Lemurs are wet-nosed mammals native only to Madagascar. Most are small and arboreal, spending most of their lives in trees. Their name derives from lemure, which stands for ghosts or spirits in Latin. Their stint on trees, nocturnal activities, haunting stares, and prominent vocalization may have earned these mammals their name.

Scientific Classification


Scientific Classification


Madagascar is known for its seasonal climate, with hot, rainy season between November and April, and cold dry season between May and October. Hence, lemurs have exhibited an increased level of species diversity than other primate groups. The early lemurs that existed 2000 years ago, replicated the size of a gorilla. Their is diversity in size at present too, with some as small as 1.10z, while the big species weighing about 20lbs. Besides, different species would even exhibit varied behaviors, adaptation techniques, and locomotion.

They are very social, communicating with scents and vocalizations rather than with visual signals. Though most are herbivorous, the dietary patterns of different lemur species vary considerably.

Types of Lemur

List of the Common Types of Lemur Species

There are around 100 species of lemurs available throughout the world. Here are some common species:

  • Ring-tailed Lemur
  • Aye-aye
  • Sifaka
  • Mouse Lemur
  • Indri
  • Hairy-eared Dwarf Lemur
  • Giant Mouse Lemur
  • Fork-marked Lemur
  • Wooly Lemur
  • Sportive Lemur
  • Bamboo Lemur
  • Ruffed Lemur
  • Giant Bamboo Lemur

Physical Description and Appearance


Size: Length: 3.5-28 inches (9-70 cm)

Mouse lemurs are the smallest lemur species, with the Madame Berthe’s mouse lemur measuring3.5 inches. The indri is the longest at 28 inches.

Weight: 1.1 oz – 20 lb. (30 g – 9 kg)

The indri is the heaviest lemur at 20 pounds, while mouse lemurs are the lightest at 1.1 oz.

Body and Coloration: Most modern lemurs are small. Their faces look like a fox in larger species or a mouse in smaller species. The nose is wet and hairless, and their lower jaw can freely move. They have four limbs with pseudo-opposable thumbs. Their tails are not prehensile, unlike the New World primates. They have a toothcomb made up of six finely spaced teeth, consisting of four incisors and two canines that tilt forward.

The most common body colors of the lemur are black, brown, grey, red-brown, and white.

Where are they found

All living species of lemurs are currently found on the island of Madagascar.


Lemur Habitat
Lemur Images

These primates reside in different habitats in Madagascar, including dry deciduous forests, mountains, rainforests, spiny forests, and wetlands.

How long do they live

The lifespan of lemurs depends on the species. For instance, ring-tailed lemurs usually live 16-19 years in the wild, while sifakas live for 25-30 years.

Lemur Animal

What do they eat

Smaller lemurs feed on fruit, insects, or sap. In contrast, the larger ones are primarily herbivorous, sustaining on a diet consisting of plant material like bark, flowers, fruits, leaves, nectar, and shoots.


  • They are docile creatures and social by nature, with some species living in groups of 10 or so, called troops. Members of the group watch out for predators and warm each other while sleeping.
  • Depending on the species, lemurs can be diurnal or nocturnal. However, several lemurs are cathemeral, i.e., their activity is dependent on other factors like acquiring food or interacting with others instead of the time of day.
  • Diurnal lemurs are social and live in permanent groups, while nocturnal ones show both solitary and social behavior. Other types of groupings have also been observed. These include multiple members of the same gender, mating pairs, and “fission-fusion” groups where they sleep together and split up into smaller groups when foraging.
  • Some lemur species such as fat-tailed dwarf lemurs hibernate for up to seven months during the dry season when food is scarcer.
  • Lemurs are often seen vertical clinging to trees and leaping between them to get around. They also move about on the ground on four legs.
  • Communication among lemurs occurs both verbally via alarm calls and non-verbally through grooming and scent-markings.


Natural predators of the lemur include the birds of prey such as Harrier-hawks and buzzards, alongside fossas, large boas, as well as introduced species like cats and dogs.

Lemur Eyes
Lemur Teeth


  • Except for the aye-aye, all lemur species have a tooth comb made of six fused teeth on their lower jaw. They clean and maintain this “comb” with the help of a secondary tongue below their primary tongue called a sublingua.
  • The arms and legs of most lemurs are strong enough to allow them to leap from tree to tree, as well as climb and swim easily.
  • They have keen senses, but the most notable is their strong sense of smell, allowing them to locate food and detect predators.
  • Lemurs have pouches in their throat to store pre-digested food.

How do they reproduce

Most lemurs are seasonal breeders with small mating periods, influenced by the availability of resources like food. The mating season lasts for three weeks, during which the female’s vagina opens for a few hours each day.

Mating is either monogamous or promiscuous for both males and females, with scent marking playing a considerable role in mate selection. Males fight with each other using their stink to attract a mate.

Baby Lemur
Lemur Pups

Life Cycle

The gestation period is 18-24 weeks in most lemurs, though it is around 9-10 weeks in the mouse and dwarf lemurs. Smaller species usually give birth to 1-2 babies, while the larger species like the ring-tailed lemur undergo single births.

Once the offspring are born, the adults carry them around or stash them while foraging. The infants cling to the mother’s fur while moving or are held in her mouth by the scruff. In most lemur species, except the sportive lemurs and aye-aye, the young are often nursed by females other than their mother. Even non-parent males care for infants in certain species like the mongoose lemur and the silky sifaka.


Almost all species of lemur are at risk owing to their limited range. Since 1927, the Malagasy environment has placed all lemurs under protection. The main threat to most lemurs is habitat loss and fragmentation.

Lemurs– FAQs

1. Are lemurs monkeys?

While lemurs are primates, they are not classified as monkeys.

2. Are lemurs prosimians?

Primates are categorized into two suborders, prosimians and anthropoids. Lemurs are prosimians, while monkeys, apes, and humans are anthropoids.

3. Are lemurs dangerous?

Lemurs can aggressively bite and scratch at times when threatened, but they are not overly dangerous.

4. Can lemurs see in the dark?

They can see well enough at night, but they rely more on their sense of smell.

5. Do lemurs skip?

When moving on the ground, their movements resemble skipping.

6. Are lemurs smart?

They are quite intelligent, capable of performing simple arithmetic and using tools to do tasks.

8. Do lemurs have whiskers?

The muzzle of the lemur has a set of sensitive whiskers called vibrissae.

9. How long do lemurs sleep?

Lemurs can sleep for up to 16 hours a day. They only wake up to feed and interact with each other.

10.What is a group of lemurs called?

A group of lemurs is called a conspiracy.

Lemur Tongue
Pictures of Lemurs

Interesting Facts

  • All species of lemur hold a special role in Malagasy culture. For instance, there are taboos called fady surrounding species like the aye-aye, which is considered bad luck, and the indri, which is regarded as “the ancestor of man”.
  • The animated movie series Madagascar features the lemurs King Julien, Maurice, and Mort, which helped raise the popularity of the species in the western world, with over 400 million people seeing the animated properties worldwide.
  • There were once lemurs the size of gorillas, such as Archaeoindris fontoynontii, that are extinct in the present day. It is estimated that it went extinct due to habitat loss and hunting by early man.