Ring-tailed lemurs and brown lemurs have begun to give birth here in Berenty. I’ve seen two infant ring-tailed lemurs clinging to their mothers’ bellies. I saw my first brown lemur infant briefly today (September 5). All I could see was a tiny head peeking out from a mother’s leg as she walked quadrupedally across the forest floor. Most primate infants are specially adapted to cling tightly to their mothers. Human infants have lost this ability, likely because humans don’t have nearly as much hair to cling to as other primates.
|Sifaka infant and mother resting|
Sifakas in Berenty typically give birth towards the end of July. Here, that corresponds with the start of the dry season. Why give birth during the dry season, when the leaves are falling and food is harder to come by? Why give birth during the most difficult time of the year? Well, giving birth and nursing an infant during the dry season certainly presents its challenges. But on the flip side of this coin, sifakas wean their infants when fruits are much more available, likely giving their offspring a better chance of surviving this period (if they made it through the dry season that is).
Sifaka infants have reached the stage where they are a little bit stronger and more adventurous. I’ve seen them practicing their clinging and leaping onto tree branches a little bit. They’re venturing further and further from their mothers. Sometimes they even ride on their mother’s back for a bit. They have a bit more fur now, but quite a few still have those long tails that resemble a rat’s tail, if you ask me. I’m sure they resemble rats less when all of their fur has grown in.
|Brown lemur mother and infant|
True or false: Primate infants consuming milk high in fat are generally weaned over a long period of time.
Critical thinking: How does this post connect back to the concept of biological fitness discussed earlier?
Critical thinking: During what season do humans give birth? Why do you think this is?