Shelters such as leaf nests, tree holes or vegetation tangles play a crucial role in the life of many nocturnal mammals. While information about characteristics and availability of these resources may help in conservation planning, nest use gives an indication about a species’ social organisation. The northern giant mouse lemur (Mirza zaza) is threatened by habitat loss within its restricted range. Our aim was to examine nest site preferences of M. zaza and to explore the species’ social organisation by examining sleeping site aggregation size and genetic relatedness within and between such aggregations. In the Ankarafa Forest inside Sahamalaza – Iles Radama National Park, northwestern Madagascar, we radio-tagged five male and three female M. zaza and followed them for 2.5 months during the dry season. We identified sleeping trees and observed animals during emergence in the evening and return in the morning. We compared sleeping trees and microhabitats around nest sites to trees and habitat used during nightly activity and to random sites. We found that nests were well covered by canopy, even during the dry season, and were located near the tree trunk a few meters below the tree top. Nest sites were characterised by large (> 30 cm DBH) and tall trees (>16 m) with many lianas. Up to four animals shared one to three group-exclusive nests for up to 50 days. Two of the nest groups included two and three males with fully developed testes. Relatedness data revealed that the adult males sharing nests were either unrelated or closely related. These data suggest that M. zaza is sleeping in social nest groups including multiple males, which is unusual among nocturnal strepsirrhines. Apart from protecting suitable sleeping trees and discouraging selective logging of large trees, we recommend conducting further studies on the species’ social organisation throughout an entire season.

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Contributions to Zoology

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Naturalis journals & series

Rode, E. J., Nekaris, K. A.-I., Markolf, M., Schliehe-Diecks, S., Seiler, M., Radespiel, U., & Schwitzer, C. (2013). Social organisation of the northern giant mouse lemur Mirza zaza in Sahamalaza, north western Madagascar, inferred from nest group composition and genetic relatedness. Contributions to Zoology, 82(2), 71–83.