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Personality test finds some mouse lemurs shy, others bold

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Posted June 19, 2013
Three mouse lemurs (Microcebus murinus) peer cautiously from their nesting tube at the sound of an approaching Duke Lemur Center technician who might just be carrying snacks. Credit: David Haring, Duke Lemur Center

Three mouse lemurs (Microcebus murinus) peer cautiously from their nesting tube at the sound of an approaching Duke Lemur Center technician who might just be carrying snacks. Credit: David Haring, Duke Lemur Center

Anyone who has ever owned a pet will tell you that it has a unique personality. Yet only in the last 10 years has the study of animal personality started to gain ground with behavioral ecologists, said Jennifer Verdolin of the National Evolutionary Synthesis Center, in Durham, NC.

She and a colleague have now found distinct personalities in the grey mouse lemur (Microcebus murinus), the tiny, saucer-eyed primate native to the African island of Madagascar.

In a study published in the journal Primates, Verdolin gave fourteen gray mouse lemurs living at the Duke Lemur Center a personality test.

Verdolin filmed the lemurs’ reactions to a variety of familiar and unfamiliar objects—such as a tissue box, an egg carton, an orange ball, and a stuffed toy frog – which she placed one at a time into the animals’ enclosures. She then measured how long it took each animal to work up the nerve to approach and investigate each object. Mouse lemurs that were quick to approach objects were considered “bold,” whereas those that behaved more cautiously were considered “shy.”

She also noted how agitated the lemurs got when handled by their human caretakers during routine weigh-ins and cleanings.

Verdolin found that those that hung back were also harder for their human caretakers to handle, meaning the lemurs’ distinct personality traits held up across a range of situations.

Read more at: Phys.org

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