Malayan Flying Lemur Research
To study locomotor behaviour and feeding ecology of Malayan flying lemurs in Singapore
One of the major problems in the study of rare or cryptic organisms, such as the Malayan flying lemur or colugo, Cynocephalus variegatus, is how to collect data on free-ranging individuals in natural populations. Because flying lemurs are nocturnal and strictly arboreal, gaining a full understanding of their natural history presents unique challenges. However, conservation of this species, like many others, is dependent on knowledge of patterns of movement and habitat use.
Aware that the conservation of the flying lemur, like many others, is dependent on knowledge of patterns of movement and habitat use, a research project has been initiated to elucidate the interface between the unique locomotor mode (gliding) of C. variegates and its foraging behaviour, to determine the effects of habitat disturbance on this relationship, and to test existing hypotheses regarding the origins of gliding based on the data collected. The acquisition of gliding locomotion has occurred at least six times in mammals, but little is known about how gliding affects an animal's ecology. Several authors cite the benefits of a gliding lifestyle and have proposed adaptive scenarios to explain the evolution of gliding. However, these hypotheses remain untested because most of what we know about gliding in nature is the result of isolated encounters with these cryptic animals. This gives little hope of understanding how extant animals use gliding on a day-to-day basis, or how gliding evolved. To understand the interface between its unique locomotor mode and its ecology, the locomotor and foraging behaviour of the free-ranging Malayan flying lemur is being systematically tracked using a combination of traditional observational and radio-tracking data, as well as with custom designed data-loggers that give a 3-D view of the animals' movement patterns. This data can be used to examine differences in habitat use across a spectrum of habitat disturbances, and to understand which habitat variables are most salient to the animals' survival. Furthermore, this real-time glimpse of the behaviour of free-ranging animals will give new insight into the question of why gliding has evolved numerous times.
WAZA Conservation Project 06007 is implemented by Mr. Greg Byrnes, University of California, Berkeley, and supported by Singapore Zoological Gardens.
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