Skip to main content
sdzglibrarybanner San Diego Zoo Global Library

Blue-eyed Black Lemur (Eulemur flavifrons) Fact Sheet: Behavior & Ecology

Activity Cycle

Arboreal and cathemeral (from Schwitzer et al. 2007a unless otherwise noted)

  • Active at day and during portions of the night
    • Rarely venture onto the ground (Schwitzer et al. 2007b; Volampeno 2009)
    • Increased nighttime activity by populations in more degraded, secondary forest
  • Peak activity
    • Near dawn and dusk

Daily activity patterns (from Hill 1953 unless otherwise noted)

  • Assemble in “sleeping areas” after dusk (Schwitzer et al. 2006)
    • Rest with tail wrapped around the body
    • May huddle together, draping tails around one another

Travel distance (from Volampeno 2009)

  • Daily path length
    • 48.1-2,707.6 m (0.03-1.7 mi)
  • Move greater distances in the dry season
    • Possibly due to limited food resources

Home Range

Ranges overlap (from Schwitzer et al. 2007b; Volampeno 2009; Volampeno et al. 2011a)

  • Overlap can be extensive
    • Ranges of one group may fall entirely within the range of another
  • Group ranges overlap in all seasons

Annual range size

  • Ankarafa Forest estimates
    • 3.8-19.6 ha (0.015-0.076 mi2) (Schwitzer et al. 2007b)
    • 0.85-25.21 ha (0.003-0.97 mi2)(Volampeno 2009)

Factors that influence range size

  • Seasonal rains (from Schwitzer et al. 2007b; Volampeno 2009; Volampeno et al. 2011a)
  • Habitat degradation
    • Smaller ranges typical of inhabitants of primary forests (from Schwitzer et al. 2007b)
    • More degraded, secondary forest inhabitants have larger ranges

Social Groups

Social animals, form small groups (from Volampeno 2009 unless otherwise noted)

  • Multi-male, multi-female groups
    • Core group structure
      • 1-2 adult females accompanied by 1-2 subadult females (Schwitzer et al. 2013)
        • Rarely more than 3 adult females (Randriatahina and Roeder 2013; Schwitzer et al. 2013)
          • One adult member typically expelled when a subadult reaches sexual maturity (Schwitzer et al. 2013)
    • Males typically transient (Schwitzer et al. 2006)
      • Loosely associated with groups (Schwitzer et al. 2006)
    • Sex ratio within groups
      • Males typically outnumber females
  • Group size
    • Range: 4-11 individuals
      • 3-7 reported for a wild population at Ankarafa Sahamalaza National Park (Randriatahina and Roeder 2013)
    • Typically c. 8 individuals

Social hierarchy

  • Females dominant to males (from Schwitzer et al. 2013; Volampeno 2009)
    • Dominant individuals receive priority when feeding
    • See “Aggression” below
  • Juvenile positions
    • Mother’s rank determines that of her offspring, one study of juveniles housed in managed care (Archie and Digby 1999)

Territorial Behavior

Scent mark territory (Schwitzer et al. 2013)

Social Interactions

Aggression (from Digby et al. 2007 unless otherwise noted)

  • Females exhibit aggressive dominance
    • Dominant individuals aggressively confront subordinates
      • Subordinates exhibit submissive behavior
    • Aggression between females may be intense during reproductive periods (Digby 1999)
  • Forms of aggression
    • Chase, grab, cuff, lunge, and bite
    • Hair pull (Porton 2012)
    • Tooth gnash, observed in individuals under managed care (Porton 2012)
      • Lower jaw slowly moved from side to side while grinding teeth
  • Most frequently associated with feeding situations

Affiliative behaviors

  • Allogroom (mutual grooming)
    • Mother grooms own infant, observed in individuals under managed care (de Michelis et al. 1999)
    • Unidirectional, reciprocal, or simultaneous grooming observed (Porton 2012)

Play (from Volampeno 2009 unless otherwise noted)

  • Solitary and social play
    • Group infants play with one another more frequently than with other group members
  • Forms of social play
    • Jump on one another
    • Chase and bite one another
    • Grapple and cuff (Porton 2012)
    • Ride on one another’s back

Comfort Behaviors

Grooming (from Hill 1953)

  • Scratch hair with fingers and tooth-comb
    • Toilet-digit on the hind feet used to access regions the mouth cannot reach
  • Hands hold tail while grooming with the mouth
    • Lick and bite at the hairs

Communication

Vocalization

  • Typical Eulemur vocalizations (from Hill 1953 unless otherwise noted)
    • Grunt
      • Short, repeated calls
      • From a soft, gentle sound to a loud, sharp, higher-pitched call
    • Shriek or ‘cree’ (Hill 1953; Schwitzer et al. 2013)
      • Prolonged with a penetrating quality
      • Presumed to advertize territory
    • Infant contact calls
      • Low-pitched, staccato grunts (Schwitzer et al. 2013)
  • Do not frequently vocalize (from Volampeno 2009; Volampeno et al. 2011b)
    • Vocalization accounted for <5% of observed behavior in one study

Olfaction/Scent Marking (from Schwitzer et al. 2013; Duke Lemur Center species fact sheet)

  • Primary means of communication for Eulemur
    • Communicates physical state, location, and position
    • Enables individuals to recognize one another
    • Deposits also used to mark territory
  • Methods of scent marking
    • Rub anogenital region over objects
      • Performed by both males and females
    • Palm/wrist marking
      • Described by some, though there are no glands on the palm or wrist (G Randriatahina personal communication
        • Functional significance may not be associated with scent marking (G Randriatahina personal communication)
      • Performed only by males
      • Rub or vigorously wipe the palm (back and forth) on surfaces
    • Head rub
      • Performed only by males
      • Rub or swipe the head once or twice against a surface that has been scent marked by females
        • Also rub the head against the female’s anogenital region
    • Urine
      • Used by females

Locomotion

Move quadrupedally through trees (from Hill 1953 unless otherwise noted)

  • Move rapidly
    • Most often travel in trees (Schwitzer et al. 2007b)
    • Tail often held erect over the body or in a sigmoid (S-shaped) curve

Leap to cross gaps in the forest canopy (Schwitzer et al. 2013)

Interspecies Interactions

Predators (from Randriatahina and Volampeno 2013; Schwitzer et al. 2013)

  • Mammalian predators
    • Fossa
  • Avian predators
    • Henst’s Goshawk, Madagascar Harrier-hawk, possibly other diurnal raptors
  • Reptilian predators
    • Malagasy Ground Boa, Nile Crocodile

Symbiotic relationships

  • Parasites (from Schwitzer et al. 2010)
    • Intestinal nematodes
      • Lemuricola spp. and Callistoura spp. eggs found in fecal samples
    • Mites
    • Relative parasite load
      • Tends to be higher in more degraded secondary forest habitats

Blue-eyed Black Lemur Social Dynamics

group of blue-eyed black lemur

These animals are highly social, living in multi-male/multi-female groups. Most contain fewer than 11 individuals and include adult females (rarely more than 3) and a few subadult females. Males typically form loose associations with these female groups. Though males often outnumber females within these groups, females dominate group dynamics and receive priority when feeding.

Image credit: © D Haring/Duke Lemur Center. All rights reserved. Reproduced with permission from the artist.

Page Citations

Archie and Digby (1999)
de Michelis et al. (1999)
Digby (1999)
Digby et al. (2007)
Hill (1953)
Porton (2012)
Randriatahina and Roeder (2013)
Randriatahina and Volampeno (2013)
Schwitzer et al. (2006)
Schwitzer et al. (2007a)
Schwitzer et al. (2007b)
Schwitzer et al. (2010)
Schwitzer et al. (2013)
Volampeno (2009)
Volampeno et al. (2011a)

SDZG Library Links