Approximately 60 different types of lemurs inhabit the Madagascar Islands as of 2013 -- a huge shift from nearly 2,000 years ago when the arrival of humans on the islands and their unrestrained hunting dwindled populations and eliminated at least 15 species completely. Lemurs -- a primate -- are genetic cousins of monkeys and apes, yet are often described as a critter that resembles a cat crossed with a squirrel and a dog.
Named for the series of black and white rings coloring its tail, the ring-tailed lemur lives along the forests and rivers of the various Madagascar Islands. They do not use their long tails to hang from trees, as is a popular misconception regarding this type of lemur. Rather, their tales are used to propel themselves from tree to tree. One male dominates each family, servicing all the females in that group. The website Lemur World reports that he wins this position by producing more stink from his scent glands than the other males. For female ring-tailed lemurs, the smellier, the sexier.
Gray Mouse Lemur
Covered in a brownish-gray fur with an appearance similar to a mouse, this type of lemur prefers to live on the western and southern coasts of Madagascar. According to The Primata website, the gray mouse lemur is sexually dimorphic, meaning the females are larger than the males. In this species, more than one male handles the reproductive duties with a group of females. However, competition still exists with the two or three top males servicing most of the females. Males sleep solo while females sleep together in groups of up to 15 individuals in an effort to reduce the death of young.
These lemurs live in the dry forests of northwest Madagascar and the Comoro Islands, which are located at the northern end of the Mozambique Channel in the western Indian Ocean. Mongoose lemurs eat any type of vegetable available. The International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources Red List of Threatened Species listed them as "vulnerable," a step away from endangered, in 2008. Males and females are approximately the same size but differ in color. Both have a gray base color with females featuring white on their sides. Males have red coloring on their sides.
Making its home in eastern Madagascar, this lemur has unique physical characteristics -- huge eyes, rat-like teeth and bat-like ears. It has a long middle finger that it uses as a tool to detect insects. It taps on trees with its middle finger, disturbing the larvae of insects and causing them to move, making them easy for this lemur to detect. Despite its honed insect hunting capabilities, it lives a "near threatened" life due to habitat destruction and its status as a symbol of bad luck to the native peoples living in the same area, according to Wild Madagascar.
Avahi Cleesei Lemur
Originally discovered in 1990, this relatively new lemur species was not officially named until 2005. That is when researchers from the University of Zurich decided to honor the conservation efforts of British comedian John Cleese by naming the woolly, 2-pound and leaf-eating creature with a high-pitched whistle after him, according to Wild Madagascar. In 1998, Cleese co-starred with several lemurs in the documentary, "Operation Lemur With John Cleese," which focused on habitat destruction. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species identifies the Avahi cleesei as an endangered species, as of 2008.
- Lemur World: Lemur Species
- Wild Madagascar: Lemurs Of Madagascar
- Wild Madagascar: New Lemur Species Named After British Comedian
- TigerHomes.org: Lemurs: Tails From The Canopy: A Guide To Modern Lemurs
- Lemur World: Ring-Tailed Lemur
- The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species: Avahi Cleesei
- The Primata: Gray Mouse Lemur: Morphology
- The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species: Eulemur Mongoz
- Jupiterimages/Photos.com/Getty Images