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Feeding the Microbes Within

To digest his leafy diet, this lemur gets a little help from the trillions of bacteria that inhabit his gut. Sifaka lemurs living at the Duke Lemur Center feed on a range of wild plants during warm months, such as fresh sumac, tulip poplar, sweet gum and grapevine. But in the winter months their diet is less diverse. By comparing their communities of gut microbes in the winter to the rest of the year, researchers are working out how the local plants they eat keep their microbiomes in balance. The results could help lemur keepers better care for them in captivity.