DWARF LEMURS AND MOUSE LEMURS – Cheirogaleidae

DWARF LEMURS AND MOUSE LEMURS

DWARF LEMURS AND MOUSE LEMURS FACTS

Dwarf lemurs and mouse lemurs are the smallest lemurs. The pygmy mouse lemur weighs just one ounce (30 grams). The largest of these lemurs is the fork-crowned lemur, weighing 16.5 ounces (460 grams), or about a pound. The head and body length of dwarf and mouse lemurs ranges from 4.9 to 10.8 inches (12.5 to 27.4 centimeters), depending on species. Tail length is about as long as total body length.

Dwarf and mouse lemurs have large ears and large, mirrorlike eyes set close together. They have excellent night vision. Depending on where they live, these lemurs may have grayish hair or reddish brown hair. Their underbody hair is much lighter, sometimes whitish or yellowish brown. Body hair is soft, thick, and woolly.

GEOGRAPHIC RANGE

Dwarf and mouse lemurs live in Madagascar, an island off the southeast coast of Africa.

DWARF LEMURS AND MOUSE LEMURS HABITAT

Dwarf and mouse lemurs live in a variety of forested habitats, including evergreen rainforest, deciduous forest where trees lose their leaves each year, and semiarid forest, which doesn’t get rain part of the year. Mouse lemurs are also found in patches of scrub vegetation where there are small bushes, and in people’s gardens in settled areas.

DWARF LEMURS AND MOUSE LEMURS DIET

Dwarf and mouse lemurs usually eat fruit and insects, but some species prefer other foods too. Coquerel’s mouse lemur licks the sweet body liquids that are the waste matter produced by some planthopper insects. Forkcrowned lemurs primarily feed on plant gums, or sticky plant liquids. Many of the dwarf and mouse lemurs slow down in the dry season when plants and insects are not as readily available. They survive on stored body fat in their tail until the plentiful rainy season starts, when they become active again.

BEHAVIOR AND REPRODUCTION

Dwarf and mouse lemurs are nocturnal, or active at night. They search for food by themselves, usually in the smaller branches of trees and shrubs.

Dwarf and mouse lemurs are quite social. They have group nests, which they share during the day. The nests can be within tree hollows or tree branches. Five of the little fat-tailed dwarf lemurs may share a tree hole. Mouse lemur nests may have two to nine residents. These nests may have female dwellers, with the males nesting alone or in pairs, or both male and female dwellers. Dwarf lemurs have male-only or female-only nests. Communication is with scent and a variety of calls. Calls include those for keeping contact, mating, alarm, and distress.

Mouse and dwarf lemurs usually travel along branches on all four legs, leaping at times. They can use their tail for balance. Some species can take long leaps from one branch to another. A gray mouse lemur may also move on the ground with froglike hops. Each species, or type, of dwarf or mouse lemur marks its trail with scent while traveling. These markings, deposited by scent or smell glands, or from urine, give information about the traveler’s age, sex, and whether it is ready for mating.

After mating, mouse and dwarf lemur females have a twoto three-month pregnancy, depending on species. They may have one to three infants each birth. Births usually take place during the rainy season, when food is plentiful. The smaller mouse lemur infants weigh about 0.175 ounces (5 grams) each. The larger Coquerel’s mouse lemur infants can have a birth weight of 0.42 ounces (12 grams) each. Mouse and dwarf lemur infants are raised in a nest made of twigs and leaves.

DWARF AND MOUSE LEMURS AND PEOPLE

Dwarf and mouse lemurs are not often hunted for food because of their small size.

CONSERVATION STATUS

Dwarf, red, and gray mouse lemurs are still fairly common. However, they and other small lemur species are at risk due to destruction of their forest habitats, or dwelling places, by human logging, farming, and cattle and goat grazing. It is estimated that only 10 percent of Madagascar’s forests remain. The World Conservation Union (IUCN) lists three species as Endangered, facing a very high risk of extinction; one as Vulnerable, facing a high risk of extinction; and one as Near Threatened, not currently threatened, but could become so.