Lemurs are the most lovable weirdos of all animals. These primates, which reside only on the island of Madagascar, are about 50% floof and 50% silly facial expressions. According to a new study, we have even more reason to be totally confused by lemurs — apparently, their eating habits are super strange.
Researchers from The Field Museum in Chicago have been studying primates’ relationship with protein, but not because lemurs are suddenly trying to get swole. The crew studied 62 forest sites across Africa, Asia, and the Americas, observing the nitrogen content of various fruits. This is because proteins are comprised of nitrogen along with carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen. While most primates eat diets rich in fruit, lemurs don’t, and it might actually have something to do with the amount of protein in the fruits available to them. The team’s findings have been published in Scientific Reports.
The group found a pretty interesting connection that could explain lemurs’ picky eating: they observed a correlation between the amount of nitrogen-rich fruits in a given area and primate dependency on them. Basically, in regions with more nitrogen-heavy fruits, the more animals seemed to eat them. But since the fruits on Madagascar don’t contain much nitrogen, lemurs might have had to look for other options, which could explain why nowadays, they eat primarily leaves.
Maybe it wasn’t always this way on Madagascar. It seems like, over time, lemurs might have had to alter their eating habits in order to survive, which could explain how they ended up as leaf-eaters.
“Our results add an additional dimension to the existing hypotheses depicting the island of Madagascar as an ecologically challenging environment for primates,” the study’s lead author, Guiseppe Donati of Oxford Brookes University, said in a statement. “The low nutritional quality of the fruits in Madagascar may have caused lemurs to differentiate their diet and develop some of the unique traits that we can see today.”
In general, lemurs are especially at risk, primarily due to habitat loss. Studies like this one can help conservationists better understand these creatures and how to help them.
It would be a crime against the planet to let lemurs go extinct. We must protect these innocent floofs at all costs. Now more than ever, we need lemurs — and of course, videos of them eating lollipops.