Black-and-White Ruffed Lemur Black and White Ruffled Lemur
Black & White Ruffed Lemur

Scientific Classification

Common Name
black & white ruffed lemur
Genus Species
Varecia variegata (variegated) variegata

Fast Facts

Active, tree dwelling primates with catlike nose and whiskers; fur is soft with black and white patches; ears with long, thick fur; exact black and white pattern varies with location. 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: 47.5 to 50 cm (19 to 20 in.)
Tail length: 59 cm (23.6 in.)
3.18 to 3.6 kg (7 to 8 lbs)
Predominantly vegetation such as flowers, fruit, seeds, nectar, and leaves
90 to 120 days; approximately 3 offspring per birth, but up to 6
Sexual Maturity
20 months old
Life Span
18 years or older
Eastern Madagascar, from the Antainambalana River (northern limit) to the Mananara River (southern limit)
Only found in undisturbed primary rainforest
Global: Unknown
IUCN: Not listed
CITES: Appendix I
USFWS: Endangered

Fun Facts

  1. Lemurs get their name from the Ancient Roman belief that they were ghosts or spirits. They were mistaken for specters because of their nocturnal, stealth habits.
  2. Ruffed lemurs are quadrupedal, using all their limbs for locomotion. Their long tails allow for even better stability in the trees. In fact, most hang upside down, holding on by their feet, when feeding!
  3. 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.
  4. A lemur's soft, broad fingers and toes have flat nails that allow it to grip objects and groom other lemurs.
  5. These prosimians are quite social and the groups have clearly defined male and female hierarchies. Most communities number 2 to 5 individuals, but can reach up to 16.
  6. 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.

Ecology and Conservation

Lemurs fill an important ecological role 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 within 2 to 3 hours. 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 Encyclopedia of Mammals. Vol 1. London: Equinox Ltd., 1984.

Nowak, R. Walker's Mammals of the World. Vol 1. London: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1991.

Preston-Mafham, Ken. Madagascar: A Natural History. Oxford: Ken Preston-Mafham, 1991.

Preston-Mafham, Rod and Ken. 1999. Primates of the World. Sterling Pub., New York.

Rowe, Noel. 1996. The Pictorial Guide to the Living Primates. Pogonios Press, NY.

Tattersall, Ian. The Primates of Madagascar. New York: Columbia University Press, 1982.