Other animals, even another lemur species, will eat lots of bamboo shoots and leaves. But the greater bamboo lemur is the only mammal besides the giant panda that sticks with bamboo during the dry season. That’s when the plants stop sprouting and offer only culm, the tough, old, yellowing stems poor in nutrients. Culm hasn’t reached the hard stage of bamboo that’s used as a building material. “Nobody wants to eat that,” says study coauthor Alistair Evans, an evolutionary morphologist at Monash University in Melbourne, Australia.
This lemur species with its extreme diet had already been feared extinct once, around the middle of the last century, but relic populations turned up. Current survivors remain more toward the eastern part of the island, where dry seasons are apparently survivable, at least for now.