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The ecology of painted ringtails (Pseudochirulus forbesi larvatus) at Mt. Stolle, Papua New Guinea and contributions to the conservation of New Guinean mammals

Suzette A Stephens, University of Massachusetts Amherst


Many areas of New Guinea remain poorly sampled, hindering conservation planning efforts. Endemic species significantly contribute to explaining a peak in non-flying mammal diversity at mid-elevations, even after removal of boundary effects. When corrected for area, effects of diet and body size become relevant. Diversity of non-eutherians declines with elevation similar to rodents. Folivores drop in diversity with elevation more markedly than carnivores. Smaller-bodied mammals drop in diversity more markedly than larger-bodied ones. Field surveys at Mt. Stolle produced 3 new species records for Sandaun Province of Papua New Guinea, and 5 new species records for the Telefomin area. I collected data on radio-collared painted ringtails, including: body measurements, home range sizes, survival rates, waking hours spent eating, walking and resting, hours of activity and activity levels. Male painted ringtails are larger than females; males are more active and heavier males return later. Males walk more than females, and heavier males walk more. The male survival rate is one-sixth that of females. Male home ranges overlap with those of two or more females. Painted ringtails are almost entirely folivorous, consuming at least 75 tree species. Bark is consumed from at least five species, two of which were sought significantly beyond their abundance at the site. Selectivity in foliage consumed is present at both the species and family levels of trees, and proximity of diet trees to dreys plays a role in selection. The top 10 species most frequently consumed by males and females do not differ, but the top 10 families do differ. The painted ringtail diet is more folivorous and the tree species composition is significantly different than that of the larger sympatric coppery ringtail and mountain cuscus. Bark consumed by painted ringtails contained calcium, potassium and magnesium levels significantly higher than that found in control trees (conspecifics and other species). Significantly more adult male painted ringtails (14 of 21) were captured at bark trees than adult females (three of 17) or juvenile males (one of six); juvenile females were equally captured at and away from these trees (six of 12).

Subject Area


Recommended Citation

Stephens, Suzette A, "The ecology of painted ringtails (Pseudochirulus forbesi larvatus) at Mt. Stolle, Papua New Guinea and contributions to the conservation of New Guinean mammals" (2005). Doctoral Dissertations Available from Proquest. AAI3193944.