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Animals at the Duke Lemur Center live outdoors for much of the year in large forested enclosures ranging in size from 1.5 to 14 acres. In these natural habitat enclosures, the lemurs live in mixed groups of males and females who are free to forage, interact, play and move around as they would in the wild, providing a unique opportunity to study lemur social dynamics.

One group of researchers is using high-tech heat cameras to find out where lemurs go to warm-up on cool days and cool-down on warm days without having to shiver or sweat. The results will help predict which species might be able to avoid being ‘sweated out’ of habitats by warming environments under global climate change, and which areas of the forest will be key to their survival.

Another team has been giving lemurs ‘personality tests.’ By recording their reactions to a variety of familiar and unfamiliar objects, they are able to classify some lemurs as shy and others bold. For animals living in captivity, personality studies like these could help researchers determine which individuals are best candidates for breeding programs or for reintroduction back into the wild.

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Related Publications

Crawford, J., et al. (2011). “Smelling wrong: Hormonal contraception in lemurs alters critical female odour cues.” Proceedings of the Royal Society of London, B 278: 122-130.

MacLean, E., et al. (2013). “Group size predicts social but not nonsocial cognition in lemurs.” PLOS ONE.

Verdolin, J. and J. Harper (2013). “Are shy individuals less behaviorally variable? Insights from a captive population of mouse lemurs.” Primates.