U of T news

Decoding the language of ring-tailed lemurs: National Geographic on U of T research

(photo by Mathias Appel)

Male ring-tailed lemurs, considered the misfits of their female-dominated social group, use two main vocalizations to communicate within their group: a moan and a “hmm.”

National Geographic, reporting on research from Laura Bolt, a primatologist at U of T Mississauga, said the lemurs are known to make almost two dozen vocal sounds. Her research, conducted in Madagascar, concentrated on the moan and the “hmm.”

“They’re using the moan to keep in touch with the group in general, and they’re using the hmm vocalization to keep in touch with preferred individuals in the group,” Bolt told the magazine.

Read the National Geographic story

The life of lemurs is anything but easy for the misfit males: After leaving their parents’ social group in adolescence, they have trouble joining other groups. Once in a group, they then have to fight their way to the top of the male hierarchy.

Their troubles don’t end there. “The females might smack them around a lot or bite them,” Bolt tells the magazine.

The males often hang out at the periphery of their social group, but that, too, has its problems – they might be left alone by females, but they are more likely to get attacked by predators.

Read the U of T News story on Laura Bolt’s study

Read more about lemurs