Study looks at climate-change adaptation
They are big-eyed and adorable and may hold the key to how primates can adapt to climate change.
At least that’s the hope of a University of Colorado research team now studying African bushbabies, also known as galagos.
CU professor Michelle Sauther and CU alumnus Frank Cuozzo are leading the examination of the bushbabies at a remote South African field site.
Specifically, they are interested in how the body sizes of the bushbabies may affect their ability to deal with challenging temperate environments. The small southern lesser galago can fit in a human’s hand while the greater thick-tailed galago is cat-sized and is much larger than its counterpart.
According to Sauther, it’s like comparing a gorilla to a baboon.
While nearly all primate species live in the tropics, these bushbaby species are two of the few primates that live within temperate areas outside of the tropics.
The research will focus on using cutting-edge technology that includes thermal imaging cameras that can assess real-time internal temperatures of the primates who live in the temperate forest of the Lajuma Research Centre. Sauther and Cuozzo were recently awarded a $245,000 grant from the National Science Foundation for the study.
“It is extremely difficult to study nocturnal primates, but they are important for understanding a variety of questions regarding our primate evolution and environmental change,” said Sauther. “So we are using high-tech methods for expanding our understanding of these primates.”
Galagos are among the least studied primates and “are also often incorrectly viewed as having little conservation concern,” she said.
Preliminary data shows several human-induced threats to these primates, especially to the larger thick-tailed variety.
“The project will provide the first comprehensive data of population numbers, health status and life history data on southernmost Africa’s two species of busybaby that will allow a more thorough analysis of their conservation status,” said Sauther.
In the long-term, the study will help further understand how primates living outside of tropical climates adjust to variable weather and climate conditions and events, Sauther said.