Facts about Lemurs you should know. Learn interesting facts about all lemurs of Madagascar and about the Sifaka, the dancing lemur
Lemurs are primates native to Madagascar and the nearby Comoro Islands. Madagascar is an island located 250 miles off the east coast of Africa. It is the 4th largest island in the world and the only habitat for all wild lemurs in the world. The Comoro Islands is a volcanic group of islands off the north west coast of Madagascar. It is believed that the lemurs in the Comoro Islands, which are the Brown Lemur and the Mongoose Lemur, were brought over to those islands by humans.
Lemurs belong to a group called prosimian primates. This group is defined as primates that are neither monkeys nor apes. All prosimian primates have wet noses, like dogs. The Lemur is the primate that is the most different from humans. Lemurs are considered the most endangered group of animals on the planet. Many species have small and decreasing numbers.
The number of different species is estimated to be roughly 112 and they come in many shapes and sizes. The largest is the Indri Lemur weighing up to 22 pounds and measuring up to 35 inches long. The smallest is the Madame Berthe’s Mouse Lemur weighing about an ounce and measuring up to 4 inches plus a 5-inch tail. Although for most species, the tail is longer than the body, the Indri Lemur barley has a tail.
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Top Facts About All Lemurs
- Lemurs live in a variety of different habitats, from dry deciduous forests, to spiny forests, rainforests, wetlands, and mountains.
- They are very social animals and live in groups called troops. The troops usually consist of about 15 members of males, females, and offsprings. Members typically stay within the same troop their entire life.
- In the Lemur world, females dominate. A female lemur leader directs a family group or troop.
- Some are nocturnal and some are diurnal but regardless of when they sleep, most spend their awake time in trees.
- Some lemurs are herbivores and eat fruits, flowers, leaves, tree bark, and sap. Other lemurs are omnivores and eat fruits, nectar, flowers, leaves, and insects, spiders, and small vertebrates.
- When they are not eating they are usually grooming each other, socializing, and some like to sunbathe.
- Despite the common myth, lemurs are not able to hang from their tails
- They have pseudo-opposing thumbs. They have long toes they use for climbing and for holding on. Most species have nails instead of claws.
- The second toe of each hind leg is what is called a “Toilet Claw”. The lemurs use them mostly for grooming.
- They don’t have good vision and do not typically see colors. Some can see up to 3 colors. They have better vision at night.
- Lemurs communicate with vocalizations and marking with their scent. They have scent glands in their wrists and they use them to scent their tails. They then use their scented tails to communicate with each other.
- Males use their scented tails to compete for mates. They have stink fights with their tails. The male with the strongest scent wins the battle.
- Females can give birth to up to 6 babies called pups. Many lemur specie’s pups cling to the mother’s belly for the first three to four weeks and then ride on the mother’s back for up to four months.
- Lemurs are highly adaptable and can slow down and hibernate if there isn’t enough food.
- The average lifespan in the wild is 18 years.
- Their natural predators are the fossa and the harrier hawk. Most species are endangered because of hunting by humans and habitat destruction.
- Lemurs are known as creators of the forests. They play a huge role in maintaining forest diversity by spreading seeds. They disperse seeds as they eat and move around the forests. Just like Orangutans, who are known as the gardeners of the forest because they also help spread seeds and grow their habitats.
“A fact that few people know is that lemurs are classified as the world’s oldest primates! The story of lemurs begins over 70 million years ago, long before humans. This was a world when lemur-like animals, the planet’s first primates, roamed Africa along with the dinosaurs. Scientists think that around 65 million years ago, lemurs rafted across the Indian Ocean to the island of Madagascar on floating vegetation. Over the next tens of millions of years, the lemurs evolved and diversified on Madagascar to the 112 species that we see today.” – lemurconservationnetwork.org
All species of Lemurs have been identified by the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) as one of the world’s most endangered mammals. Out of the roughly 102 lemur species tracked, 33 are listed on IUCN’s Red List as “critically endangered,” 44 are “endangered” and 25 are “vulnerable.” The greatest threat to lemurs has been deforestation, which has claimed more than 90 percent of Madagascar’s natural habitat over the last 200 years. The current human population of Madagascar in 2020 is 27.9 million and growing which will only increase the pressure on existing natural habitats.