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A new study led by Mitch Irwin and Karen Samonds of Northern Illinois University finds that degraded rainforest habitats are having an unhealthy impact on at least one species of Madagascar's treasured lemurs, the most endangered mammal group in the world.
Irwin, Samonds and other research team members captured, measured and released 113 critically endangered diademed sifakas over the course of 19 years. They then compared the health of the animals living in intact continuous rainforest versus those in habitats disturbed and fragmented by human encroachment.
Safety - Scientists - Body - Mass - Length
Working with a veterinarian to ensure animal safety, the scientists recorded the body mass, length and body condition of the stunning silken-furred primates, which grow to be roughly a meter in length and weigh in at about 6.5 kilograms. The results actually revealed that sifakas in some fragmented rainforest environments were doing fine—their bodies were identical to those animals in the richest environments.
But significant differences were found in the two most disturbed habitats.
Threshold - Fragments - Differences—adults - Growth - Immatures
"Below a critical threshold in the most degraded of all fragments, there were key differences—adults were skinnier, and the growth of immatures was delayed both in their height and weight," said Irwin, an NIU professor of anthropology and lead author of the study. The study was published June 19 in Scientific Reports, an open access journal of the Nature Research family.
Notably, the 11 lemurs living in the three lowest-quality habitats, representing three separate groups of the animals, died or disappeared during the study duration. The authors said it is unclear whether the habitats will be recolonized.
Anecdotal - Loss - Groups - Interpretation - Health
"Although anecdotal, the loss of these three groups would seem to corroborate the interpretation that their health was impacted by their low-quality habitat," Irwin said. "It's sad to actually witness a species' range shrink—it's a small step toward extinction."
For groups of sifakas in the remaining fragmented areas, both nutritional...
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