Science

Mouse lemurs undergo personality test, discover they are 'bold' or 'shy'

By Enozia Vakil , Jun 19, 2013 08:55 AM EDT

A new study, conducted by Jennifer Verdolin, National Evolutionary Synthesis Center Durham, brought in 14 mouse lemurs (Microcebus murinus) for a personality test.

Close assessment of the results revealed that these grey mouse lemurs, the saucer-eyed natives to the African island of Madagascar, showed two distinct personalities.

For the study, Verdolin observed and captured the reaction of these mouse lemurs to unfamiliar and familiar objects, including a tissue box, an orange ball, a stuffed toy frog, an egg carton and more. She closely monitored the approximate time taken by the mouse lemurs to approach each objects.

Mouse lemurs that went over to explore the new objects quickly were tagged 'bold' whereas those who exercised caution and took a longer time to investigate the objects were considered 'shy,' according to the researchers.

Further, Verdolin also noted for the behavior of these mouse lemurs while they were handled by human caretakers during their regular cleaning and weighing sessions. This evaluation too, revealed results similar to the first one-two distinct personalities.

Also, it seems this distinct behavioral change in mouse lemurs was known earlier too. "[The mouse lemur named] Pesto is very chatty. Asparagus gets beat up by the girls. Wasabi is mean as sin, and her favorite flavor is human fingers," researcher Sarah Zehr, Duke Lemur Center explained.

Earlier too, scientists had revealed evidences of personality differences in mouse lemurs found in the wild.

This 'personality test' may actually prove to be useful in captivity breeding programmes, the researchers claim. Verdolin also hopes that more such studies would help scientists evaluate the best candidates for breeding programmes, or to reintroduce the animal back into the wild.

Verdolin also aims to find whether behavioral training may help mouse lemurs better their chances of surviving in the wild. The next step would be the determining exactly to which extent these mouse lemurs are influenced by other individuals and interactions with them.

The study is now published in the journal Primates.

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