Lemurs Give Sound Insight On Animal Inbreeding

By Nick Venable | 8 years ago

I will be the first to admit that my brain constantly backflips through the gamut of improper thought processes. It’s not something I’m proud of, but I’ve found admitting this makes people’s expectations adapt to my output. Speaking of adapting to output, have you ever wondered, as I have, how non-human, shame-free animals avoid lapsing into incestuous behavior? I guess, in my mind, nature is like Caligula’s Flowers in the Attic or something. But this probably isn’t the case, if lemurs are anything to go by.

Gray mouse lemurs, an animal whose cuteness could likely overtake 2/3 of the stuffed animal industry, were the focus of a study by Arizona State University’s Sharon Kessler and her research team, published for the journal BMC Ecology. The researchers tested the animals’ recognition of the cries of their father. While one of the subjects was indeed called “Darth Lemur,” none of the female lemurs were named Leia. Seriously though, lemurs tend to be raised solely by their mothers before heading out and becoming self-sustaining once they’ve matured. The male lemur’s range is widespread, though, and will usually overlap with that of his offspring.

Ten adult female gray mouse lemurs were housed at the University of Veterinary Medicine in Hanover, Germany, where Kessler ran her tests. Each of the females heard two things: both an alarm cry and a mating cry from their father, and the same sounds from an unrelated male. After close inspection, the researchers found the females paid the same amount of attention to the distress calls, but it was the unrelated male’s mating calls that provoked immediate and longer-lasting attention. The mating calls of the father caused little more than “Ewww!” to echo the halls of the lab.

The solitary life of the lemur is not the debaucherous existence we once predicted, and its sound-based recognition process is helps us understand communication systems in animals, since they don’t have easy warning signs like, “Hey, Savannah, come on and show Daddy how you make this here hula hoop work so good.”

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