Bamboozled! Climate Change Pushing Greater Bamboo Lemur Closer to the Brink of Extinction


New study from world’s leading lemur expert paints grim picture for future of dietary specialists

Human disturbance of tropical rainforests in Madagascar including wildfires, burning and timber exploitation, have led to reduced rainfall and a longer dry season, further pushing the already critically endangered Greater Bamboo Lemur to the brink of extinction. Findings are published in a new study from primatologist and lemur expert, Patricia Chapple Wright of Stony Brook University, evolutionary biologist Jukka Jernvall of University of Helsinki in Finland, and colleagues, entitled Feeding Ecology and Morphology Make a Bamboo Specialist Vulnerable to Climate Change, in the Oct. 26 online edition of Current Biology.

Researchers have evidence to suggest that, as the climate changes, Madagascar’s Great Bamboo Lemur will gradually be forced to eat culm, the woody trunk of the bamboo, for longer periods of time throughout the year. Ultimately, they suggest based on an analysis of anatomical, behavioral, paleontological, and climate data, this dietary constraint is impacting the Greater Bamboo Lemurs’ ability to thrive, reproduce and shortens its lifespan.

Wright, a primatologist, anthropologist and conservationist, and colleagues including Jernvall;  Sarah Zohdy, an assistant professor of disease ecology at Auburn University; Stacey Tecot, associate anthropology professor at University of Arizona; Alistair Evans, an associate professor  at Monash University in Australia; and Jussi Eronen, a researcher at University of Helsinki, first showed that the Greater Bamboo Lemurs are equipped with highly complex and specialized teeth, just as giant pandas are —the only other mammal capable of feeding on culm. Those teeth make it possible for them to consume and survive on woody culm for parts of the year. 

Continue reading at Stony Brook University

Image via Jukka Jernvall