Leaping lemurs work together to survive

By Casey Frye, CCNN Writer

Talk about hanging around!

Last week, a report from Michigan University said that it might be better for us to share with others in our community. When the test leaders created a virtual computer world, they discovered that people who shared and helped each other out were more likely to survive than the selfish people in the community. New research from Yale University found the same exact thing when they studied some lemurs in the jungle!

Andrea Baden and her Yale research team went to Ranomafana National Park in Madagascar to study the black-and-white ruffed lemurs, a type of primate. Most primates – like monkeys and apes – have babies that have a well-developed body for their age. This allows them to cling to their mommy as she walks around gathering food and other materials important for survival.

Black-and-white ruffed lemur babies, on the other hand, don’t have muscles as well-developed as the offspring of other primates. It’s tough for a little lemur to cling to his mother’s body, which makes it hard for her to carry the baby and collect food at the same time. This doesn’t sound too bad right? I know some newborn mammals like deer only need a day before they are able to prance around. Well, the lemur babies can take up to 10 long weeks before they can move by themselves!

Sometimes, the newborn baby is left all alone in the nest as his mother gathers food. This can place him in a lot of danger! What’s the best thing for her to do, just sit at home for 10 weeks? I mean, somebody’s got to get the groceries. According to the team from Yale, she should join a community of other mommies to make something like a day-care program! Some lemurs form things called communal crèches, where lemurs take turns watching each other’s babies while they go collect food.

What was the result when the mothers worked together? For one, the moms were able to go get a nice meal to eat, and bring back some food for the other gals. Eventually, they would bring back so much food, there was a nice pile in the nest for everyone to eat from. Aside from having more access to food, the researchers say the babies were much more likely to survive! Wow, sharing really is caring, isn’t it?