Really, it’s a conspiracy! Despite my intention of taking a blogging vacation I find myself blogging, once again, about lemurs. This particular story is kind of neat and will be familiar to anyone who has read West-Eberhard’s Developmental Plasticity and Evolution (incidentally, this is one of my favorite books on the subject of evolution and I strongly recommend it). National Geographic has the story:
All red-fronted lemurs are born with the same greyish brown fur and rusty-red crowns that distinguish adult males.
At 7 to 17 weeks later, females’ coats change to a cinnamon hue, and their crowns become white.
The problem is there is a lot of female aggression in the species so investigators looked more closely at that:
German researchers monitored a wild lemur population in the Kirindy forest in western Madagascar for five months and recorded behavioral changes as their coats changed color.
But the scientists also faced a problem: Since all infants appear male, the theory that young sport different colorations to thwart conflicts is tricky to investigate.
This led Fichtel and her colleagues to look very closely at older females and monitor their attacks.
They found that males and all young females disguised as males were not targeted by the hostile older females.
Change in pelage occurs around 7-17 weeks of age in female red-fronted lemurs – basically when they are strong enough and independent enough to survive attacks by other females.
The research appears in The American Journal of Physical Anthropology
(if anybody out there has access I would be grateful if you could send me a copy). I have the paper now.
Nowt 2 Lemurz: Oh Hai, plz 2 stop bean so scientifical interestin. Srsly, it interruptin mah vacashun! Kthxbai.
Update 1: I just received this cryptic photo in an email. Just goes to show that those of you who thought I lost my mind with this lemur conspiracy allegation are completely wrong…