16 Lemur Facts and Different Types of Lemurs

The lemur is adorable. They’re cute, funny, and weirdly human-like. While not as closely linked to humans as chimps and other apes, they are nevertheless related to us. Here are some awesome facts about these creatures!

Scientific name: Lemuroidea
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Primates

1. Lemurs are not monkeys

Primates are divided into 2 groups: wet-nosed and dry-nosed primates. Apes and monkeys belong to the dry-nosed primates include, while wet-nosed primates include lemurs, galagos, and lorises. Wet-nosed primates are known as prosimians because they developed independently and millions of years before monkeys. In fact, lemurs are the world’s oldest primates.

Unlike monkeys, lemurs, as well as other promians, lacks a flexible face. Their nose is moist, their eyes focus more on peripheral vision and less on stereoscopic concentration. They primarily depend on the sense of smell, instead of vision.

A group of lemurs

They have been around for almost 70 million years, long before humans. This was a time when the first primates on the planet – prehistoric lemur – coexisted with dinosaurs in Africa. It’s believed that these animals rafted over the Indian Ocean to the island of Madagascar 65 million years ago on floating vegetation. Over the next ten million years, they evolved and expanded into the 112 species today.

However, since humans arrived in Madagascar, at least 17 giant species have gone extinct. For example, Megaladapis edwardsi (or Koala Lemur) weighed up to 200 pounds (90kg) and had the size of a tiny adult human. Or the biggest primate – Archaeoindris fontoynontii – had a size of a male gorilla.

The 29th of October is World Lemur Day! These extraordinary creatures are the most endangered of all primates. 

2. Types of Lemur

Lemurs are members of the prosimians family. This is a primate subspecies that comprises bushbabies, tarsiers, and lorises. Prosimians are distinguished from other primates such as monkeys and apes by their long tail, pointed snouts, and huge ears.

There are around 112 different species, including sportive lemurs (Lepilemuridae), mouse and dwarf lemurs (Cheirogaleidae), aye-ayes (Daubentoniidae), ruffed, ring-tailed, and bamboo lemurs (Lemuridae); and indri, sifakas and woolly lemurs (Indriidae).

These creatures come in a variety of shapes and sizes.

The pygmy mouse lemur is the smallest species of all. At barely 5 inches from head to tail, this tiny, wide-eyed species is the smallest existing primate. As nocturnal creatures, they forage at night, utilizing their keen night vision and strong senses of smell to pull insects off tree limbs and rustle through the undergrowth in search of beetles and grubs.

Indri: With a weight of up to 25 pounds, the Indri is the largest species. They are known as “Babakoto,” which translates to “little father,” since locals believe they are our direct ancestors. They communicate across the forest with loud and whale-like sounds.

Sifakas are the icon of Madagascar. They are outstanding climbers and leapers with thin, long limbs, and bodies. They bounce around the woods like little Parkour runners, bouncing off tree trunks with their long, frog-like rear legs.

Aye-Aye generates strong superstition in regions of Madagascar, owing to their hideous appearance—not just the demon face, but also their slender digits. Aye-ayes have long, spindly hands, the third finger on each hand is even slenderer than the rest, and it swivels 360 degrees thanks to a ball-and-socket joint.

They developed this finger for “percussive foraging”. This is a hunting tactic in which they tap on tree bark, searching for the sound of tunnels where insects can hide. When one is found, the aye-aye cuts a hole in the wood with its strong teeth and then reaches inside with its long fingers.

Some Madagascar folklore depicts the aye-aye as a beast. One theory holds that it curses individuals to death by using its long finger to point at those people. Another theory holds that aye-ayes creep into houses at night and stab human hearts with that long finger.

The aye-ayes are killed for many reasons. People kill them because they feel these creatures are dangerous, they kill them for bushmeat or other purposes such as cultivation.

Because of new discoveries and genetic testing, the number of species varies frequently.

These animals inspire many television series like All Hail King Julien or Zoboomafoo. Characters in these series are lemur species:
– In All Hail King Julien, Mort is a mouse lemur, Maurice is the aye-aye, Clover is the crowned lemur, and King Julien is the ring-tailed.
– In Zoboomafoo, Jovia (5/4/1994 – 10/11/2014) was a Coquerel’s sifaka.

3. They are native to Madagascar

These animals can only be found in Madagascar and the nearby Comoro Islands. The island of Madagascar is located 250 miles off the eastern coast of Africa. This place is one of the most important biodiversity areas on the planet! A major large amount of its wildlife is found exclusively here. However, human activities endanger much of the wildlife.

Two lemur species, the brown lemur and the mongoose lemur, were brought by humans and now they exist on the Comoros islands, a volcanic group of islands off Madagascar’s northwestern coast.

Lemurs are small creatures. In smaller species, its face resembles the face of a mouse, whereas in larger species, it looks like the face of a fox. Most types have snouts, as well as a moist, hairless nose with curled nostrils.

Lemurs cannot swim well and rarely enter waters. Their long back limbs allow them to leap, not swim. With long hind limbs, they are excellent leapers. However, one type of bamboo lemur knows how to swim, which is (Alaotran) gentle lemur.

4. Their society is run by females

It’s very unusual to see female mammals dominate group hierarchies. However, this is normal in lemur groups, as well as orcas, meerkats, and spotted hyenas.

Females rule in lemur society! They use different scents to identify their territories much as males do. Typically, one mature female is in control, determining when the group moves, eats or rests. Even the lowest-ranking female dominates all of the males in the group. Males frequently do not eat their meals until the females have finished.

Females also bite their partners, steal a portion of food from males, beat them in the head, force them out of good resting places, and do physical hostility. Furthermore, depending on the species, males behave differently toward females. The male ring-tailed is constantly subordinate to females, whereas male crowned lemurs are only obedient when females are violent.

Females, according to some experts, dominate their society because they have a larger resource need and are often equal to males in fighting abilities.

5. Lifestyle

Some lemurs are entirely arboreal, they live in high trees. The others, such as the ring-tailed, spend most of their lives living on the ground. Diurnal lemurs, such as the Indri and Sifaka, are quite sociable; they live in groups and interact with each other through many calls. Whereas nocturnal species, such as the aye-aye, are solitary creatures.

These creatures are very athletic. They leap from tree to tree by pushing their long, strong, and frog-like legs against the tree trunk to catapult for 30 feet (9 meters) in a single jump. They can jump 6 times their body length with ease.

Lemurs are sluggish slackers, they sleep 16 hours per day. In their waking time, they eat and stay alone. When it’s time to sleep, though, they join together to form sleep pods.

Regarding food, their diets differ between species. Smaller species frequently largely eat sap, fruit, or insects. On the other hand, larger species are primarily herbivorous, they consume flowers, nectar, bark, leaves, shoots, and fruits.

Besides grouping to sleep, these animals also join together and fight against predators with the “mobbing” method. In this technique, all members of the group gather on the ground and attack the target, such as snakes, until it’s dead.

Fossa which is Madagascar’s largest carnivore is their principal predator. They prey on the ring-tailed. Other animals like domestic dogs, large boas, and buzzards also eat lemurs occasionally.

The name “flying lemurs” is misleading. The Philippine flying lemur, also known as a colugo, cannot fly and is not a truly lemur. They can, however, glide amazing lengths between trees in the Southeast Asian woods where they live.  

6. They are not suitable to be pets

Some states in the United States, including North Carolina, make it totally legal to own endangered species like lemurs. All you need is a couple of thousand dollars and order it from online pet shops. However, you should think carefully before getting one.

They are dangerous and frequently hostile to humans. They can attack humans by grabbing, biting, and scratching them. These animals have sharp teeth that may deliver a vicious bite. They are not domesticated and should not be kept as pets.

You may read some of the other laziest animal articles for further information:

7. Ring-tailed lemurs have a “secret weapon”

The ring-tailed lemur has its own genus and differs from other species in several respects. They spend 80% of their time on the ground, they walk and run on all four legs (sometimes on two rear legs), and they can jump up to three meters in the air.

The species are omnivores, they eat both plants and meat. Among many species, the ring-tail is the only one that eats on the ground. They bow their heads to feed leaves and grasses, just like cows.

The ring-tail lives in big groups of 30 individuals or more. Typically, the number will be about 12 to 20. They usually sunbathe in groups in the morning. They sit like Buddhas, put their hands on their knees, and palm up.

The species are extremely talkative creatures. They can create roughly 28 distinct sounds, such as the sounds of baby lambs, frog sounds or purr sounds like cats. They even generate large wails and loud whoops and do it together in a large group, much like a pack of wolves.

The stink fight of lemur

They are also the only lemurs with tail rings, an adaptation reflecting their more grounded environment. Their tail usually has 13 or 14 black rings with a black tip and is 15% longer than the lemur’s total body.

The tail is very important in the ringtail’s life. It helps them stay together, tracking one another, and analyzing one another’s emotions. When everything is peaceful, tails wave gently like feathers but when there is a conflict, the tail will stiffen out tensely like a terrified cat tail.

The ring-tailed compete with one another for food, territory, and mates. This’s even fiercer in breeding season when the males fight for females. It occasionally results in actual brawls, which are deadly for creatures with sharp claws and teeth. For the ring-tailed, they don’t have physical fights; instead of that, they create a safer method – a stink fight.

On their wrists, chest, and rumps of a male, there are scent glands. It will leave the smell on trees to mark its territory. In mating season, males spread scent gland secretions all over their tails (or blend odors to create richer, more lasting fragrances). To fight for a mate, two males will swing their tails at each other until one backs off.

The fight doesn’t last long, however, the stink can continue for an hour. The stink fight can occur at any time of year and they can do the same ritual to humans, like zookeepers. However, our sense of smell can’t recognize the scents and the animals don’t know this.

Besides the stink fight, the male ring-tailed also has stink flirting. The technique is the same, but the mixture is different. The flirting scent has a fruity and floral smell that attracts females, and this only happens during mating season.

8. They are intelligent

Lemurs diverged from other primates about 60 million years ago. Despite having opposable thumbs and huge toes, these animals prefer to operate objects with their mouths. This could be the reason why they are thought to be less smart than monkeys. Nevertheless, at the Duke University primate center, lemurs have proved that they can learn to use tools, handle complex problems, and count.

Their intelligence and talents are comparable to those of apes and monkeys. Although they do worse on some tests than specific monkeys, they perform better on others.

They have demonstrated that they can remember sets of pictures, sort them out in the right order, distinguish which are bigger, and even understand basic algebra. Some species communicate in a variety of ways, ranging from quiet growls and meows to screams and barks. They even use their facial expressions and smells to communicate.

According to a 2013 study, lemurs in bigger social groups score better on social cognition exams. Other studies have revealed their diverse personalities, ranging from shy to bold to downright hostile.

In this society, the more intelligent a lemur, the more famous it is. The experiment included 20 lemurs who had to open a drawer to get a grape from a plexiglass box. If a lemur successfully obtained the grape, it attracted the attention of other ones.

That lemur that successfully acquired the grape got more affiliative behaviors without changing its social behavior. Affiliative behavior is how primates express affection for one another by touching, grooming, and sitting near. Grooming is often mutual in most primate species, relying on cooperation between the groomer and the one being groomed. So it’s a really remarkable pattern that the popular ones received a lot of grooming without returning the favor.

9. They can sing

Aside from humans, lemurs are a few mammals that can sing. But not all of them can sing, the only species with this notable ability is indris. Indris, also known as babakotos, reside in small family groups in Madagascar’s eastern rainforests.

The species can sing their songs in 45 seconds or in a few minutes. They will sing together in a group, each individual mimics the other’s notes and beats. This is a form of defense and is a way for them to strengthen social bonding. However, sometimes the younger sings out of tune with the rest of the others to draw attention or establish control.

Fact: Lemur means 'evil spirit of the dead'
Carl Linnaeus, the father of modern taxonomy, invented the term “lemur” in 1795, based on Latin.
– In Roman mythology, lemurs were “evil spirits of the dead.
– Similarly, the Malagasy believe that these creatures are the souls of their ancestors because of their nocturnal habits, their loud screams, and their reflected eyes.

10. They do hibernate

The fat-tailed dwarf lemur is the world’s only primate that hibernates for long periods. Each year, depending on the conditions, the species hibernate from 3 to 7 months. Many mammals have adopted this extreme survival strategy for over 250 million years.

Dwarf lemurs begin building fat in their tails before hibernating by feasting on food when fruits and flowers are plentiful. They prepare for the dry season when these things are limited. During their feasting stage, the tail of this species can take up to 40% of their total body weight. This’s the reason why they are called “fat tails”. They subsequently go into hibernation, surviving on the fat stored in their tails.

To conserve energy during hibernation, their heart rate practically stops, their body temperature drops and their breathing slows to the point that they can go 21 minutes between breaths.

The Dwarf in captivity has a significantly shorter hibernation, known as torpor. Their sleep rarely lasts more than 24 hours.

11. The only non-human primates with blue eyes

Blue eyes are uncommon in mammals, particularly primates. Of over 600 primate species, there are only two that have blue irises: humans and blue-eyed black lemurs, aka Sclater’s.

Due to “serious habitat loss”, Sclater’s lemur could go extinct within a decade. The species is found only on the Sahamalaza Peninsula and in a tiny strip of forest on the nearby mainland, where degradation has resulted in a highly fragmented population.

According to the IUCN, in just 24 years, the species has lost roughly 80% of its habitat. They are also killed for food and pets. In areas of its home range, a 2004 study discovered up to 570 traps per square kilometer.

12. Reproduce

Most lemur species have a fairly brief breeding season. Typically, this is fewer than three weeks every year. The females are only in estrus for a few days per year. This could partially explain why their global populations don’t increase.

Their mating season is influenced by the environment. As a result, in some locations, the young are born during the winter. Nonetheless, there is fairly warm weather there every year. In other locations, though, they are born in the spring or summer.

The gestation period will be different, depending on the species. Some can have a short period (about 54 days), the others may have to wait up to 135 days to give birth. According to research, the smaller the females, the younger they will give birth. They can have two to six offspring at a time. Species with larger sizes usually have one baby at a time, although they can have two.

The time lemurs reproduce is frequently affected by the availability of food. When food is scarce, they will avoid mating. This is a natural way for them to continue to raise their chances of survival.

The newborns are quite vulnerable and the mother has to keep them by her side. She will bring them around in her chest until they are strong enough to cling to her back. The offspring will remain there until they can move between trees by themselves. They spend two years with their mothers before heading out on their own.

At first, babies take milk from their moms. When the first molar emerges, the mother will quit feeding them. The weaning phase for these young is frequently scheduled around the time when food is plentiful.

Baby lemurs have an extremely high death rate. Over half of them die before they can leave their mother. A lemur’s average life span in the wild is about 18 years.

13. They self-medicate with insects

Nature is the best medicine. Some species use herbs and plants in the forest as their pharmacy to self-medicate. Red-fronted lemurs have devised an ingenious method of dealing with pesky parasites.

They chew on millipedes to produce an orange material that is subsequently applied to their genital parts. Millipedes release benzoquinone, a natural mosquito repellent. Self-anointing with this material aids them in getting rid of gastrointestinal parasites and nematodes, which are known to cause genital irritation. The millipede approach is used for both therapy and prevention.

14. They are important pollinators

Pollinators are not only insects and birds like bees, moths, butterflies, or hummingbirds. Many wild animals also play important roles in plant pollination. These creatures contribute to forest variety, structure, and dynamics by spreading seeds!

Ruffed lemurs are among the most important pollinators on the planet. They have 2 types: black and white or red. Both live in Madagascar’s tropical rainforests and connoisseurs the island’s native fruit. The black and white ruffed lemurs are the main pollinators for travelers’ palm trees.

When eating fruit and nectar, both species obtain pollen all over their noses. Then they disperse pollen to other plants. Scientists regard ruffed lemurs as crucial markers of forest health due to their tight ties with native trees.

15. Lemurs are endangered

Nearly all the lemur species, including the silky sifaka, a.k.a the “angel of the forest”, are facing extinction by mid-century.

They were traditionally thought to be spiritual animals that should be honored and appreciated. It was believed that any harm done to a lemur would bring bad luck, sickness, and even death. But now, everything is different! These creatures have been shot and hunted for meat and fur in the last decade despite being illegal.

The greatest threat to lemurs, though, is deforestation. The animals can’t survive anywhere but forest, but just around 10% of Madagascar’s natural forest exists. Since we arrived in Madagascar 2,000 years ago, more than 80% of their habitat has been gone.

Human poverty is at the root of their issues. The income of more than 90% of residents in Madagascar is less than $2 per day, and 33% of them are malnourished. This motivates people to seek revenue from the island’s already-strained natural resources, often through Tavi farming, which involves torching forests to make place for crops or killing them for food.

Climate change is also a big threat. On top of that, they are under increasing threat from climate change. Furthermore, without natural corridors to connect fragmented woods, these animals barely have the chance to relocate.

One solution to protect these animals is to use fewer fossil fuels and to against poverty which can be done through eco-tourism. This way has demonstrated to many communities that wildlife is more valuable alive than dead. With over 200,000 tourists every year and more, Madagascar’s distinctive wildlife can survive.

The Duke Lemur Center supports jobs in industries such as fish farming and park conservation, as well as ecological awareness and household planning to reduce resource demand. Anja Community Reserve, located further south, is administered by local inhabitants in order to attract tourists while safeguarding lemurs. According to reports, it has become Madagascar’s most visited community reserve.


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We are passionate animal enthusiasts with over a decade of experience studying animals. With a degree in zoology and conservation biology, we've contributed to various research and conservation projects. We're excited to bring you engaging content that highlights the wonders of the animal kingdom. We aim to inspire others to appreciate and protect wildlife through informative content grounded in expertise and passion. Join us as we delve into the captivating world of animals and discover the incredible stories they have to tell.

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