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Fun Facts about Lemurs

  • Madagascar is the fourth largest island in the world, located off the east coast of Africa and is about the size of Texas. Habitats on this huge island vary from tropical forests to dry deserts, and lemurs have adapted to survive in these diverse habitats.
  • There are 50 to 100 species of lemurs in Madagascar (higher if considering recently discovered subspecies).
  • Most lemurs are frugivores with diets of primarily fruits. They also eat plants and, on occasions, will even eat bugs.
  • Lemurs are arboreal, meaning they spend most of their time in trees. The exception are ring-tailed lemurs spend more time on the ground than any other lemur species.
  • Lemurs are a type of primate known as prosimians. Prosimian means “before monkeys or apes.”  They have traits more similar to the earliest primates than monkeys, apes and humans.
  • Lemurs live in groups called troops. A ring-tailed lemur troop may have up to 20 lemurs, the largest troop of any lemur species.
  • Lemurs are quite social and the troops have clearly defined male and female hierarchies.
  • Unlike most social mammals, lemur females have dominance over male lemurs.
  • Lemurs have scent glands on their forearms they use for “stink fights” with other males. They wipe their tails across these glands and waive their tails over their heads at each other.
  • Lemurs use their long tails for many forms of communication. Ring-tailed lemurs walk with their tails held high in the air when moving to keep the troop (group) together.
  • The hands and feet of a lemur look very similar to humans. Their palms are covered with smooth skin, and they even have fingerprints.
  • Ring-tailed lemurs have a distinctive "sunning" posture where they sit upright on their haunches, spread-eagle, and rest their forearms on their knees, exposing their undersides to direct sunlight.
  • The smallest lemur is the pygmy mouse lemur which weighs just 1 oz.
  • Giant lemurs, the size of gorillas, went extinct over the last 2,000 years. Now the largest lemur species is the Indri and they can weigh as much as 15 pounds.
  • A female lemur carries her newborn in her mouth until the baby is able to cling to the fur on its mother's stomach or back.
  • The babies ride on their mother’s back until they are about 3-4 months of age.
  • A lemur's soft, broad fingers and toes have flat nails that allow it to grip objects and groom other lemurs.
  • Some lemurs hibernate when food is scarce in given seasons to survive harsh conditions. The fat-tailed mouse lemur can hibernate up to 7 months each year.

Island of Lemurs: Madagascar is made possible by General Motors Foundation, the Presenting Partner in support of STEM Learning.