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Document Type

Open Access Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Degree Program

Anthropology

Year Degree Awarded

2018

Month Degree Awarded

February

First Advisor

Laurie R. Godfrey

Second Advisor

Ventura R. Pérez

Third Advisor

Elizabeth R. Dumont

Fourth Advisor

Michael R. Sutherland

Subject Categories

Biological and Physical Anthropology

Abstract

Madagascar’s Quaternary predator-primate guild included seventeen species of relatively large extinct lemurs. Sharing the landscape with the lemurs, were several relatively large now-extinct predators, including three raptors (two species of Aquila and Stephanoaetus mahery), a euplerid (Cryptoprocta spelea), and a crocodile (Voay robustus). This is the first research to systematically study predator-prey relationships among these extinct animals. Here I examine the bones of the extinct lemurs at six subfossil localities (Ampasambazimba, Ankarana, Grotte d’Ankazoabo, Beloha Anavoha, Manombo Toliara, and Tsirave) for evidence of and also collected metric data on these bones. I examined 1141 specimens (crania, mandibles, humeri and femora) representing 14 lemur taxa. These data are interpreted in relation to (1) predator and prey behavior and morphology; (2) taphonomic inferences that can be drawn; (3) variation in predator-prey interactions in different environments; (4) temporal changes in predator-prey relationships; and (5) direct and indirect consequences of predator-prey interactions. I also provide preliminary comparisons of predator-prey relationships in Madagascar and other primate communities throughout the world.

I review previous research on the extinct lemurs and their potential predators examining their morphology, inferred behavior, and geographic and temporal distributions. I summarize taphonomic signatures of each predator type and evaluate the degree of taphonomic interference in the detection of predator modification. Cryptoprocta spelea preyed preferentially on Pachylemur and Mesopropithecus, which were among the smallest of the giant extinct lemurs, although there is evidence that C. spelea also preyed on animals as large as Megaladapis (up to 85 kg; Jungers et al. 2008). I conclude that social hunting likely facilitated the targeting of very large lemurs by mammalian carnivorans. Like mammalian carnivorans, raptors preferred the smaller extinct lemur genera (Pachylemur, Mesopropithecus and Archaeolemur). Crocodylian predation is the most prevalent of all, and most specimens with crocodile predation were also digested. Crocodiles targeted adult, large-bodied animals, especially Palaeopropithecus and Megaladapis.

Avian, carnivoran, and crocodylian predation is well represented in the subfossil record and taphonomic study of subfossil assemblages contributes significantly to our knowledge of predator-primate dynamics of the Quaternary of Madagascar. Comparison of metric data of lemur prey animals reveals niche partitioning among these predators.

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