Lab members


The Diademed Sifaka

Study Site: Tsinjoarivo

Tsinjoarivo's Biodiversity




Mitchell Irwin

Dept. of Anthropology

Northern Illinois University

DeKalb, IL, USA 60115

Ph: +1 (815) 753-1524

Email: mirwin[at]niu.edu

As more of the world’s tropical forests become fragmented and degraded, the question of how biological diversity can be maintained in degraded and fragmented habitat becomes ever more important. Some animals show remarkable flexibility in adapting to novel, disturbed and discontinuous environments, while others do not. In my research, I look in-depth at the diet, ecology and behavior of lemurs across different conditions of habitat disturbance and local ecology. This has included studies of the diademed sifaka (Propithecus diadema), which persist in small, disturbed forest fragments, and other species that don't tolerate such habitats, such as the brown lemur (Eulemur fulvus).

The outputs of my research are twofold. First, Madagascar's lemurs constitute a unique primate radiation that evolved in isolation from primates on other continents, and exhibit several unique and puzzling anatomical and behavioral adaptations. Understanding the dietary strategies and nutritional constraints, and the variation among lemurs and primates more broadly, can elucidate the evolutionary pressures that made lemurs unique in their physiology, social systems and behavior. Second, many lemur species are severely threatened through forest loss, fragmentation and other human activities. Given the sad reality that large proportions of most lemurs' ranges are already fragmented and disturbed, understanding the ecological effects of habitat change on these animals will help us make better-informed conservation decisions.

I am a Professor based at the Department of Anthropology, Northern Illinois University.

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