Lemur DNA paints a picture of Madagascar’s forested past

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Lemur DNA paints a picture of Madagascar’s forested past. Duke Today, July 18, 2016. While there’s no question that human activities such as logging and slash-and-burn agriculture have dramatically altered Madagascar’s forests since the first settlers arrived about 2000 years ago, just how much of the island was forested before people got there remains a matter of debate. Now, a DNA study of tree-dwelling mouse lemurs suggests that humans did not arrive to find the island as blanketed by forests as frequently assumed. Picked up by the Daily Mail, the Christian Science Monitor and the Washington Post.

Lemurs mix smelly secretions to make richer, longer-lasting scents

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Lemurs mix smelly secretions to make richer, longer-lasting scents. Duke Today, April 19, 2016. Humans aren’t alone in their ability to mix perfumes and colognes. Lemurs, too, get more out of their smelly secretions by combining fragrances from different scent glands to create richer, longer-lasting scents, finds a study led by Duke University. Picked up by Mental Floss, Scientific American, Scientific American’s 60-Second Science, and the Daily Mail.

Why testing lemur color vision is harder than it looks

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Why testing lemur color vision is harder than it looks. Duke Research Blog, March 18, 2016. Elphaba the aye-aye is not an early riser. A nocturnal primate with oversized ears, bulging eyes and long, bony fingers, she looks like the bushy-tailed love child of a bat and an opossum. Elphaba is one of 14 aye-ayes at the Duke Lemur Center in Durham, North Carolina, where researchers have been trying to figure out if these rare lemurs can tell certain colors apart, particularly at night when aye-ayes are most active. But as their experiments show, testing an aye-aye’s eyesight is easier said than done.

New way to detect human-animal diseases tested in lemurs

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New way to detect human-animal diseases tested in lemurs. Duke Today, Jan. 27, 2016RNA sequencing is uncovering emerging diseases in wildlife that other diagnostic tests cannot detect. Researchers used a technique called transcriptome sequencing to screen for blood-borne diseases in Madagascar’s lemurs, distant primate cousins to humans. The animals were found to be carrying several previously unknown parasites similar to those that cause Lyme disease in humans. The approach could pave the way for earlier, more accurate detection of disease outbreaks that move between animals and people.

Male hormones help lemur females rule

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Male hormones help lemur females rule. Duke Today, May 12, 2015. Lemur girls behave more like the guys, thanks to a little testosterone, finds a new study. When it comes to conventional gender roles, lemurs — distant primate cousins of ours — buck the trend. Duke University researchers say females have significantly lower testosterone levels than the males across the board. But when they compared six lemur species, they found that females of species where females dominate have higher testosterone than females of more egalitarian species. Picked up by the Charlotte Observer.

Clues to aging from long-lived lemurs

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Clues to aging from long-lived lemurs. Duke Today, March 30, 2015. Researchers combed through more than 50 years of medical records on hundreds of lemurs at the Duke Lemur Center for clues to their longevity. They found that how long these primates live and how fast they age correlates with the amount of time they spend in a state of suspended animation known as torpor. The research may eventually help scientists identify “anti-aging” genes in humans. Picked up by Discovery News, BBC Radio, NPR affiliate WUNC and the News & Observer.

Models predict where lemurs will go as climate warms

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Models predict where lemurs will go as climate warms. Duke Today, Feb. 18, 2015. Climate change is likely to leave a lot of lemurs looking for new places to live on their island home of Madagascar. A Duke study predicts where lemurs are likely to seek refuge as temperatures rise between now and 2080. The researchers identified three areas on the island that will be particularly important for lemurs in the future, as well as key corridors that will allow lemurs to reach these areas from their current spots. Picked up by Scientific American, Science MagazineScience News and BBC.

 

DNA sheds light on why largest lemurs disappeared

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DNA sheds light on why largest lemurs disappeared. Duke Today, December 16, 2014. DNA from giant lemurs that lived thousands of years ago in Madagascar may help explain why the animals went extinct, and what makes some lemurs more at risk today. Scientists have little doubt that humans played a role in the giant lemurs’ demise. By comparing the species that died out to those that survived, scientists hope to better predict which lemurs are most in need of protection in the future. Picked up by The Herald-Sun.

Nearly 50 years of lemur data now available online

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Nearly 50 years of lemur data now available online. Duke Lemur Center, July 24, 2014. A 48-year archive of life history data for the world’s largest and most diverse collection of endangered primates is now digital and available online. The Duke Lemur Center database allows visitors to view and download data for more than 3600 animals representing 27 species of lemurs, lorises and galagos — distant primate cousins who predate monkeys and apes — with more data to be uploaded in the future. Picked up by io9 and BBC News.

Matching gifts mean new set of wheels for SAVA Conservation in Madagascar

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Matching gifts mean new set of wheels for SAVA Conservation in Madagascar. Duke Lemur Center, June 23, 2014. Lemur researcher Erik Patel will be the first to tell you that driving in Madagascar is not for the faint of heart. Paved roads are rare. Street lights are nonexistent. Torrential rains turn dirt roads to solid mud for many months of the year. Bridges wash out, and just as quickly as they are repaired, seasonal cyclones wipe them out again. A generous matching gift won’t make the road conditions in Madagascar any less rugged, but it will allow members of Duke’s SAVA Conversation initiative to get around and manage a growing number of projects more safely, cost-effectively, and with fewer headaches than before.

Genome sequences show how lemurs fight infection

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Genome sequences show how lemurs fight infection. Duke Today, May 30, 2014. Coquerel’s sifakas are the only lemur species out of 17 at the Duke Lemur Center to fall prey to Cryptosporidium, a waterborne illness that causes weakness and diarrhea. Young sifakas are more likely to get sick, but if researchers can harness next-generation sequencing technology to figure out how older animals manage to fight the infection, they might be able to develop vaccines that provide infants the same protection. Picked up by National Geographic.

Lemurs match scent of a friend to sound of her voice

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Lemurs match scent of a friend to sound of her voice. Duke Today, April 15, 2014. Humans aren’t alone in their ability to match a voice to a face — animals such as dogs, horses, crows and monkeys are able to recognize familiar individuals this way too, a growing body of research shows. A new study finds that some animals can even match a voice to a scent. Researchers report that ring-tailed lemurs respond more strongly to the scents and sounds of female lemurs when the scent they smell and the voice they hear belong to the same female — even when she’s nowhere in sight. Picked up by the National Science Foundation and Natural History magazine (June 2014 issue).

Lemur babies of older moms are less likely to get hurt

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Lemur babies of older moms are less likely to get hurt. Duke Today, December 18, 2013. A long-term study of aggression in lemurs finds that infants born to older mothers are less likely to get hurt than those born to younger mothers. The researchers base their findings on an analysis of detailed medical records for more than 240 ring-tailed lemurs — cat-sized primates with long black-and-white banded tails — that were monitored daily from infancy to adulthood over a 35-year period at the Duke Lemur Center in North Carolina. It may be that older moms are better at fending off attackers or protecting their infants during fights, the researchers say.

Lemurs’ neck bling tracks siestas, insomnia

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Lemurs’ neck bling tracks siestas, insomnia. Duke Research Blog, November 5, 2013. The fancy neck charm this lemur is wearing is no fashion accessory. Weighing in at just under an ounce, it’s a battery-powered data logger that measures light exposure and activity levels continuously over many days. Researchers outfitted twenty lemurs at the Duke Lemur Center with the special gadgets to study the animals’ daily ups and downs. The results could help researchers understand the sleep disturbances common among people with Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia, and whether light therapy could help reset their internal clock for a more solid night’s sleep.

Hibernating lemurs hint at the secrets of sleep

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Hibernating lemurs hint at the secrets of sleep. Duke Today, September 4, 2013. By studying hibernation, a Duke University team is providing a window into why humans sleep. Observations of a little-known primate called the fat-tailed dwarf lemur in captivity and the wild has revealed that it goes for days without the deepest part of sleep during its winter hibernation season. The findings support the idea that sleep plays a role in regulating body temperature and metabolism. Picked up by WUNC, National Geographic, NBC News, US News and World Report, Huffington Post, Futurity, Discovery News and the Los Angeles Times.

Personality test finds some mouse lemurs shy, others bold

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Personality test finds some mouse lemurs shy, others bold. National Evolutionary Synthesis Center. June 18, 2013. Anyone who has ever owned a pet will tell you that it has a unique personality. Yet only in the last 10 years has the study of animal personality started to gain ground with scientists. Now researchers have found distinct personalities in the grey mouse lemur, the tiny, saucer-eyed primate native to the African island of Madagascar. Picked up by Futurity, Audubon Magazine and National Geographic Magazine.

Primate hibernation more common than previously thought

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Primate hibernation more common than previously thought. Duke Today, May 2, 2013. Until recently, the only primate known to hibernate as a survival strategy was a creature called the western fat-tailed dwarf lemur, a tropical tree-dweller from the African island of Madagascar. But it turns out this hibernating lemur isn’t alone. In a new study, researchers report that two other little-known lemurs — Crossley’s dwarf lemur and Sibree’s dwarf lemur — burrow into the soft, spongy rainforest floor in the eastern part of Madagascar, curl up and spend the next three to seven months snoozing underground. Picked up by Futurity, New Scientist and Nature World News.

DNA says lemur lookalikes are two new species

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DNA says lemur lookalikes are two new species. Duke University Lemur Center. March 26, 2013. Scientists have identified two new species of mouse lemur, the saucer-eyed, teacup-sized primates native to the African island of Madagascar. The new study brings the number of recognized mouse lemur species to 20, making them the most diverse group of lemurs known. Picked up by Science Magazine, Scientific American, Futurity, the Duke Chronicle and NBC News.