Genus Lemur

Linnaeus, 1758

General characteristics

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.


The monotypic genus Lemur contains nowadays the species Lemur catta only. Simon and Rumpler resurrected the taxon Eulemur, which was proposed by Haeckel, 1895, to establish a taxon comparable the old genus Lemur minus Lemur catta to separate that group from Lemur catta due to many particular characteristics. By following Schwarz, 1931 and Hill, 1953, the genera Prosimia Brisson, 1762 and Procebus Storr, 1780 are regarded as synonyms of this genus.

Since long, important differences in anatomy and behavior between Lemur catta and the other lemurids were noticed. Lemur catta can be distinguished with a single glance by the clearly bright gray pelage, the black and white face and the ringed tail. They also differ by the presence of brachial and antebrachial glands, with a keratinized differentiation at the forearms and by the cranial characters (Petter, 1962; Petter et al., 1977).
Research at Duke, at behavioral field and at Strasbourg, at cytogenetic field, has drawn attention to the much larger difference as was formerly supposed to exist between Lemur catta and the species historically placed close to it and the high resemblance of Lemur catta with Hapalemur (Simons and Rumpler, 1988).
The cytogenetic studies permitted a reconstruction of an ancestral karyotype of the Lemuridae and to propose a phylogenetic tree of their chromosomal evolution (Rumpler and Dutrillaux, 1986).
An ancestral intermediate karyotype divides the tree into two trunks (cladogram Dutrillaux & Rumpler). One leads to the Eulemur group and is characterized by fusion of the ancestral chromosomes 1 and 11, which give rise to a metacentric chromosome characteristic for all 'Lemur', except Lemur catta. The other leads to Lemur catta. Hapalemur is characterized by fusion of the chromosomes 1 and 3, which give rise to another metacentric chromosome modified by new intrachromosomal rearrangements. These results ground arguments to separate Lemur catta from the 'Lemur' group, but, as Lemur catta was the type of 'Lemur', a new genus should be created and the term Eulemur, already used by Haeckel and being synonymous with the genus 'Lemur', was chosen.

The genus Lemur is represented by one singly species: Lemur catta. The names Maki Muirhead, 1819, Mococo, Trouessart, 1878 and Odorlemur Bolwig, 1962 are synonyms. Lemur catta is a lemur adapted to the driest zones of Madagascar and occurs in the southern part of the island, in all regions where the dryness is not too severe (Map Lemur catta). By only studying form, posture and way of living, its anatomic adaptations and its color makes it understandable that L. catta was placed together with those which are nowadays called Eulemur.