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Lemur facts

Lemurs are primates that live exclusively on the African island of Madagascar. They live in the trees and are known for being very active at night. They eat fruits and vegetation that are native to Madagascar. Lemurs are primates, just like monkeys, apes, and humans. The most noticeable difference between lemurs and monkeys is their size. Lemurs are significantly smaller than most monkeys.

Lemur Facts for Kids

  • Lemurs are primates found only on Madagascar.
  • They eat mostly fruit, but also leaves, flowers, tree bark, and sap.
  • In the wild, they can live for up to 15 years.
  • A Ring-tailed lemur can be 39 – 46 cm in length
  • Usually, they spend their time on the ground but like to climb trees.
  • In a single leap, a lemur can travel 25 feet.

Everything You Need To Know About Lemurs

1. There Are Many Species Of Lemur

It might be a surprise to some of you, but a Lemur isn’t a single species. There are actually plenty of different Lemur species: from the more commonly known Ring-Tailed Lemur and Red Ruffed Lemur to the Indri Lemur and Aye-Aye Lemur, there are plenty of variations.

The smallest of which actually has an average weight of just 30grams – the Dwarf Mouse Lemur – so the difference between the species can literally be huge!

2. Their Tails Are Unique

There’s a common myth that Lemurs hang from their tails – it’s understandable given their curved shape, they certainly look perfect for swinging from branches in the trees, but actually, Lemurs don’t use their tails in that way at all.

But that doesn’t mean they aren’t fascinating! Most Lemur’s tails are longer than their body, but some have small tails, leading many people to fail to recognize that they are Lemur at all! Their tails do still help with jumping through the trees, acting as a sort of rudder to propel them further, but they don’t actually use them to swing as many believe.

3. They Are Perfectly Suited To The Forest Environment

You can find most lemurs in the world in the forests of Madagascar (hence the lemur character from the DreamWorks movie of the same name). Lemurs thrive in forests though, living amongst the trees is perfect for them.

In fact, they can jump distances six times their body length. Perhaps that’s where the misconception about the tails comes in – because it’s difficult for us to imagine them jumping that far without a little help from their tails.

4. Lemurs Are The Most Endangered Mammals In The World

Lemurs, as a group, are the most endangered mammals in the world. Let that sink in a moment. Lemurs actually thrived on their island paradise for years before humans discovered them 2000 years ago.

Now we have destroyed around 90% of their natural forest habitat, and it’s the lemurs that are suffering from our actions. Predictions vary on how quickly they may become extinct without a change in behavior, but we could see the extinction of these beautiful creatures in our own life without the proper intervention.

5. As A Group, They’re Remarkably Strong

We don’t want this article to focus too heavily on their endangered status, but it is important. As a bit of reassurance, when looking at predators that they find in the wild, lemurs are surprisingly strong. Groups of lemurs are known as a conspiracy, and for a good reason too! They work together to defend themselves against predators.

If their warning calls and distress signals don’t send a predator away, then lemurs are known to attack as a group. And when those seemingly harmless animals join as a mob, the predator stands very little chance of walking away unharmed, if at all.

6. Their Limbs Are Fascinating

So many people simply think of their tails when thinking of lemurs, but did you know their hind legs, hands, and feet are incredibly powerful? It is their hind legs that give them all the power when making those enormous leaps we spoke about earlier, and their hands and feet are remarkably good at gripping, so they rarely miss their mark when jumping from branch to branch amongst the trees.

7. They Are Not Monkeys

It’s easy to make a mistake, they certainly act like monkeys and look like monkeys, but they are, in fact, primates. We split primates into two distinct groups – wet-nosed and dry-nosed, and lemurs are part of the wet-nosed camp.

The scientific name for wet-nosed primates such as lemurs is ‘prosimians,’ which literally translates to ‘before monkeys.’ That’s right, and lemurs evolved millions of years before the monkeys did, so they are actually a much older and very distinct primate from other monkeys. In fact, they are the oldest primates in the world! Even older than us humans!

8. Their Scent Glands Are Important, But Not Fully Understood

During moments of conflict between males, they will get into what is known as a ‘stink fight.’ This is where males rub their tails against scent glands on their chest and wrists and then wave their tails at one another.

Scientists know for certain that the animals do this to spread their scent, almost like a dog marking their territory when they urinate, but exactly how the winner of the ‘fight’ is decided, scientists aren’t clear. But the mystery surrounding the ritual of a ‘stink fight’ is pretty exciting, and who knows? Maybe one day it will be understood.

9. They Have A Limited Mating Season

During mating seasons, which occur between late April and early June for Ring-Tailed Lemurs (they do vary between species), female lemurs only come into season for around 24 hours.

During this time, she will seek multiple male partners to increase the likelihood of pregnancy. Once the breeding season is over, the females will have their young between August and September, as the rainy season begins in Madagascar.

This means that food sources are ampler, and mothers can feed more easily whilst caring for their young.

10. Females Are In Charge

Almost all lemur groups are run by a single female. She is usually older and determines the activities of the group. Lemurs have clear hierarchies within their groups too, but they see even the weakest female as more important than the strongest male.

Whenever conflicts arise between two groups, it is the females that will fight, although lemurs respect the territory of opposing groups, so this sort of conflict is rare. Females also always stay with the group they were born into, but males must leave for neighboring groups when they are over three years old.

11. The Dry Season Effects Their Diet

Lemurs mostly feed on fruit, plants, and seeds found in the forests where they live. But when the dry season comes, lemurs rely heavily on seeds. This is because the lack of rain makes fruit and plants harder to come by, but seeds that fall to the ground from the forest trees awaiting the wet season’s arrival are easy pickings for lemurs. They are remarkably adaptable!

12. They Sunbathe

A bit of a fun one to finish on, but lemurs actually sunbathe. In the mornings, they can often be found on the forest floor, sitting peacefully and exposing their chest to the warm morning sun. In fact, they often do this as a group activity – so people can easily stumble upon a group of morning sunbathing lemurs in Madagascar!

Frequently Asked Questions

Can lemurs swim

They are not great swimmers, but they can swim in order to escape predators.

Why do lemurs have striped tails?

Lemurs use their tail as a signal to communicate mood and intention—depending on how the tail is positioned, it conveys a different message.

Are lemurs dangerous

They have sharp teeth and can inflict a nasty bite. However, they are not aggressive animals.

Are lemurs smart

Lemurs are not as intelligent as monkeys or apes, and their intelligence level varies from species to species. They can solve problems using objects they know how to use, but this is a rarity.

Where can I find Lemurs in the wild?

The long-tailed Lemur is found in Madagascar. Their habitats include dry deciduous forests, spiny forests, rain forests, wetlands, and mountains.

Are lemurs in Danger

Lemurs are mainly threatened by habitat loss by deforestation and habitat degradation. They are also affected by hunting and the illegal pet trade. Though they are not endangered yet, IUCN listed that all of the lemur species in the world are at least threatened.