The lemur monkey is a type of prosimian, which means it is a primate animal that has evolved before monkeys and apes. Lemur animals are more primitive than their cousins but they share some similar characteristics. Lemurs are found in only one area on Earth and that is Madagascar and the nearby Comoro Island.
The lemur monkey is considered the most endangered group of mammals in the world. Today there are around 100 lemur species. Around 60 million years ago their lemur-like primate ancestor is thought to have rafted over to Madagascar from the continent of Africa. The original lemurs evolved to fill a large number of island’s varying niches.
Now that you have the answer for what is a Lemur, so, with no further delay, let's start knowing them better and understand the lifestyle, habits, structure, and types of lemur animal!
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Characteristics of a Lemur
If one does not know what a lemur was, one may guess that it was related to a cat, squirrel, mouse, or dog. Lemurs are usually small in size. Their face resembles somewhat a mouse’s face in smaller species or a fox’s face in larger species. Most of the lemur species have a snout. All of them have a wet and hairless nose with curved nostrils. This is unique among primates and makes the lemur monkeys superior to sniffers.
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Their hands and feet are tailor-made for living in the trees. Pads on their hands and feet help them to stick when they jump onto something. They have 5 fingers on the front and hind limbs. Some lemur species have longer hind limbs than forelimbs for jumping. Their tail is not prehensile. The tail varies in length, depending on the species. Lemurs may make their home or sleeping spot depending on their size. They make it in the tree hole, tree fork, or leaf nest.
Lemur monkeys range greatly in size from the pygmy mouse lemur to the indri. They have bright round eyes and soft fur that varies in color which depends on the species. The most common colors are white, gray, black, brown, and also red-brown. In some lemur species, males and females have distinct coloring. For instance, blue-eyed black lemur males are solid black whereas the females are reddish-brown.
Diurnal lemurs are very social and they like to live in family groups or troops. They follow the safety-in-numbers idea. They use an alarm call when a predator is spotted to inform the rest of the group. Nocturnal lemurs do not live in large groups as they have the cover of night to protect themselves. Some lemurs are active in the day as well as at night. Their primary predator is the fossa. They can fall prey to large boas, harrier hawks, and also introduced species.
Diet of Lemur Species
The diet of lemurs depends on their species. Small lemur species feed on fruit and insects while large species are usually herbivorous, chowing fruits, leaves, flowers, nectar, shoots, bark, and sap. At San Diego Zoo and San Diego Zoo Safari Park, the lemurs are fed nutritionally complete biscuits that are made especially for primates. They are also fed some fruits, vegetables, and greens.
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Family Life of Lemurs
Lemurs live in social groups and are led by the dominant female. The female decides where and when the group will move. In between eating and resting, they sometimes spend their time sunbathing or grooming. Lemurs use an elongated nail on the second toe known as toilet claw, finely spaced teeth as a tooth comb, for grooming.
Every kind of lemur has a strict breeding season. Depending on the species, the breeding season lasts from a few days to months. The number of young produced varies among species. They can range from 1 to 6. In various species, the infants cling to the belly of the mother for the first 3-4 weeks of life and then start to gradually spend time riding on Mom’s back. When they are 3-4 months of age, the mother encourages her babies to find other methods of transportation.
Lemur babies try solid foods when they are three to four weeks old and are weaned at 5-6 months. The infants of gray mouse lemur are unable to grasp onto the mother and are carried by mouth when being moved. Some lemur species first nest and then park them on a small branch in dense vegetation which keeps the little ones hidden from predators while the mother goes to search for food. This method of care works for about a month then the babies are mobile.
Communication Between Lemurs
Lemurs communicate through scents and vocalizations. The sounds vary with species. Grunts like the sound are done by the brown lemurs and sifaka, loud alarm calls and sounds that sound like the mewing of a cat are by the ring-tailed lemurs, chirps are of mouse lemurs, and wailing calls that are reminiscent of whale songs are of indri. Lemurs rely on their sense of smell. They leave scent markings to communicate with each other. They rarely use physical signals as a method of communication. Lemurs lack facial muscles that other primates use to communicate with facial expressions.
The ring-tailed lemurs use their tail for communication which is held up for other lemurs to see it in the brush. Male ring-tailed lemurs fight by rubbing their wrist scent glands all over the tail, then waving in front of each other’s face.
Types of Lemurs
If we talk about the Lemur species then there are many more species of Lemurs than one can realize. It is said that there are at least 99 species that still survive including subspecies. It is also believed that many have already gone extinct millions of years ago.
Conservation of Lemur Monkey
To save lemurs, the forest left for their habitat needs to be protected. San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance has a study site in Maromizaha, which is a rainforest in eastern Madagascar. It is to study aye-ayes. To know about the natural behavior of lemurs camera traps are used. The cameras monitor lemur and other wildlife activities.
There are at least 13 lemur species in the Maromizaha area. Also, other conservation scientists work with local educators for teaching students about the native wildlife.
Madagascar is a biodiversity hotspot and popular location for ecotourism. To see the distinctive and amazing wildlife people travel to the island, and their visits help the local people. This can be used to encourage the locals to save the forests for ecotourism purposes.