Ring-Tailed Lemur Ring-Tailed Lemur
Ring-Tailed Lemur

Scientific Classification

Common Name
ring-tailed lemur
Genus Species
Lemur (ghost, specter) catta (cat)

Fast Facts

A small primate with a conspicuous black and white banded tail.
Male:  Males have a fingernail-like spur near each wrist that emit a strong scent for marking territories.
Tail length: 599 mm (23.6 in.)
Male:  2705 g (95.4 oz.)
Female:  2678 g (94.5 oz.)
70% fruit, 25% leaves, 5% flowers
Approximately 134 to 138 days; typically one offspring, two when food is plentiful; mating season is from August through September
Sexual Maturity
21 to 30 months
Life Span
Average approximately 27 years
Scrub, spiny desert, dry, and gallery
Global: Unknown
IUCN: Not listed
CITES: Appendix I
USFWS: Endangered

Fun Facts

  1. Ring-tailed lemurs are the most terrestrial of all lemurs, spending a great deal of time on the ground instead of the trees. Males often have "stink fights" in which they wave their tails (having been rubbed on the strong-smelling wrist gland) at one another.
  2. When territory or other disputes take place within a society, female lemurs always win.
  3. Ring-tailed lemurs do not have a stable hierarchy. In fact this species is the only primate in which the infants "grapple" for dominance.
  4. Males scent mark by rubbing the spur on the male's forearm on the scent gland of the inner arm, then use it to scar branches and leave their scent behind.
  5. 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

Ring-tailed lemurs are the only primate in Madagascar to make extensive use of the ground. In addition, they range farther into the interior highlands of Madagascar than any other lemur species. This is an important example of the amazing adaptive radiation of primates exclusive to the island. With the widespread decrease of these primates, Madagascar faces the threat of losing a specieswhich fills an important ecological role.

Ring-tailed lemurs numbers are declining rapidly due to continuous deforestation for the logging industry and plantations as well as slash and burn agriculture. This species can only survive in primary vegetation.


Macdonald, David. 1984. The Encyclopedia of Mammals. Vol. 1. Equinox Ltd., London.

Mittermeier,RA. 1994. The Lemurs of Madagascar. Conservation International. Washington, DC.

Norwak, Ronald M. 1991. Walkers: Mammals of the World. 5th ed. Vol. 1. Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore.

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

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