Sahamalaza sportive lemur- a solitary lemur species of Madagscar- uses bird calls to signal to other lemurs about potential predator attack, according to a new study. This is the first such research that shows that this species of lemur can understand the panic calls of non-primates such as birds.

Sahamalaza's sportive lemur lives in the subhumid and some secondary forests in Northern Madagascar.

Sportive lemurs are an endangered species of lemurs that sleep during daytime, some times, in open areas such as tree holes. However, conservationists weren't sure how these lemurs defended themselves against predators.

In the study, researchers from University of Bristol found that alertness of the sportive lemur increased when they heard recorded alarm calls of crested coua and the Madagascar magpie-robin. These lemurs became vigilant and looked up the sky whenever they heard the alarm calls.

"Until our study, a solitary and nocturnal lemur species had never been tested to see if it could understand other species' alarm calls and differentiate between them.  We were also the first to test any species of lemur to see if it could recognise the alarm calls of a non-primate species," Dr Marc Holderied of the University of Bristol said in a news release.

The study is the first one to show that lemurs can use information from different vertebrate classes, Holderied added.

This ability to "eavesdrop" on other animals' alarm calls helps  the solitary lemur increase its chances of survival, researchers said.

The study," Interspecific semantic alarm call recognition in the solitary Sahamalaza sportive lemur, Lepilemur sahamalazensis," is published in the journal PLoS ONE