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Plant species fed on by wild ring-tailed lemurs (Lemur catta) at nine sites


Canington, Stephanie (2020), Plant species fed on by wild ring-tailed lemurs (Lemur catta) at nine sites, Dryad, Dataset,


A key aspect of a primate’s ecology is its food source – the very nature of which is spatially and seasonally dependent, and may be affected by anthropic pressures. One of the most endangered, yet best-studied, strepsirrhine primates is the ring-tailed lemur (Lemur catta) – a species that has experienced significant human-induced habitat loss over many decades. To help understand feeding variability across time and space, I present a literature review of plant species (and parts) fed on by ring-tailed lemurs at nine sites in Madagascar: Ambatotsirongorongo, Andringitra Massif, Anja Reserve, Antserananomby, Berenty Reserve, Bezà Mahafaly Special Reserve, Cap Sainte-Marie, Tsaranoro Valley Forest, and Tsimanampetsotsa National Park. I gathered literature using keyword searches on Google Scholar (, and verified scientific names using the “Catalogue of the Plants of Madagascar” ( From 24 studies, I identify 221 genera and 241 species of consumed plants, with 92 genera and 70 species consumed at two or more sites. Based on the available distribution data, 63% of species are endemic and 22% native. Sixty-seven plants are known only by Malagasy common names and excluded from analyses. When authors identify the plant tissue consumed, 52% of species in the diet are represented by a single tissue type, typically leaves (mature and immature) or fruit (ripe or unripe). This review highlights the importance of studying multiple populations when creating dietary summaries of species and should prove valuable to those exploring ecological trends and habitat use by ring-tailed lemurs.


            To determine plant species (and plant parts, when information was available) fed on by wild ring-tailed lemurs, I searched Google Scholar ( using multiple relevant keyword searches, including “Lemur catta diet” (this was not a systematic review). I culled the output from these searches for papers which included tables and descriptions of specific plants consumed by ring-tailed lemurs, and I examined pertinent publications and their references exhaustively. I identified 24 studies that presented such data. For each study, I recorded the following data, when available: family, genus and species name, plant part consumed (including ripeness or maturity), and common name (Malagasy or English). I recorded the plant names exactly as reported in the source, including misspellings. When available, I also recorded miscellaneous feeding behaviors (e.g., licking items), common names for unidentified plants (e.g., liana) or animals (e.g., insect), and Malagasy names for which a scientific name was not available.

I verified all scientific names using the “Catalogue of the Plants of Madagascar” (Tropicos;, the most complete and current online database of the flora of Madagascar, curated by the Missouri Botanical Gardens. I recorded names (including family, genus, and species) as they appear on Tropicos in a column next to the names reported by the author(s). Where I could not find species names on Tropicos (including a review of synonymies that have been used, as well as species for which similarities in spelling may have caused confusion), I recorded the entry as Genus sp. I also recorded the distribution and lifeform/habit, for each species, when this was available in Tropicos.