Golden Gentle Lemur (Hapalemur aureus)

The adult mass of this species averages 1.6 kilograms (Mittermeier et al., 1994), although Groves (1988) reports an adult body mass range of 1175-1245 grams. The front teeth are specially developed for eating bamboo, with a dental formula of 2:1:3:3; they also have a dental comb used for grooming. This species has a well-developed brachial gland and a black elliptical area on the palmar surface of the lower arm, which could either be a carpal or antebrachial gland (Meier et al., 1987). The secretion from the brachial gland is described as white, viscous, and has a strong odor (Meier et al., 1987). In this species the forelimbs are shorter than the hindlimbs. The pelage coloration of the golden gentle lemur is yellow on the ventral side and gray-brown with pale orange under-fur on the dorsal side (Meier et al., 1987). Females tend to be a bit more grayish dorsally (Meier et al., 1987). The tail darkens towards the tip (Garbutt, 1999). The face has a dark color with golden hairs on the cheeks, the side of the face, and around the eyes (Mittermeier et al., 1994). The nose of this species is pinkish in coloration (Mittermeier et al., 1994). The ears are covered in light hair that does not extend much beyond the tips (Mittermeier et al., 1994). Females possess one pair of mammae (Tattersall, 1982).

The golden gentle lemur is found on the island of Madagascar, in the southeastern region of the country (Mittermeier et al., 1994). This species has been found to occur in Ranomafana National Park and the Andringitra Nature Reserve (Mittermeier et al., 1994). This species may also be found in the forests near Vondrozo (Wright et al., 1987). The golden gentle lemur lives in primary mid-altitudinal forest that is associated with bamboo (Garbutt, 1999).

The main diet of the golden gentle lemur is the giant bamboo, Cephalostachyum viguieri, but also the bamboo creeper and bamboo grass are consumed (Mittermeier et al., 1994; Ratsimbazafy, 1994; Glander et al., 1989; Meier et al., 1987; Grassi, 1998). The parts of the giant bamboo consumed include the shoots, leaf bases, pith, and the viny part (Glander et al., 1989). This species, as well as all members of the genus Hapalemur, may fill the niche in Madagascar that the giant panda, Ailuropoda melanoleuca, plays in China (Glander et al., 1989). The pith of the giant bamboo contains a high amount of cyanide and so does the blood of the golden gentle lemur (Mittermeier et al., 1994; Glander et al., 1989); the shoots also contain cyanide (Glander et al., 1989). The golden gentle lemur will eat 12 times the lethal dosage of cyanide a day (Glander et al., 1989). The young shoots eaten by this species are high in protein as well as cyanide, and they are ignored by other Hapalemur species living sympatrically with this species (Wright and Randrimanantena, 1989). From June to August this species will consume leaf bases and the inside of the viny part of the giant bamboo because shoots are rare during this time (Glander et al., 1989). This species will eat shoots more starting in December because this is when new shoot growth starts to occur (Glander et al., 1989). 91% of feeding time is spent feeding on the giant bamboo, with the rest of the time is spent eating palm fruits and Melastoma fruits (Glander et al., 1989). Feeding bouts will begin shortly after dawn, and last for 30 minutes when the group will have a rest period lasting 30-40 minutes (Glander et al., 1989). Feeding and resting will alternate until late morning when the group will take an extended rest until late afternoon where they start to alternate feeding and resting again until about dark (Glander et al., 1989).

Tan (1999), studying at Ranomafana National Park, found that the diet of the golden gentle lemur was composed of giant bamboo (78%), other bamboo and grass species (10%), non-bamboo foliage (3%), fruit (4%), and other (soil and fungi) (5%). The parts of the bamboo preferred include: the young leaf bases, the immature parts of the pseudopetioles, branch shoots, and shoots (new sprouts from the subterraneous rhizomes) (Tan, 1999). This species was found to discard mature leaves of bamboo foliage and only eat the young leaves (Tan, 1999). Genera of plants consumed include: Cathariostachys, Cephalostachyum, Nastus, Poecilostachys, Erythroxylum, Macaranga, Medinilla, Mendoncia, Ficus, Streblus, Oncostemum, Psidium, Alberta, Psychotria, Toddalia, Smilax, Grewia, Pilea, and Scleria (Tan, 1999). Fruit was only fed upon opportunistically (Tan, 1999).

Group sizes for this species range from 2-6 individuals (Mittermeier et al., 1994). This species will utilize all areas in its home range on a weekly basis, which contrasts with the sympatric Hapalemur griseus which spends most of its time in a small core area for one or two weeks (Tan, 2000). This is a crepuscular species, with activity at night also common (Mittermeier et al., 1994). However, Tan (2000) found that this species is predominately diurnal during a study at Ranomafana National Park.

The golden gentle lemur is a vertical clinger and leaper that will also employ quadrupedal locomotion when feeding (Fleagle, 1999).

The golden gentle lemur has a monogamous social system (Norosoarinaivo and Tan, 1998).

coooee: This call is used when individuals are a long distance apart (Petter and Charles-Dominique, 1979). When uttering this call the sender usually will keep still and stare blankly ahead (Petter and Charles-Dominique, 1979). This is responded to with the same call or simple grunts (Petter and Charles-Dominique, 1979). This is like the same call of Hapalemur griseus (Meier et al., 1987).

great call: This is uttered by individuals during the night (Meier et al., 1987). This call is described as a loud, sharp, staccato, and "guttural honk" (Garbutt, 1999). This call is repeated on a slow, descending scale and also decreases in volume (Garbutt, 1999). This call may have a territorial function (Garbutt, 1999).



social grooming: This is when one individual removes dead skin and parasites from another conspecific.

This species gives birth to a single offspring. The estrus cycle for this species was found to occur twice annually (Rakotoarisoa, 1998). The golden gentle lemur mates at night or dawn during the months of July and August (Rakotoarisoa, 1998). The birth season for the golden gentle lemur is from November to December, during the beginning of the rainy season (Mittermeier et al., 1994; Norosoarinaivo and Tan, 1998). The average gestation length in captivity was found to be 137 days (Rakotoarisoa, 1998). The interbirth interval for the golden gentle lemur is about one year (Wright and Randrimanantena, 1989). After birth the mother will spend of her time during the first ten days "nesting" with the infant (Norosoarinaivo and Tan, 1998). Mothers will park their infants when foraging, even foraging away at distances of 250 meters (Norosoarinaivo and Tan, 1998). A bout of parking may last up to 200 minutes (Norosoarinaivo and Tan, 1998). When the infant matures more, the mother will start carrying it as she forages (Norosoarinaivo and Tan, 1998). Infants will begin to move away from their mothers at two weeks (Rakotoarisoa, 1998). Infants of age 20 days will start to chew on non-edible objects (Rakotoarisoa, 1998). Mothers will wean their infants at age 6 months and at this time the infants will completely move independently (Rakotoarisoa, 1998). Siblings also will care for infants (Norosoarinaivo and Tan, 1998).

Fleagle, J. G. 1999. Primate Adaptation and Evolution. Academic Press: San Diego.

Garbutt, N. 1999. Mammals of Madagascar. Yale University Press: New Haven.

Glander, K.E., Wright, P.C., Seigler, D.S., Randrianasolo, V., and Randrianasolo, B. 1989. Consumption of cyanogenic bamboo by a newly discovered species of bamboo lemur. American Journal of Primatology. Vol. 19, 119-124.

Grassi, C. 1998. Forest composition and bamboo distribution: Influences on the distribution of Hapalemur species. (abstract) American Journal of Physical Anthropology. Suppl. 26, 100.

Groves, C.P. 1988. Gentle Lemurs: New species, and how they are formed. Australian Primatology. Vol. 3(2/3), 9-12.

Meier, B., Albignac, R., Peyrieras, A., Rumpler, Y., and Wright, P. 1987. A new species of Hapalemur (Primates) from south east Madagascar. Folia Primatologica. Vol. 48, 211-215.

Mittermeier, R.A., Tattersall, I., Konstant, W.R., Meyers, D.M., and Mast, R.B. 1994. Lemurs of Madagascar. Conservation International: Washington, D.C.

Norosoarinaivo, J.A. and Tan, C.L. 1998. Infant care in Hapalemur aureus, Ranomafana National Park, Madagascar. (abstract) Congress of the International Primatological Society. University of Antananarivo, Madagascar.

Rakotoarisoa, G. 1998. Captive breeding, infant rearing, and behavioral development of Hapalemur aureus. (abstract) Congress of the International Primatological Society. University of Antananarivo, Madagascar.

Ratsimbazafy, H.J. 1994. A comparative study of the behavioral ecology of two Malagasy prosimians, Propithecus diadema edwardsi and Hapalemur aureus. (abstract) Congress of the International Primatological Society. Bali, Indonesia.

Tan, C.L. 1999. Group composition, home range size, and diet of three sympatric bamboo lemur species (Genus Hapalemur) in Ranomafana National Park, Madagascar. International Journal of Primatology. Vol. 20(4), 547-566.

Tan, C.L. 2000. Patterns of resource use in three sympatric Hapalemur species in Ranomafana National Park, Madagascar. (abstract) American Journal of Physical Anthropology. Vol. 111(suppl. 30), 299.

Tattersall, I. 1982. The Primates of Madagascar. Columbia University Press: New York.

Wright, P.C. and Randrimanantena, M. 1989. Comparative ecology of three sympatric bamboo lemurs in Madagascar. (abstract). American Journal of Physical Anthropology. Vol. 78(1), 327.

Wright, P.C., Daniels, P.S., Meyers, D.M., Overdorff, D.J., and Rabesoa, J. 1987. A census and study of Hapalemur and Propithecus in southeastern Madagascar. Primate Conservation. Vol. 8, 84-88.

Last Updated: October 8, 2003.
[The Primata] [Primate Fact Sheets] [Family Lemuridae] [Hapalemur Links]