Team finds first evidence of primates regularly sleeping in caves

Michelle Sauther

Flora, Fauna, Habitat: A new study led by CU-Boulder has shown Madagascar’s ring-tailed lemurs are the only wild primates in the world that sleep in the same caves on a nightly basis. Credit: Michelle Sauther, University of Colorado


Scientists have discovered that some ring-tailed lemurs in Madagascar regularly retire to limestone chambers for their nightly snoozes, the first evidence of the consistent, daily use of the same caves and crevices for sleeping among the world’s wild primates. he ring-tailed lemurs may be opting to sleep in caves for several reasons, said University of Colorado Boulder anthropology Associate Professor Michelle Sauther, who led the study. While the cave-sleeping behavior is likely important because it provides safety from potential predators, it also can provide the primates with access to water and nutrients, help to regulate their body temperatures during cold or hot weather and provide refuge from encroaching human activities like deforestation, she said.

“The remarkable thing about our study was that over a six-year period, the same troops of ring-tailed lemurs used the same sleeping caves on a regular, daily basis,” she said. “What we are seeing is a consistent, habitual use of caves as sleeping sites by these primates, a wonderful behavioral adaptation we had not known about before.”

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