There is evidence that some early ancestors of humans in South Africa may have used caves to protect themselves from predators, said Sauther. The remains of hominids going back several million years have been found inside or near limestone caves there, and some fossil bones have evidence of damage consistent with the bite of saber-toothed cats.
"We think cave-sleeping is something ring-tailed lemurs have been doing for a long time," she said. "The behavior may be characteristic of a deep primate heritage that goes back millions of years."
Co-authors of the new study included Associate Professor Frank Cuozzo of the University of North Dakota, Ibrahim Antho Youssouf Jacky, Lova Ravelohasindrazana and Jean Ravoavy of the University of Toliara in Madagascar, Krista Fish of Colorado College in Colorado Springs, Colo., and Marni LaFleur of the University of Veterinary Medicine in Vienna. Fish and LaFleur are former CU-Boulder students of Sauther.
Sauther co-directs the Beza Mahafalay Lemur Biology Project in southwestern Madagascar with Cuozzo, a former CU-Boulder doctoral student. Centered at the roughly 1,500-acre Beza Mahafalay Special Reserve, the research focuses on how climate- and human-induced change affects lemur biology, behavior and survival.
Sauther and her team were aided by field observations made by students and faculty from the University of Toliara in Madagascar. In addition, undergraduate and graduate students from CU-Boulder regularly travel to Madagascar to conduct research under Sauther, including students from CU's Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program, which provides hands-on research and fosters student-faculty relationships.
"I never thought I would have a chance as a CU undergraduate to conduct research in an exotic place like Madagascar," said former UROP student Anthony M
|Contact: Michelle Sauther|
University of Colorado at Boulder