The Lemuridae have a size (head and body length) of more than 25 cm, with a variable tail length of at least half the body length. They run and jump in the branches and keep their body in a horizontal position. They possess one pair of pectoral mammae. Births usually consist of two young.
They occur in almost all the Malagasy forests.
They are diurnal or crepuscular animals, which live in groups. Lemuridae include four genera: Eulemur, Varecia, Lemur and Hapalemur.
Lemuridae have a very various diet, essentially comprising fruits and leaves. They adapt quite well to captivity and they easily become tame.
Eulemur, Varecia and Lemur are the most well known Malagasy mammals because they are the most frequently kept in captivity.
Description of genera
- Genus Eulemur (Eulemur mongoz 1) has an elongated muzzle with greatly reduced upper incisors. The first molar is clearly smaller than the second. They most often live in trees and they generally group in 5 to 6 bands of about 15 individuals. They emit a large variety of grunting vocalizations and calls of which certain high-pitched and loud ones can be given in unison by the whole group when they are disturbed. The young, usually single, holds itself onto the pelage of the mother right after birth and remains clung to her belly during her displacements.
- Genus Varecia (Varecia variegata variegata 1) is monotypic and has a size twice as long as Eulemur species. It is a firm lemur, with a longer skull than Eulemur, and with less specialized molars. It appears to move along with a heavy stride, but yet has a great agility when jumping in the high branches.
The females have three pairs of mammae and carry two or three young that are at birth less developed than the young of Lemur and Eulemur. The mother puts them down on a branch or in an epiphytic plant. If necessary, she carries the young in her mouth, because these cannot hold on to the fur of the parents like the young Lemur and Eulemur. Varecia has diurnal and crepuscular habits and generally lives in small family groups of three to four individuals. Similar as Lemur and Eulemur, they feed above all on fruit.
- Genus Lemur (Lemur catta 1) is monotypic and has the same general characteristics as Eulemur but it frequents the ground more often. L. catta has a bright, shiny gray pelage, a black and white face and a ringed tail with approximately 14 black and white rings. Certain characters, as for example its marking glands, closer resembles those of Hapalemur.
- Genus Hapalemur (Hapalemur griseus griseus 1) has a smaller size or almost the same size as Lemur. The pelage is reddish gray, more or less tinted with green. The ears are rounded and partly hidden in the fur. The muzzle is less elongated as Lemur and the highly reduced upper incisors leave a large central diastema.
They occur especially in bamboo-rich forest. The groups generally consist of two to five individuals. They posses well-developed cutaneous marking glands. Their calls are more discrete than the calls of Lemur. The single young does not remain clung to its mother. It remains positioned in a tree fork during the mother’s activity periods.