Science and Nature

Lemurs: A diverse community of endangered primates


A photo of two ring-tailed lemurs sitting in tree in Isalo National Park, Madagascar.

Ring-tailed lemurs sitting in tree in Isalo National Park, Madagascar.
(Image credit ranking: Arterra/Contributor via Getty Photos)

Lemurs are a unfamiliar community of primates native to Madagascar, an island off the fly of east Africa. Despite the very fact that they are related to monkeys and apes, lemurs building up a separate branch of the primate household tree and are labeled as a superfamily, made up of 5 particular particular person lemur families and bigger than 100 diverse species.

Lemurs get pointed snouts with wet noses and count more on their sense of scent than monkeys attain, in step with the Lemur Conservation Foundation. The lemur superfamily comprises ring-tailed lemurs (Lemur catta) popularized by the “Madagascar” movie franchise, and the uncommon aye-ayes (Daubentonia madagascariensis) — beforehand described by Reside Science as “so gruesome it’s cute.” Lemurs’ look, diet and habitat vary between the varied species, however every body plays a position in the rich and diverse ecosystems of Madagascar. 

After a 2012 assessment of the sector’s lemur inhabitants, the World Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) called lemurs the most endangered mammals on Earth, Reside Science beforehand reported. Nearly all of the lemurs alive on the present time are threatened with extinction, in step with the IUCN.

Forms of lemur

There are 113 diagnosed lemur species, in step with the IUCN, with the capability for more to be realized. Indri (Indri indri) is the largest lemur species, and would perhaps well develop to between 24 and 35 inches (61 and 90 centimeters) lengthy and would perhaps well weigh as a lot as 22 lbs. (10 kilograms), in step with the Zoological Society of London (ZSL). Lemurs in most cases get lengthy tails, however indris are the one real species to no longer get one at all. 

The smallest lemurs are Madame Berthe’s mouse lemurs (Microcebus berthae), that are furthermore the smallest primates in the sector. These lemurs develop to factual 3.5 to 4 inches (9 to 11 cm) lengthy excluding for his or her tails, which add one other 5 to 6 inches (12 to 14 cm) to their length. The shrimp lemurs most appealing weigh a median of 1 ounce (30 grams), in step with the University of Michigan’s Animal Diversity Web (ADW)

A photo of a male blue-eyed black lemur in Sahamalaza–Iles Radama National Park.

A male blue-eyed dusky lemur (Eulemur flavifrons) in Sahamalaza–Iles Radama National Park. (Image credit ranking: Image courtesy of Nora Schwitzer)

Giant lemurs, some the scale of gorillas, roamed Madagascar factual about a thousand years prior to now. These integrated extensive sloth lemurs, which had lengthy limbs and zigzag fingers address the claws of a up to date sloth, though they get been lemurs and no longer sloths, that are a separate community of mammals. Giant sloth lemurs get been peaceable living in Madagascar except on the least 1,000 years prior to now, as evidenced by a single cave drawing of a monumental sloth lemur being hunted by humans with dogs, in step with The Natural Historical previous Museum in London.

Dimension is no longer the one real blueprint to repeat lemur species apart — they are in most cases furthermore very unfamiliar in look. Ring-tailed lemurs are without peril diagnosed by the dusky rings on their white, fluffy tails. Blue-eyed dusky lemurs (Eulemur flavifrons) are striking, as they are the one real primates as an alternative of humans to get blue eyes, in step with the San Diego Zoo. Aye-ayes get likely the strangest look of all lemurs and primates assuredly, with shrimp, bulging eyes, broad ears and fluffy, lengthy tails. These nocturnal lemurs furthermore get lengthy, skinny fingers that they tap on branches to discover and obtain grubs for food.

Associated: ‘Cursed’ primate weirdos get extra thumbs. Scientists did now not be taught about them except now

Where attain lemurs are living?

All lemurs are realized on Madagascar, an island country off the west fly of Africa in the Indian Ocean. Populations of mongoose lemurs (Eulemur mongoz) and brown lemurs (Eulemur fulvus) furthermore are living on the nearby Comoros Islands, between Madagascar and Mozambique, however they get been almost absolutely launched to those islands by humans, in step with the IUCN

Associated: Species hitched inch to Madagascar on floating islands

Lemur Taxonomy

Kingdom: Animalia 

Phylum: Chordata 

Class: Mammalia 

Repeat: Primates 

Superfamily: Lemuroidea 

Lemurs retract many diverse habitats on Madagascar, together with rainforests, dry deciduous forests, spiny forests, wetlands and mountains. For instance, Sibree’s dwarf lemurs (Cheirogaleus sibreei) are living in rainforests at altitudes above 4,590 toes (1,400 meters), and white-collared lemurs (Eulemur cinereiceps), in most cases diagnosed as gray-headed lemurs, are living in a thin strip of tropical, moist lowland woodland from sea level as a lot as 2,950 toes (900 m). Lemur habitat is disappearing as a result of deforestation and their ranges are in most cases highly restrictive.

Some animals, such as Sunda flying lemurs (Galeopterus variegatus) from Southeast Asia, get lemur of their title however are no longer no doubt lemurs. Right lemurs are most appealing realized on Madagascar and nearby islands.

What attain lemurs recognize?

Many lemurs are herbivores and feed on fruit, plants, tree bark and sap. Lemurs can also be very choosy about what they recognize, with most of their diet coming from about a tree species, in step with the American Museum of Natural Historical previous (AMNH). For instance, larger bamboo lemurs (Prolemur simus) are highly specialised to recognize bamboo, making them Madagascar’s identical of China’s extensive pandas (Ailuropoda melanoleuca). A 2017 glimpse published in the journal Recent Biology realized that larger bamboo lemurs living in Madagascar’s Ranomafana National Park procure almost all of their food from a single species of woody bamboo called Cathariostachys madagascariensis.

Lemurs are key seed dispersers on Madagascar, which blueprint they abet crops reproduce by carrying seeds of their belly after drinking fruit and depositing the seeds into a brand novel dwelling thru their feces. Sure crops can also be depending on a single lemur species to disperse their seeds. For instance, a 2013 glimpse published in the Journal of Tropical Ecology indispensable that brown lemurs in a tropical dry woodland in northwestern Madagascar are the one real disperser for crops with seeds that are larger than 0.4 inches (10 millimeters) in diameter. These traits construct lemurs indispensable for asserting wholesome forests, factual as wholesome forests are indispensable for providing lemurs with food. 

Some lemurs are omnivores and will furthermore recognize insects and cramped vertebrates. Ring-tailed lemurs, for instance, will feed on the leisure that is without peril available to them, and their diet can encompass spiders, chameleons and even cramped birds, in step with ADW

Lemurs’ foremost predators are fossas (Cryptoprocta ferox) — carnivores that appears a minute address a cat or weasel. Lemurs can furthermore develop to be prey for monumental snakes, birds, humans and animals humans get launched to Madagascar, such as home cats. 

A photo of a fossa crouching on a tree branch.

A fossa crouching on a tree branch.  (Image credit ranking: Chris Hellier via Getty Photos)

Process patterns

Lemurs can also be diurnal (active towards the day), nocturnal (active at evening), or cathemeral (active towards the day and evening), reckoning on the species, in step with the Duke Lemur Center, a research foundation in North Carolina. The time of day cathemeral lemurs, such as brown lemurs, exercise to be awake and active can furthermore count upon weather, season and what foods are available in to them. 

A few lemur species hibernate, such as corpulent-tailed dwarf lemurs (Cheirogaleus medius). They’ll hibernate for as a lot as seven months towards the dry season when food is more scarce. Elephantine-tailed dwarf lemurs assuredly utilize this dormant length in hollowed-out tree trunks and live to recount the story off corpulent reserves saved of their tails, in step with the Duke Lemur Center

Ring-tailed lemurs heat up after a frosty evening by basking in the heat morning sunshine, in step with Bristol Zoo Gardens in the U.Ok. They in most cases sunbathe by sitting correct with their fingers spread wide, making it appear like they are worshipping the sun. Other lemur species, together with dusky-and-white ruffed lemurs, furthermore sunbathe to heat up.

Associated: Lemurs snooze in caves address early humans

Lemur lifestyles

Lemurs that are active towards the day are highly social and are living in household groups diagnosed as troops. This permits them to alert every other to predators. Nocturnal lemurs, on the loads of hand, exercise the quilt of darkness to abet them hide from predators, in step with the San Diego Zoo. However, lemurs get complex social lives and even solitary species would perhaps sleep together. 

A 2005 glimpse published in the World Journal of Primatology realized that nocturnal Madame Berthe’s mouse lemurs spent half of of their nights drowsing by myself and the loads of half of drowsing in groups, which is equivalent to other mouse lemurs. Sound asleep in groups would perhaps abet largely solitary lemurs preserve heat and supply security against predators that would perhaps well hunt them while they are resting. Sahamalaza sportive lemurs (Lepilemur sahamalaza) leisure and sleep by myself, however they exercise the alarm calls of birds and other lemurs to take hold of when predators are nearby, in step with a 2013 glimpse published in the journal PLOS One.

All lemur species as an alternative of aye-ayes get a enamel comb — six teeth fused together on the front of their lower jaw to groom themselves and other lemurs. They furthermore get a secondary tongue below their foremost tongue called a sublingua, which they exercise to natty the enamel comb address a toothbrush, in step with the Duke Lemur Center.

Associated: Lemur faces are unfamiliar, facial recognition finds

Scent is terribly indispensable when it involves lemur mating. Male ring-tailed lemurs “stink flirt” with females by rubbing aromatic chemical substances secreted from their wrists onto their tails and waving their tails around in the presence of females. The secreted liquid smells bitter and leathery to the human nose for a extensive selection of of the 365 days however becomes more fruity, floral and candy towards the breeding season from April to Can also, Reside Science beforehand reported. The commerce in scent would be a brand for females that a male is able to mate. Male lemurs furthermore exercise their stinky tails to get stink fights with rival males when competing for the chance to breed with females, by seeing who has the strongest scent. 

After mating, female lemurs get a gestation length of 102 to 170 days, reckoning on the species. A female can give birth to between one and six young at a time. Smaller species of lemurs are inclined to present birth to more babies, in step with the San Diego Zoo. 

Shrimp one lemurs, called pups, in most cases hold to their mom’s belly for the first three to four weeks of lifestyles and then inch on her lend a hand except they are 3 to 4 months frail. Lemurs can exercise between one and three-and -a-half of years to reach adulthood, reckoning on the species. The lifespan of lemurs is depending on the species as effectively. In response to ADW, gray mouse lemurs (Microcebus murinus) are living a median of 14 years in captivity; ring-tailed lemurs assuredly are living 16 years in the wild however would perhaps reach 33 years frail in captivity; and dusky-and-white ruffed lemurs (Varecia variegata) can are living for larger than 35 years in captivity. 

A photo of a gray mouse lemur.

A gray mouse lemur (Microcebus murinus). (Image credit ranking: David Haring of the Duke University Lemur Center)

Are you able to get got a lemur as a pet?

Lemurs are assuredly saved as pets in the U.S., however many science and conservation organizations, such because the Duke Lemur Center and the Lemur Conservation Foundation, oppose the apply. Lemurs naturally are living in complex social groups and are no longer suited to living with humans in a home environment. Pet lemurs furthermore get a grand, deplorable scent, and in most cases develop to be aggressive when they reach sexual maturity. 

A 2019 glimpse published in the journal PLOS One estimated that larger than 30,000 wild-caught lemurs get been being saved as pets in Madagascar. The glimpse indispensable that one-third of makes an strive to retract pet lemurs resulted in the death of the lemur and after they are saved as pets, it’s almost no longer doable to come them to the wild. The incentive for shooting wild lemurs in most cases comes from the tourism commerce. 

“Vacationers esteem to explore lemurs up shut and are in most cases willing to pay reputedly cramped quantities of cash to interact or exercise selfies with lemurs, namely child lemurs,” Marni LaFleur, an assistant professor on the University of San Diego and co-lead creator of the glimpse, talked about in a assertion on the time. “These superficially innocent behaviors, on the loads of hand, in portion gasoline the unlawful extraction of lemurs from the wild and are detrimental to the wellbeing and survival of plants and fauna globally.” 

Conservation space

In 2020, the IUCN launched that 98% of all lemurs are threatened with extinction. The foremost reasons lemur populations get declined so vastly is as a result of habitat loss as a result of deforestation and attempting in Madagascar. Their habitat is frequently destroyed so as that it’s a ways going to even be fashioned for agriculture, and so that they’re hunted for food. 

Associated: Bigger than half of of all primates threatened with extinction 

IUCN knowledge masks that 31% of lemur species are listed as critically endangered, which is factual one class a ways flung from extinction in the wild. Seriously endangered lemur species encompass indris, dusky-and-white ruffed lemurs, Sibree’s dwarf lemurs, blue-eyed dusky lemurs and mongoose lemurs. 

Over 40% of the final species of lemurs, together with ring-tailed lemurs and aye-ayes, are listed as endangered by the IUCN, and one other 20% are labeled as being at risk of extinction. Gray mouse lemurs and gray-brown mouse lemurs (Microcebus griseorufus) are the one real lemur species that are for the time being no longer threatened with extinction and are placed in the lowest-risk class. However, the IUCN notes that even these species are likely in decline and will likely be moved into the threatened class in the lengthy escape. Lastly, Groves’ dwarf lemurs (Cheirogaleus grovesi) and Nosy Boraha mouse lemurs (Microcebus boraha) are listed as knowledge deficient, which blueprint there could be no longer ample files about their populations for the IUCN to construct an assessment.

Extra resources

This text became on the initiating written by Reside Science contributor Alina Bradford and has since been updated. 

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