Michelle Sauther
Faculty: Biological Anthropology

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Strepsirrhine Ecology and Biology

South African Galago Project

While studies of Madagascar’s lemurs are abundant, much less is known about their nocturnal African cousins, the iconic, big-eyed African bushbabies, also known as galagos. The small southern lesser galago, Galago moholi, can fit in a human’s hand, while the greater thick-tailed galago, Otolemur crassicaudatus is cat-sized and thus much larger than its counterpart­­­. Essentially, it’s like comparing a gorilla to a baboon and one would expect the two species to differ in their ecology, biology and behavior. To date, most studies of South African galagos dates to the 1970s and there is much yet to be learned about the two species.

Our project focuses on the comparative ecology, biology and behavior of both species living in an Afro-Montane forest on top of the Soutpansberg Mountain range in Northern South Africa. While nearly all primate species live in the tropics, these bushbaby species are two of the few primates that live within temperate areas outside of the tropics. Due to their dramatic size difference, they are allowing us to better understand how body size may affect their ability to deal with challenging temperate environments.

As there is not much information available on how challenging environments impact primates, understanding the thermal, dietary and behavioral ecology of these two primates living in a temperate environment will be essential for addressing what factors allow primates to adjust to a changing environment and will inform how primates living in changing, fluctuating tropical environments may adapt to changes in climate in the coming years.