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Active, tree-dwelling primates with cat like nose and whiskers; fur is soft and coloration varies from reddish brown to gray and black. Also called prosimians, which means "before apes." Lemurs maintain primitive primate features such as a small brain case and a prominent nose.
head and body length: 12.5-70 cm (4-27.5 in.); tail length: 5-15.5 cm (2-6.1 in.)
0.5-3 kg (1.1-6.6 lb.)
Predominantly vegetation such as flowers, fruit, and leaves; occasionally insects and small vertebrates
2-5 months; 1-4 young per birth
14-15 months old
18 years or older
Madagascar (specific ranges vary according to species)
Tropical rain forest and dry thornbrush
Lemurs rely on their sense of smell as a way of communicating with other animals. They have special scent glands on their wrists and bottoms that leave scent trails on branches to mark their territories.
A lemur's soft, broad fingers and toes have flat nails that allow it to grip objects and groom other lemurs.
These prosimians are quite social and the troops have clearly defined male and female hierarchies.
A female lemur carries her newborn in her mouth until the baby is able to cling to the fur on mother's stomach or back.
The lemur's thick bushy tail serves as a visual signal when it's threatened or as a balancing tool when it leaps through the trees.
ECOLOGY AND CONSERVATION
Lemurs fill an important ecological role on the island of Madagascar. These primates often feed on an assortment of seasonal fruits and as they travel throughout their environment, they disperse undigested seeds in their manure. The seeds soon sprout to replenish the vegetation that sustains Madagascar's unique inhabitants. This is very important on an island where over 80% of the original habitats have been lost to logging and agriculture. The Malagasy people struggle to save their country's dwindling biodiversity. They maintain national parks to protect wildlife, support the ecotourism industry, and search for less damaging methods of farming.
Burton, J. (ed.).
The Atlas of Endangered Species.
New York: Macmillan Publishing Co., 1991.
Macdonald, D. (ed.)
The Emcyclopedia of Mammals.
Vol. 1. London: Equinox Ltd., 1984.
Walker's Mammals of the World.
Vol. 1. London: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1991.
Madagascar: A Natural History.
Oxford: Ken Preston-Mafham, 1991.
The Primates of Madagascar.
New York: Columbia University Press, 1982.