Lemur research project

Sponsors: Margot Marsh Biodiversity Foundation, Conservation International, IUCN/SCC Primate Specialist Group

Partners: Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium and Madagascar Biodiversity Partnership

The Mongoose LeMUR

The Mongoose Lemur (Eulemur mongoz)lives in forest areas in Madagascar and the Comoro Islands, in small family groups consisting of a monogamous couple and their young, who leave their parents between the ages of 3 and 5. The head and body of this species is 30-40cm long and the tail is 40-65cm. Their weight varies between 1.1 and 1.6 kg. This species possesses the distinct feature of being diurnal or nocturnal depending on whether the season is dry or wet.

The Lemur Mongoosewas classified as ‘Vulnerable’ in 2000.However, due to the continual decline of the species in Madagascar, which is linked to poaching and to a reduction in the size and quality of their habitat, the species was classified as being ‘Critically Endangered’ on the IUCN red list in 2014. In addition to this, hybridisation between the E. mongoz and E. rufus has occurred in the west of the Betsiboka region in Madagascar.

Research project on the genetics of the lemur mongoose

The lemur research project began in November 2014. The project objective is to identify the genetic links between the Eulemur mongoz populations of Anjouan and Madagascar by analysing the genetic material of faeces and blood samples.

There is a dramatic loss of habitatin the region to the south of the Betsiboka River. The comparative study of lemur genomes will tell us whether the two populations have a high genetic diversityto ensurethe species’ survival. The Eulemurmongozpopulation of Anjouancould serve as a genetic reservoir for the Betsiboka region and so prevent the species becoming extinct. Fieldwork in Anjouan will also provide information about the Mongoose Lemur population on the island.

Research methodology

The research is carried out using a two-phase method:

  1. Collection of samples and extraction of DNA

Faeces and blood samples have already been collected in Madagascar: 10 in Anjahamena, 7 in Antem, 9 in Tsiombikibo and 1 in Ankarafantsika. 15 faeces samples have been collected in Anjouan. The DNA will be extracted at the genetics laboratory at Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium.

  1. Data generation and analysis

The generation of data will take place in the genetics laboratory at Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium. DNA data will be compared with the genomes of other primates – humans, chimpanzees, orang-utans and rhesus macaques. The genetic material of the Lemur Mongoose will be analysed and the genomes and nuclear DNA sequence data will be tested to determine the family links between the species and other members of the genus Eulemur.