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1.  Walk the line—dispersal movements of gray mouse lemurs (Microcebus murinus) 
Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology  2012;66(8):1175-1185.
Despite the importance of dispersal for individuals and populations, little is known about the actual dispersal process in most species. We observed 90 subadult gray mouse lemurs—small, arboreal, nocturnal primates—in Kirindy Forest in western Madagascar, to determine the behavioral processes underlying natal dispersal. Twelve radio-collared males dispersed over distances between 180 and 960 m (≈1–7 home range diameters) away from their presumed natal ranges. Dispersal forays were fast and highly directed, and thus distinct from routine movements. Contrary to expectations of current hypotheses on potential differences between different types of dispersal movements, their special movement style did not prevent dispersers from interrupting forays to exploit resources they encountered during their forays. Data from a translocation experiment indicated that highly directed dispersal or search forays reflect a general strategy for large-scale exploration away from familiar sites in this species. A prolonged transfer phase was also observed, with regular commuting between old and new sites for up to 14 days, which probably served to moderate costs of unfamiliarity with a new site. In conclusion, the dispersal process of gray mouse lemurs is characterized by high intra- and interindividual consistency in movement strategies, but variation in the duration of the transfer phase. The observed dispersal movement style represents an effective strategy balancing costs of dispersal with the need to gather an appropriate level of information about potential dispersal target sites.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1007/s00265-012-1371-y) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC3397133  PMID: 22822289
Natal dispersal; Dispersal movements; Transfer; Translocation; Microcebus murinus
2.  A Novel System of Polymorphic and Diverse NK Cell Receptors in Primates 
PLoS Genetics  2009;5(10):e1000688.
There are two main classes of natural killer (NK) cell receptors in mammals, the killer cell immunoglobulin-like receptors (KIR) and the structurally unrelated killer cell lectin-like receptors (KLR). While KIR represent the most diverse group of NK receptors in all primates studied to date, including humans, apes, and Old and New World monkeys, KLR represent the functional equivalent in rodents. Here, we report a first digression from this rule in lemurs, where the KLR (CD94/NKG2) rather than KIR constitute the most diverse group of NK cell receptors. We demonstrate that natural selection contributed to such diversification in lemurs and particularly targeted KLR residues interacting with the peptide presented by MHC class I ligands. We further show that lemurs lack a strict ortholog or functional equivalent of MHC-E, the ligands of non-polymorphic KLR in “higher” primates. Our data support the existence of a hitherto unknown system of polymorphic and diverse NK cell receptors in primates and of combinatorial diversity as a novel mechanism to increase NK cell receptor repertoire.
Author Summary
Most receptors of natural killer (NK) cells interact with highly polymorphic major histocompatibility complex (MHC) class I molecules and thereby regulate the activity of NK cells against infected or malignant target cells. Whereas humans, apes, and Old and New World monkeys use the family of killer cell immunoglobulin-like receptors (KIR) as highly diverse NK cell receptors, this function is performed in rodents by the diverse family of lectin-like receptors Ly49. When did this functional separation occur in evolution? We followed this by investigating lemurs, primates that are distantly related to humans. We show here that lemurs employ the CD94/NKG2 family as their highly diversified NK cell receptors. The CD94/NKG2 receptors also belong to the lectin-like receptor family, but are rather conserved in “higher” primates and rodents. We could further demonstrate that lemurs have a single Ly49 gene like other primates but lack functional KIR genes of the KIR3DL lineage and show major deviations in their MHC class I genomic organisation. Thus, lemurs have evolved a “third way” of polymorphic and diverse NK cell receptors. In addition, the multiplied lemur CD94/NKG2 receptors can be freely combined, thereby forming diverse receptors. This is, therefore, the first description of some combinatorial diversity of NK cell receptors.
PMCID: PMC2757895  PMID: 19834558
3.  The costs of risky male behaviour: sex differences in seasonal survival in a small sexually monomorphic primate 
Male excess mortality is widespread among mammals and frequently interpreted as a cost of sexually selected traits that enhance male reproductive success. Sex differences in the propensity to engage in risky behaviours are often invoked to explain the sex gap in survival. Here, we aim to isolate and quantify the survival consequences of two potentially risky male behavioural strategies in a small sexually monomorphic primate, the grey mouse lemur Microcebus murinus: (i) most females hibernate during a large part of the austral winter, whereas most males remain active and (ii) during the brief annual mating season males roam widely in search of receptive females. Using a 10-year capture–mark–recapture dataset from a population of M. murinus in Kirindy Forest, western Madagascar, we statistically modelled sex-specific seasonal survival probabilities. Surprisingly, we did not find any evidence for direct survival benefits of hibernation—winter survival did not differ between males and females. By contrast, during the breeding season males survived less well than females (sex gap: 16%). Consistent with the ‘risky male behaviour’ hypothesis, the period for lowered male survival was restricted to the short mating season. Thus, sex differences in survival in a promiscuous mammal can be substantial even in the absence of sexual dimorphism.
PMCID: PMC2602817  PMID: 18426751
sex differences in survival; seasonal survival; risky male behaviour; female hibernation; male roaming; Microcebus murinus
4.  Compatibility counts: MHC-associated mate choice in a wild promiscuous primate 
The mechanisms and temporal aspects of mate choice according to genetic constitution are still puzzling. Recent studies indicate that fitness is positively related to diversity in immune genes (MHC). Both sexes should therefore choose mates of high genetic quality and/or compatibility. However, studies addressing the role of MHC diversity in pre- and post-copulatory mate choice decisions in wild-living animals are few. We investigated the impact of MHC constitution and of neutral microsatellite variability on pre- and post-copulatory mate choice in both sexes in a wild population of a promiscuous primate, the grey mouse lemur (Microcebus murinus). There was no support for pre-copulatory male or female mate choice, but our data indicate post-copulatory mate choice that is associated with genetic constitution. Fathers had a higher number of MHC supertypes different from those of the mother than randomly assigned males. Fathers also had a higher amino acid distance to the females' MHC as well as a higher total number of MHC supertypes and a higher degree of microsatellite heterozygosity than randomly assigned males. Female cryptic choice may be the underlying mechanism that operates towards an optimization of the genetic constitution of offspring. This is the first study that provides support for the importance of the MHC constitution in post-copulatory mate choice in non-human primates.
PMCID: PMC2596809  PMID: 18089539
cryptic mate choice; MHC class II; good genes; promiscuity; Microcebus murinus; Madagascar

Results 1-4 (4)