Lemurs & Monkeys Are Descending From Trees As The Environment Warms
Tree-dwelling primates are being forced to spend more time on the ground in search of water and shade as a result of climate change and deforestation.
A study1 based on some more than 150,000 hours of observations of 47 species of tree-dwelling primates spread across nearly 70 sites in Madagascar and the Americas led to the release of the warning that monkey and lemur species that live in trees are spending more time on the forest floor as a result of the temperature increase. Specifically, in locations where their forest is damaged and fragmented, some primates, such as howler monkeys and bamboo lemurs are expending more time on the ground. These primates are fighting for survival in forests ravaged by human activity and climate change, according to scientists, is the transition from arboreal lifestyles.
The results show that in reaction to climate change and habitat loss, these animals are changing their behavior. Humans are deforesting the majority of the tropical nations where these species reside. This opens up the forest canopy and generates gaps in it. The temperature rises as a result of that. As temperatures rise higher in the forest canopy, the animals are compelled to the ground where they may find water and shade to re-hydrate.
In Madagascar, bamboo lemurs currently spend around half of their waking hours on the ground. Those bamboo lemurs are tree-dwelling lemurs that typically reside in forests. However, in the south of Madagascar, a region that is severely fragmented, those bamboo lemurs emerge from the forest and graze the grass like miniature cows. According to the study, species that dwell in large groups and consume food other than fruit are among those most likely to spend more time on the forest floor. It implies that, at least temporarily, these more adaptable species may be able to modify their way of existence in response to climatic change and habitat loss.
Together with climate change, deforestation is driving primates closer to the earth. However, arboreal primates cannot adapt to deforestation and climate change soon enough. Neither of the species under study is expected to completely adapt to a terrestrial way of life. Simply put, having it happen in such a short amount of time is not a feasible long-term consequence. The current forest habitat has to be aggressively protected.
Eppley, T. M., Hoeks, S., Chapman, C. A., Ganzhorn, J. U., Hall, K., Owen, M. A., Adams, D. B., Allgas, N., Amato, K. R., Andriamahaihavana, M., Aristizabal, J. F., Baden, A. L., Balestri, M., Barnett, A. A., Bicca-Marques, J. C., Bowler, M., Boyle, S. A., Brown, M., Caillaud, D., … Santini, L. (2022). Factors influencing terrestriality in primates of the Americas and Madagascar. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 119(42), e2121105119. https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.2121105119