles-Dominique and Petter, 1980). Individual territories generally overlap with one or more other territories and these areas are called "meeting areas" (Charles-Dominique and Petter, 1980). In a removal experiment of a resident male from his territory it was found that vocalizations throughout the territory and encounters and vocalizations in the "meeting areas" are necessary for maintaining a territory (Charles-Dominique and Petter, 1980). This species is more abundant in small areas with a large number of gum-producing trees (Charles-Dominique and Petter, 1980).

This species has been found to have been preyed upon by the cuckoo falcon, Aviceda madagascariensis (Goodman et al., 1993).

LOCOMOTION:
The fork-crowned lemur moves quadrupedally through the forest and also can leap between branches (Fleagle, 1988). This species has feeding postures which include hanging on vertical trunks by all fours and only by the feet (Walker, 1979).

SOCIAL BEHAVIOR:
This species has a mating system which is either monogamous or polygynous (Charles-Dominique and Petter, 1980). In monogamous pairs, the male follow the female during the night keeping a distance of about 30 meters and emits vocalizations with the female (Charles-Dominique and Petter, 1980). Males allow females preference to food sites, and females are generally dominant to males (Charles-Dominique and Petter, 1980). Males and females will sleep in the same sleeping site in monogamous pairs (Charles-Dominique and Petter, 1980).

Social interactions between neighbors occurs in the overlapping areas of individual territories called "meeting areas", where vocalizations ("kiu" calls) are given and responded to with "kiu" calls (Charles-Dominique and Petter, 1980).

VOCAL COMMUNICATION:
"hon" call: This is a weak call emitted by both adult males and females of a pair (Charles-Dominique and Petter, 1980). This call serves as a contact call, and the male and female of a pair will utter this during the night to keep in contact (Charles-Dominique and Petter, 1980). An individual will emit the call even if separated 50-60 meters from their mate (Charles-Dominique and Petter, 1980). Adult individuals will also emit this while moving, even if not associated with a mate (Petter and Charles-Dominique, 1979).

"ki" and "kiu" calls: These also function as contact calls that occur between the adult male and female of a pair (Charles-Dominique and Petter, 1980). The "ki" call results from the increased intensity of the "hon" call, and the "kiu" call results from the increased intensity of the "ki" call (Charles-Dominique and Petter, 1980). The "kiu" is guttural in nature and is emitted in a series of 5-25 units (Charles-Dominique and Petter, 1980). The "kiu" call may serve to give the identity and position of the emitter's partner and also the identity and position of the neighbors (Charles-Dominique and Petter, 1980). The "kiu" call has a peak time of being emitted just after awakening and during the middle of the night (Charles-Dominique and Petter, 1980).

"kea": This is a loud call which is only uttered by males (Charles-Dominique and Petter, 1980). This call is emitted as a single note or two or three times in succession (Charles-Dominique and Petter, 1980). This call has a peak performance around the time a male awakens, and this call will issue a similar response from other males in the area (Charles-Dominique and Petter, 1980).

alarm call: This call is an amplification of the contact calls which also become powerful (Petter and Charles-Dominique, 1979).

fighting call: This call is associated with fighting and defense (Charles-Dominique and Petter, 1980). This is a bimodal call which sounds like: "Hein-ein-Hein-ein-Hein-ein" (Charles-Dominique and Petter, 1980).

distress call: This call occurs in situations of pain or great fear (Charles-Dominique and Petter, 1980). This call sounds like an ascending tremolo moan, and this call similar to other nocturnal prosimian distress calls (Charles-Dominique and Petter, 1980). Conspecifics will respond to individuals emitting this call with a "ki" call (Petter and Charles-Dominique, 1979).

OLFACTORY COMMUNICATION:
allomarking: This behavior is performed only by the males and occurs during social grooming (Charles-Dominique and Petter, 1980). The male has a large cutaneous throat gland which he rubs on the head, shoulders, and the back of the female in a stereotypical manner during social grooming (Charles-Dominique and Petter, 1980).

VISUAL COMMUNICATION:

TACTILE COMMUNICATION:
social grooming: This is when one individual grooms another, removing dead skin and parasites. This occurs between males, females, and juveniles in this species (Charles-Dominique and Petter, 1980). Individuals performing this will be face-to-face and often hang upside-down (Charles-Dominique and Petter, 1980).

REPRODUCTION:
This species has one infant per season which is born in November or December (Harcourt and Thornback, 1990). The mating period for this species occurs in June (Charles-Dominique and Petter, 1980). The infant is first left in a tree hole by its mother, then transported ventrally, and when it becomes older the mother will transport the young dorsally (Klopfer and Boskoff, 1979).

REFERENCES:
Burton, F. 1995. The Multimedia Guide to the Non-human Primates. Prentice-Hall Canada Inc.

Charles-Dominique, P. and Petter, J.J. 1980. Ecology and social life of Phaner furcifer. in Nocturnal Malagasy Primates: Ecology, Physiology, and Behavior. eds. P. Charles-Dominique, H.M. Cooper, A. Hladik, C.M. Hladik, E. Pages, G.F. Pariente, A. Petter-Rousseaux, and A. Schilling. Academic Press: New York.

Fleagle, J. G. 1988. Primate Adaptation and Evolution. Academic Press.

Goodman, S.M., O' Connor, S., and Langrand, O. 1993. A review of predation on lemurs: implications for the evolution of social behavior in small, nocturnal primates. In Lemur Social Systems and Their Ecological Basis. eds. P.M. Kappeler and J.U. Ganzhorn. Plenum Press: New York.

Groves, C.P. and Tattersall, I. 1991. Geographical variation in the fork-marked lemur, Phaner furcifer (Primates, Cheirogaleidae). Folia Primatologica. Vol. 56, 39-49.

Harcourt, C. and Thornback, J. 1990. Lemurs of Madagascar and the Comoros. The IUCN Red Data Book. IUCN, Gland, Switzerland and Cambridge, U.K.

Hladik, C.M., Charles-Dominique, and Petter, J.J. 1980. Feeding strategies of five nocturnal prosimians in the dry forest of the west coast of Madagascar. in Nocturnal Malagasy Primates: Ecology, Physiology, and Behavior. eds. P. Charles-Dominique, H.M. Cooper, A. Hladik, C.M. Hladik, E. Pages, G.F. Pariente, A. Petter-Rousseaux, and A. Schilling. Academic Press: New York.

Klopfer, P.H. and Boskoff, K.J. 1979. Maternal behavior in prosimians. In The Study of Prosimian Behavior. eds. G. A. Doyle and R.D. martin. Academic Press: New York.

Petter, J.J. 1978. Ecolgical and physiological adaptations of five sympatric nocturnal lemurs to seasonal variations in food production. In Recent Advances in Primatology Vol. 1: Behaviour. eds. D.J. Chivers and J. Herbert. Academic Press: London.

Petter, J.J. and Charles-Dominique, P. 1979. Vocal communication in prosimians. In The Study of Prosimian Behavior. eds. G.A. Doyle and R.D. Martin. Academic Press: New York.

Tattersall, I. 1982. The Primates of Madagascar. Columbia University Press: New York.

Walker, A. 1979. Prosimian locomotor behavior. In The Study of Prosimian Behavior. eds. G.A. Doyle and R.D. Martin. Academic Press: New York.

Last Updated: January 28, 2007.
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