Lemuridae is a family of prosimian primates native to Madagascar, and one of four families commonly known as lemurs. These animals were thought to be the evolutionary predecessors of monkeys and apes, but this is no longer considered correct. The family gets its name from the Ancient Roman belief that the animals were ghosts or spirits ('lemures'), because many species are nocturnal.
Lemurids are medium-sized arboreal primates, ranging from 32 to 56 cm in length, excluding the tail, and weighing from 0.7 to 5 kg. They have long, bushy, tails, and soft, woolly fur of varying coloration. The hindlegs are slightly longer than the forelegs, although not enough to hamper fully quadrupedal
movement (unlike the sportive lemurs
). Most species are highly agile, and regularly leap several metres between trees. They have a good sense of smell
and binocular vision
. Unlike most other lemurs, all but one species of lemurid (the Ring-tailed Lemur
) lack a tapetum lucidum
, a reflective layer in the eye that improves night vision.
Lemurids are herbivorous, eating fruit, leaves, and, in some cases, nectar. They have the dental formula:
With most lemurids, the mother gives birth to one or two young after a gestation period of between 120 and 140 days, depending on species. Though the ruffed lemur species are the only lemurids that have true litters, consisting of anywhere from 2 to 6 offspring. They are generally sociable animals, living in groups of up to thirty individuals in some species. In some cases, such as the Ring-tailed Lemur, the groups are long-lasting, with distinct dominance hierarchies, while in others, such as the Common Brown Lemur, the membership of the groups varies from day to day, and seems to have no clear social structure.
The family Lemuridae contains 5 genera
, and 19 species.
- ORDER PRIMATES
- Suborder Strepsirrhini: non-tarsier prosimians
- Family Cheirogaleidae: dwarf and mouse lemurs
- Family Lemuridae
- Subfamily Lemurinae
- Genus Lemur
- Genus Eulemur : brown lemurs
- Black Lemur, Eulemur macaco
- Common Brown Lemur, Eulemur fulvus
- Sanford's Brown Lemur, Eulemur sanfordi
- White-headed Lemur, Eulemur albifrons
- Red-fronted Brown Lemur, Eulemur rufus
- Collared Brown Lemur, Eulemur collaris
- White-collared Brown Lemur, Eulemur albocollaris
- Mongoose Lemur, Eulemur mongoz
- Crowned Lemur, Eulemur coronatus
- Red-bellied Lemur, Eulemur rubriventer
- Genus Varecia : ruffed lemurs
- Subfamily Hapalemurinae
- Family Lepilemuridae: sportive lemurs
- Family Indriidae: woolly lemurs, sifakas, and allies
- Family Daubentoniidae: Aye-aye
- Family Lorisidae: lorises, pottos and allies
- Family Galagidae: galagos
- Suborder Haplorrhini: tarsiers, monkeys and apes
Genus Lemur has only one member: Lemur catta, or the Ring-tailed Lemur. It is easily recognized by its black and white striped tail, and is found in many zoos.
Lemur species in the Eulemur are known to interbreed, despite having dramatically different chromosome numbers. Red-fronted (2N=60) and Collared (2N=50-52) Brown Lemurs were found to hybridize at Berenty Reserve, Madagascar.