Research discovers true meaning behind the name ‘Giant’ Mouse Lemur

Friday, 03 July 2015

Giant Mouse Lemur

Research by Bristol Zoo Gardens in conjunction with Oxford Brookes University and the German Primate Centre has identified a surprising fact about the northern giant mouse lemur (Mirza zaza).

The study has found that this species of lemur has the biggest testicles in relation to their body mass amongst primates

Lemurs are renowned for their highly seasonal mating patterns, mating only a few days a year. This study just goes to show that there is so much to learn about these rare nocturnal primates.

Anna Nekaris, Professor in Primate Conservation, Oxford Brookes University

The findings from the research, which was led by Bristol Zoo Gardens has identified that the northern giant mouse lemur reproduces all year round. The male adult lemurs roam widely in search of respective females and mate with as many as possible. It has therefore been suggested that the reason for the large testis is due to strong sperm competition in males mating with several females.  This mating system is called the promiscuous mating system or ‘scramble strategy’.  

These findings indicate that the northern giant mouse lemur is quite special in its reproductive behaviour as there is a strong contrast to most lemurs that have a strictly seasonal reproductive pattern. 

Anna Nekaris, Professor in Primate Conservation at Oxford Brookes University said “Lemurs are renowned for their highly seasonal mating patterns, mating only a few days a year. This study just goes to show that there is so much to learn about these rare nocturnal primates. Our study also shows why the diminutive 300g ‘giant’ mouse lemur is truly a giant among primates!” 
 Measuring the Giant Mouse Lemur

Christoph Schwitzer, Director of Conservation at Bristol Zoological Society, which owns and operates Bristol Zoo, said, “We are delighted to have finally released the fundamental findings of our research project that has been conducted over a nine year period.  We now aim to conduct future studies on these interesting species to help raise the awareness of the critical conservation situation of lemurs in Madagascar”.  

Information about Oxford Brookes’ research into primate conservation can be found on the Department of Social Sciences webpages

More information about Bristol Zoo Gardens and its conservation work can be found on the Bristol Zoo website

Images credit: Johanna Rode-Margono