Body weights of wild and captive lemurs

Carl J. Terranova, Barbara S. Coffman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

53 Scopus citations


The mean body weight of a species is often used as a summary measure of size in evolutionary and functional studies. Additionally, body weight is often used to assess the health of captive animals. Contrasts of the captive and wild body weights of a species can be used to examine the effects of captivity on the species. We provide an analysis of adult body weight in nine taxa of Malagasy lemurs. We compare weights of wild and captive lemurs and provide analyses of relationships between captive weight variation and management actions. Body weights are derived from a number of sources, the majority from the Duke University Primate Center (DUPC) capture and husbandry records. Captive animals are, on average, heavier than wild conspecifics. However, the difference is significant in only three taxa (Hapalemur griseus griseus, Eulemur coronatus, E. macaco flavifrons). Based on a retrospective analysis of DUPC records, we assess patterns of adult weight relative to caging conditions and evaluate changes in mean weight over a period of approximately 20 years. Cage type appears to have no effect on body weight. Mean weight has decreased for some taxa housed at the DUPC over time. We calculate a weight-based criterion for identifying obese animals and demonstrate that obesity is not currently a prevalent condition in DUPC lemurs. Examinations of the physiological correlates of excessive weight, and especially relationships between weight and reproductive success, await further analysis. These analyses need to be based, in part, on reliable measures of body weight. We suggest that systematic weighing of wild and captive animals is important for further examinations of the overall health of captive animals as well as for studies ranging in scope from evolutionary to clinical. Zoo Biol 16:17-30, 1997.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)17-30
Number of pages14
JournalZoo Biology
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1997
Externally publishedYes


  • Captive and wild adult body weight
  • Eulemur
  • Hapalemur
  • Varecia


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