Lemur, a small furred animal. The name lemur is applied to many animals, including true lemurs, dwarf lemurs, mouse lemurs, weasel (or sportive) lemurs, and the flying lemur. The name lemur is also sometimes applied to certain other animals, including the aye-aye and the indri. This article discusses only those animals of the primate order that are commonly called lemurs—the true, dwarf, mouse, and weasel lemurs. For the others,
Lemurs live on Madagascar and the nearby Comoro Islands. They have slender bodies covered with soft, thick fur that varies in color and markings. Most lemurs are reddish, brown, gray, or black. The ring-tailed lemur, or Madagascar cat, is brownish gray on its back, and its tail is ringed with black and white. The fork-marked lemur is reddish or brownish gray with black streaks from its eyes to the top of its head, where they join to form a stripe down its back. The greater weasel lemur is brown or gray on its back and has white or yellow underparts.
Lemurs vary widely in size. The smallest are the dwarf lemurs and mouse lemurs about 5 inches (13 cm) long; the largest is the ruffed lemur, about 24 inches (60 cm) long. Other large lemurs are the brown and gentle lemurs, from 14 to 18 inches (34 to 45 cm) long. (All lengths given are for the body only; lemurs' tails are as long as or longer than their bodies.) Lemurs have nails on all fingers and toes except the second toe, which has a claw. Some lemurs have ridged pads on their palms and the soles of their feet, and some also have pads underneath the tips of their fingers and toes. Certain species have foxlike faces, but most have short muzzles and large, close-set eyes.
Most lemurs live in trees, leaping nimbly from branch to branch. They are frequently heard making shrill or grunting noises. Some are active during the day, others at night. They feed mainly on vegetation, but some also eat honey, insects, and birds. Most lemurs live in groups. Lemurs typically give birth in a tree hollow lined with a nest of leaves. A lemur produces one to four young, once or twice a year.
All true, dwarf, mouse, and weasel lemurs are endangered because the forests in which they live are being destroyed for timber and farming purposes.
True lemurs belong to the family Lemuridae. This family includes the gentle lemurs, Hapalemur griseus and H. simus; the ring-tailed lemur, Lemur catta; the brown lemur, L. fulvus; and the ruffed lemur, Varecia variegata. Dwarf and mouse lemurs belong to the family Cheirogaleidae. Dwarf lemurs include Allocebus trichotis, Cheirogaleus major, C. medius, and Mirza coquereli; mouse lemurs include Microcebus murinus and M. rufus. The fork-marked lemur, Phaner furcifer, also belongs to the family Cheirogaleidae. Weasel lemurs belong to the family Lepilemuridae, or Megaladapidae. The greater weasel lemur is Lepilemur mustelinus.