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Lemurs: interesting facts and misconceptions (lemur)


Lemurs live only on the island of Madagascar and the nearby Comoros (located between Madagascar and Africa). There are many types of lemurs, which vary significantly in size, weight and appearance. So, some dwarf lemurs weigh only 30 grams, while among the indri lemurs there are individuals reaching 10 kg.


Why are lemurs only found in Madagascar?

In the evolutionary sequence, the prosimians, which include lemurs, are a form that precedes apes and humans. On all continents, semi-monkeys are almost completely replaced by their more evolutionarily developed offspring. But in Madagascar, they have survived to the present day due to the isolation of the island over the past 40 million years, since the higher primates could not get here. The huge diversity of lemurs in Madagascar is explained by the fact that they have occupied all the ecological niches that are potentially suitable for monkeys, while other prosimians in Africa and Asia occupy only their own ecological niches.


How many types of lemurs are there?

It is not known exactly, but the number of known or distinct lemur species has increased dramatically in recent years. So back in 1999, 31 species were classified as lemurs, in 2008 there were already 97 of them. To date, the number of lemur species has grown over a hundred, and this complex classification process continues.

We have already talked about the most unusual types of lemurs earlier in our articles. This is for example:

The most common and most famous species is the ring-tailed lemur (or katta). Its Madagascar name is maquis. Lemur "King Julian" from the famous cartoon "Madagascar" is just a ring-tailed lemur. We will talk about it briefly and further.

Lemurs: interesting facts and misconceptions (ring-tailed lemur)



Interesting Facts About Ring-tailed Lemurs

Ring-tailed lemurs are comparable in size to cats. The body length is from 38 to 45 cm, and the black and white striped tail reaches a length of 63 cm (there are 13 black and white stripes on the tail). The weight of ring-tailed lemurs can reach 3,5 kg, while the weight of the tail can be more than 1,5 kg!

Interesting fact

The tail is excellent for allowing the ring-tailed lemur to balance while sitting on a thin bough. It also plays an important role in balancing jumps. In social behavior, the striped tail of lemurs is of great importance. If the ring-tailed lemur walks on the ground, it holds its tail upright for better visibility. With the help of the tail, the males conduct the so-called "stink fights". They lubricate the tail with secrets from the armpits and protrude it towards the opponent. Thus, disputes about ranks in the social hierarchy are resolved and the area is protected against foreign groups. Because of the tail, the animal received the English name "Ring-tailed lemur" (ring-tailed lemur).

Of all the lemurs, ring-tailed lemurs spend the most time on the ground, an adaptation to the partially arid environment. Ring-tailed lemurs, like many other species of lemurs, are active at night (perhaps for this reason the word "lemurs" from Latin lemures is translated as "spirits of the night", "ghosts").

They lead a very social lifestyle, found in groups of 20 to 30 individuals. Within the groups, a strict hierarchy reigns, the leaders are mainly females. They have the pre-emptive right in choosing food and a partner. While females usually stay in the groups they were born into, males repeatedly move to new groups. The family group occupies an area of ​​6 to 23 hectares.

Ring-tailed lemurs give birth to one cub at a time, and occasionally twins are also found. In the first months, females carry their cubs on their stomach, later on their backs. At the age of 5-6 months, the cubs become independent. Life expectancy of ring-tailed lemurs in the natural environment rarely exceeds 16 years. The record lifespan in captivity is 27 years.

The food of lemurs consists mainly of fruits, in addition to this, their menu includes leaves, flowers, herbaceous plants, cacti, and occasionally insects.

Every day, lemurs walk around their territory in search of food. They show aggression towards strangers. To keep warm, ring-tailed lemurs willingly sit in the sun (especially in the morning) and enjoy its warmth, spreading their paws to the sides – this is similar to a yoga pose for relaxation.

Lemurs: interesting facts and misconceptions (ring-tailed lemur)


Lemurs: interesting facts and misconceptions (ring-tailed lemur)



Misconceptions about lemurs

You will learn more interesting facts and theories about the appearance and life of lemurs in Madagascar from interesting documentary videos at the end of this article. And now we will dispel a couple of myths about lemurs. More recently, it was believed that only people can be left-handed and right-handed, and for lower primates there is no difference. But it turns out it's not.

Scientists who studied lemurs in Madagascar conducted an interesting experiment. They examined 33 animals kept in captivity. Of these, 20 turned out to be left-handed, 12 used the right paw, and only one used both equally deftly.

One of the varieties of these animals, and most similar to monkeys, is the sifaka. This animal has phenomenal jumping ability. According to some zoologists, during the jump, he plans, pulling like a sail, a skin fold with his upper limbs and chest. Due to this "adaptation" he manages to make giant leaps. Interesting facts about sifak mi were told in our article here ☛.

However, this is misleading. The truth was established by the English naturalist David Ettenborough. Here is what he writes:

Sifaka sat just at the top of the tree. When retreating, she would either have to jump down to another branch, or jump to the neighboring didieria, and it was six meters away, no less.

We moved the cameras a little to the side, taking the most advantageous position, and Georges took a decisive step towards the animal. Sifaka looked at him with wide eyes, shouted 3-4 times, after which... her courage left her. She got up and With a sharp push off with her hind legs, she soared into the air. In flight, she threw forward all four paws, preparing to cling to the trunk of a neighboring diderea. The body of the animal was in a vertical position, the tail fluttered. Here a distinct slap was heard – the sifaka reached the goal and grabbed the trunk with its front paws. The acrobat looked over her shoulder triumphantly at us. There could be no doubt, a phenomenal jump was achieved only due to the push of the hind legs, and there was no planning.

How sifaks carry out such jumps, we have already shown in the material "Jumping sifakas | Lemur dances".

Lemurs: interesting facts and misconceptions (sifaka)


The following documentaries will tell you more interesting facts about lemurs.


Madagascar: Lemur Island Legend

In the video player, you can turn on subtitles and select their translation into any language in the settings


Lemur Island: Madagascar


Madagascar: a distant world

In the video player, you can turn on subtitles and select their translation into any language in the settings