2 minute read


Mouse And Dwarf Lemurs

The smallest lemurs are called mouse and dwarf lemurs, family Cheirogaleidae. The smallest species is the lesser mouse lemur (Microcebus murinus), which is about 5 in (12.5 cm) in length with an equally long tail. It weighs less than 2 oz (57 g). The brown lesser mouse lemur (M. rufus) is slightly larger. Coquerel's mouse lemur (irza coquereli), the largest species in this group, is about twice as long. It is one of the rarest lemurs because its deciduous forest is being destroyed by logging and conversion to agriculture.

These little, large-eyed lemurs have long hind legs, useful for leaping. The lesser mouse lemur hops like a frog when on the ground. The females have three pairs of nipples, while true lemurs have only a single pair. They bear two or three tiny young (only about 5 g each) after a gestation period of about 60 days in the smaller species and 89 days in the larger.

Mouse lemurs survive the dry season, when food is scarce, by living off nourishment stored in their fat tail. Mouse lemur females share a spherical leaf nest with each other and their young, while males usually curl up by themselves. They all hunt at night as solitary individuals, eating primarily insects and some leaves, usually those bearing ant secretions. As they move about, they communicate with each other by high-pitched calls.

Mouse lemurs are active, busy creatures, while the dwarf lemurs (Cheirogaleus spp.) are rather sluggish all year. Dwarf lemurs are true hibernators, and are active only during the rainy season. The fat-tailed dwarf lemur (C. medius) stores fat at the base of its tail for use during its six-month hibernation. Dwarf lemurs are incapable of leaping from branch to branch, and they live in areas where the tree branches are closer together. Only the greater dwarf lemur (C. major) resides in wet rain forest; the other three species live in drier forest.

The hairy-eared dwarf lemur (Allocebus trichotis) was long thought to be extinct, but was rediscovered in 1965. Virtually nothing is known about it. The fork-marked dwarf lemur (Phaner furcifer) has a dark stripe on its back which curves over the head and links up with the dark eye rings that mark all mouse and dwarf lemurs. Unlike Cheirogaleus, it is a great leaper, achieving distances of up to 33 ft (10 m) in a single bound.

Additional topics

Science EncyclopediaScience & Philosophy: Laser - Background And History to Linear equationLemurs - Mouse And Dwarf Lemurs, True Lemurs, Indris Or Leaping Lemurs, Aye-aye, A Superfamily Of Its Own