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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Black-and-white Ruffed Lemur (Varecia variegata)
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Primates
Suborder: Strepsirrhini
Infraorder: Lemuriformes
Gray, 1821


A lemur (pronounced /ˈliːmər/, us dict: lē′·mər) is a member of the biological infraorder Lemuriformes, a prosimian and strepsirrhine primate that is endemic to the island of Madagascar. The term "lemur" is derived from the Latin word lemures, meaning "spirits of the night" or "haunter". This likely refers to their large, reflective eyes and the wailing cries of some species (the Indri in particular). The term is generically used for the members of the five lemuriform families, but it is also the genus of one of the lemuriform species, the Ring-tailed Lemur (Lemur catta). The two so-called flying lemur species, known formally as colugos, are not lemurs or even primates.



The 5 families of lemurs contain 99 species and subspecies.[2]

Formerly split into two superfamilies, Cheirogaleoidea (family Cheirogaleidae) and Lemuroidea (the remaining lemur families), it has since been shown that family Cheirogaleidae is nested within the other families, having the strongest affinities with the sportive lemurs.[3]

Physical characteristics

Black and white ruffed Lemur

Lemurs are primates endemic to the island of Madagascar and smaller surrounding islands, such as the Comoros, where they were likely introduced by humans. Molecular genetics indicates that they reached Madagascar after it broke away from mainland Africa, possibly by "rafting" across the ocean on large clumps of vegetation.[4] While their ancestors were displaced in the rest of the world by monkeys and apes, the lemurs were safe from competition on Madagascar and differentiated into a number of species. These range in size from the tiny 30 gram (1 oz) Madame Berthe's Mouse Lemur[4] to the 10 kilogram (22 lb) Indri. Larger species, some of which weighed up to 240 kg,[5] have all become extinct since humans settled on Madagascar. Typically, the smaller lemurs are nocturnal, while the larger ones are diurnal.

The small cheirogaleoids are generally omnivores, eating a variety of fruits, flowers and leaves (and sometimes nectar) as well as insects, spiders and small vertebrates. The remainder of the lemurs - the lemuroids - are primarily herbivores, although some species supplement their diet with insects.

Except for the Indri, all lemurs have long tails that they use for communication with each other and balance when leaping between trees. They have opposable thumbs and long toes adapted for gripping tree branches. Lemurs have nails rather than claws on all digits except the second toe of each hind foot, which has a toilet-claw for grooming. All lemur species have a tapetum, the reflective layer over the retina that enhances night vision.[5] Lemurs are thought to have limited color vision.[5] Lemurs depend heavily on the sense of smell and have large nasal cavities and moist noses.[5]

Unlike most other primates, lemur species that live in groups have a matriarchal society (i.e., females are dominant over males). Most lemur species are arboreal and traverse the canopy by vertical clinging and leaping or quadrupedalism, with the exception of the Ring-Tailed Lemur, which spend more time on the ground than other species.

Hybrids may occur between different species of lemur. In The Variation of Animals and Plants under Domestication Charles Darwin noted: "Several members of the family of Lemurs have produced hybrids in the Zoological Gardens."[6]

Female dominance

Female (top) and male (bottom) black lemurs in their natural habitat in Madagascar. This species exhibits sexually dimorphic coat color.

Female social dominance was first observed in the Ring-tailed Lemur (Lemur catta).[7] Many, but not all, lemur species exhibit female dominance, which is a very rare social structure in mammals, and it is only observed consistently in hyenas and lemurs.[8] In species where this occurs, adult males exhibit submissive behavior to adult females in social settings, such as feeding, grooming, and sleeping site priority. Interestingly, most lemurs do not exhibit sexual dimorphism,[9] but it remains unclear what role size and strength play in male deference. Although several hypotheses have been proposed to explain the evolution of female dominance in the last 20 years,[10] the hypotheses have been unsatisfactory to researchers and there is currently no generally accepted hypothesis. A compelling and simple explanation, however, was recently introduced by Dunham[11] who suggested that female dominance in lemurs arises from a combination of having similar sized sexes and higher resource needs of females for reproduction. Simple game theory states that in a contest between two individuals with similar fighting capacity, the contestant with higher resource need is likely to devote more energy into fighting for that resource.[12] Individual 1 will be expected to win a contest when the simple inequality: V1/K1 > V2/K2, is met, where V is the value of the resource to the contestant in terms of fitness and K is the fighting capacity measured as a rate of fitness loss. Because male and female lemurs are of the same size, the fighting capacity should not differ. Therefore a contest between a male and a female lemur will most likely be decided by who has the higher resource need. With very short reproductive seasons and lack of male care, male lemurs are assumed to expend much less energy in reproduction relative to females (i.e. pregnancy, lactation, maternal care, etc.). As such, a female has more to lose in terms of fitness by not attaining the resource and is therefore more likely to win a contest with a male. Because fighting can be costly it may be beneficial for males if they can assess their chance of winning based on sex, thus submitting to females. Evidence supporting this hypothesis is also found in birds and other mammals.[11]


Most lemurs are listed as endangered or threatened species. Many species have become extinct in the last centuries, mainly due to habitat destruction (deforestation) and hunting.[13] Approximately 90% of Madagascar’s original rainforest has been destroyed.[14] Conservation of lemurs in Madagascar is a high priority, but the country's poor economic situation and the lemurs' limited range make it an uphill battle. In 2008, a total of 99 living lemur species were formally recognized,[2] with more species likely to be discovered or differentiated in the future.

One of the foremost lemur research facilities is the Duke Lemur Center. Azafady is organization that supports lemur conservation by offering volunteer opportunities in Madagascar.

See also


  1. ^ Groves, C. (2005). Wilson, D. E., & Reeder, D. M. ed. Mammal Species of the World (3rd ed.). Johns Hopkins University Press. pp. 111–121. ISBN 0-801-88221-4. 
  2. ^ a b Mittermeier, R., Ganzhorn, J., Konstant, W., Glander, K., Tattersall, I., Groves, C., Rylands, A., Hapke, A., Ratsimbazafy, J., Mayor, M., Louis, E., Rumpler, Y., Schwitzer, C. & Rasoloarison, R. (December 2008). "Lemur Diversity in Madagascar". International Journal of Primatology 29 (6): 1607–1656. doi:10.1007/s10764-008-9317-y. 
  3. ^ Horvath, J.; et al. (2008). "Development and Application of a Phylogenomic Toolkit: Resolving the Evolutionary History of Madagascar's Lemurs" (PDF). Genome Research 18: 490. Retrieved 2009-09-02. 
  4. ^ a b Mittermeier, R.A.; et al. (2006). Lemurs of Madagascar (2nd ed.). Conservation International. p. 104–107. ISBN 1-881173-88-7. 
  5. ^ a b c d Strier, Karen B. (2000). Primate Behavioral Ecology. Boston: Allyn and Bacon. pp. 49. 
  6. ^ Darwin, C. (1868). The variation of animals and plants under domestication. Volume 2 (1st ed.). London: John Murray. pp. 153. 
  7. ^ Jolly, A (1966). Lemur Behavior. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. 
  8. ^ Digby, LI and Kahlenberg, SM (2002). "Female dominance in blue-eyed black lemurs". Primates 43: 191–199. doi:10.1007/BF02629647. 
  9. ^ Engelhardt, NV, Kappeler, PM, and Heistermann, M (2000). "Androgen levels and female social dominance in Lemur catta". Proc. R. Soc. Lond. B 267: 1539–1553. 
  10. ^ Young, AL, Richard, AF, and Aiello, LC (1990). "Female Dominance and Maternal Invesment in Strepsirhine Primates". The American Naturalist 135: 473–488. doi:10.1086/285057. 
  11. ^ a b Dunham, AE (2008). "Battle of the sexes: Cost asymmetry explains female dominance in lemurs". Animal Behavior 76: 1435–1439. doi:10.1016/j.anbehav.2008.06.018. 
  12. ^ Parker, GA, and Rubenstein, DI (1981). "Role assessment reserve strategy, and acquisition of information in asymmetric animal contests". Animal Behaviour 26: 221–240. 
  13. ^ Lemurs Hunted, Eaten Amid Civil Unrest, Group Says. National Geographic News. August 21, 2009.
  14. ^ "Lemurs, Rare Forests Threatened by Madagascar Strife"

External links


1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

LEMUR (from Lat. lemures, " ghosts"), the name applied by Linnaeus to certain peculiar Malagasy representatives of the order PRIMATES which do not come under the designation of either monkeys or apes, and, with allied animals from the same island and tropical Asia and Africa, constitute the sub-order Prosimiae, or Lemuroidea, the characteristics of which are given in the article just mentioned. The typical lemurs include species like Lemur mongoz and L. catta, but the English name "lemur" is often taken to include all the members of the sub-order, although the aberrant forms are often conveniently termed "lemuroids." All the Malagasy lemurs, which agree in the structure of the internal ear, are now included in the family Lemuridae, confined to Madagascar and the Comoro Islands, which comprises the great majority of the group. The other families are the Nycticebidae, common to tropical Asia and Africa, and the Tarsiidae, restricted to the Malay countries. In the more typical Lemuridae there are two pairs of upper incisor teeth, separated by a gap in the middle line; the premolars may be either two or three, but the molars, as in the lower jaw, are always three on each side. In the lower jaw the incisors and canines are directed straight forwards, and are of small size and nearly similar form; the function of the canine being discharged by the first premolar, which is larger than the other teeth of the same series. With the exception of the second toe of the hind-foot, the digits have well-formed, flattened nails as in the majority of monkeys. In the members of the typical genus Lemur, as well as in the allied Hapalemur and Lepidolemur, none of the toes or fingers are connected by webs, and all have the hind-limbs of moderate length, and the tail long. The maximum number of teeth is 36, there being typically two pairs of incisors and three of premolars in each jaw. In habits some of the species are nocturnal and others diurnal; but all subsist on a mixed diet, which includes birds, reptiles, eggs, insects and fruits. Most are arboreal, but the ring-tailed lemur (L. catta) often dwells among rocks. The species of the genus Lemur are diurnal, and may be recognized by the length of the muzzle, and the large tufted ears. In some cases, as in the black lemur (L. macaco) the two sexes are differently coloured; but in others, especially the ruffed lemur (L. varius), there is much individual variation in this respect, scarcely any two being alike. The gentle lemurs (Hapalemur) have a rounder head, with smaller ears and a shorter muzzle, and also a bare patch covered with spines on the fore-arm. The sportive lemurs (Lepidolemur) are smaller than the typical species of Lemur, and the adults generally lose their upper incisors. The head is short and conical, the ears large, round and mostly bare, and the tail shorter than the body. Like the gentle lemurs they are nocturnal. (See AVAHI, AYE-AYE, GALAGO, INDRI, LORIS, POTTO, SIFAKA and TARSIER.) (R. L.*)

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Up to date as of January 15, 2010

Definition from Wiktionary, a free dictionary

See also lemur



Wikipedia has an article on:



Proper noun


  1. (taxonomy) A taxonomic genus within the family Lemuridae — the ring-tailed lemur.
Wikispecies has information on:


See also

  • Lemur catta the only species

German Wikipedia has an article on:

Wikipedia de



Lemur m. (genitive Lemuren, plural Lemuren)

  1. lemur



Up to date as of January 23, 2010

From Wikispecies


Main Page
Cladus: Eukaryota
Supergroup: Unikonta
Cladus: Opisthokonta
Regnum: Animalia
Subregnum: Eumetazoa
Cladus: Bilateria
Cladus: Nephrozoa
Cladus: Deuterostomia
Phylum: Chordata
Subphylum: Vertebrata
Infraphylum: Gnathostomata
Superclassis: Tetrapoda
Classis: Mammalia
Subclassis: Theria
Infraclassis: Placentalia
Ordo: Primates
Subordo: Strepsirrhini
Infraordo: Lemuriformes
Superfamilia: Lemuroidea
Familia: Lemuridae
Genus: Lemur
Species: Lemur catta


Lemur Linnaeus, 1758

Type species: Lemur catta Linnaeus, 1758


  • Catta Link, 1806
  • Maki Muirhead, 1819
  • Mococo Lesson, 1878
  • Odorlemur Bolwig, 1961
  • Procebus Storr, 1780
  • Prosimia Boddaert, 1785.


  • Lemur on Mammal Species of the World.
    Don E. Wilson & DeeAnn M. Reeder (editors). 2005. Mammal Species of the World. A Taxonomic and Geographic Reference (3rd ed).
  • Linnaeus: Systema Naturae, 10th ed., 1: 30.
  • Mammal Species of the World, A Taxonomic and Geographic Reference, 3rd edition, 2005 ISBN 0801882214

Vernacular names

Deutsch: Katta
English: Ring-tailed Lemur
日本語: ワオキツネザル属
中文: 環尾狐猴

Simple English

File:Ring tailed lemur and
Ring-tailed Lemurs (Lemur catta) carrying twins
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Primates
Suborder: Strepsirrhini
Infraorder: Lemuriformes
Gray, 1821
  • Cheirogaleoidea
  • Lemuroidea

Lemurs are primates and prosimians (not monkeys). The word "lemur" comes from the Latin word lemures, which means "ghosts". This name refers to many of the nocturnal lemur species and their large eyes. Lemur may be any member of the four lemuriform families, but it is also the genus of one of the lemuriform species. There are two so-called flying lemurs, but they are not real lemurs.

Lemurs live only on the island of Madagascar and some smaller islands next to it, for example the Comoros. They weigh from 30g to the 10kg. Larger species have all become extinct since human groups moved to Madagascar. Usually, the smaller lemurs are active at night (nocturnal), and the larger ones are active during the day (diurnal).


Physical description

Lemurs are white and black with a ring tail. They are 1.5 meters in height and weigh 2 to 3.5 kilograms. They move quietly, usually at night, sometimes letting out eerie wailing cries, which some people think is the reason why they got their names.

Feeding habits and Life

Lemurs mostly eat fruit, leaves, and other plant parts. They live in a family troop of 5 to 42 members. Females are dominant and remain in the same troop for life. Males move between troops. The female's gestation period lasts four to five months, and they usually bear one or two offspring. Lemur mothers nurse their babies until they are about four months old. Then they begin to feed the babies solid food such as fruit. Lemurs spend most of their time in the trees. Some are fantastic leapers, flinging themselves from treetop to treetop. Lemurs live for about 27 years. [1]


Lemurs communicate with a variety of hoots. They will also send messages with scents. When a male lemur wants to drive away another male, it first rubs its tail on the smelly glands under its arms and then waves the tail in the other male's face. These are called "stink fights".


Today, there are approximately 32-35 living lemur species. All lemurs are endangered species, because people destroy their habitat and hunt them.


  1. Blue Planet, Level 5, by Dinorah Pous p.76
  • Groves C. Wilson D.E. and Reeder D.M. (eds) 2005 . Mammal species of the world, 3rd edition, 111-121, Johns Hopkins University Press. ISBN 0-801-88221-4.

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