Photo Credit: Bates Littlehales, http://animals.nationalgeographic.com/animals/printable/ring-tailed-lemur.html
Common Name: Ring-Tailed Lemur
Taxonomic Classification: Family: Lemuridae, Genus: Lemur, Species: catta.
Physical Description: The ring-tailed lemur is a small, arboreal primate that is most easily distinguished by its long black and white ringed tail. Adult ring-tailed lemurs weigh 6.5-7.75 pounds and have a body length of 15-18 inches. The 13 or 14 ringed tail is 22-24 inches. Their rear limbs are longer and stronger than the front limbs and the majority of the body covered with gray fur. Ring-tailed lemurs have small brains and faces with long snouts and very large red-brown eyes. The fur covering the face varies from white (the forehead and behind the ears), gray (the snout) and black (circling the eyes).
Geographic Location and Range: The ring-tailed lemur is only found in the southern area of Madagascar.
Diet: The diet of the ring-tailed lemur consists mostly of vegetation such as leaves, twigs, flowers, bark, tree sap and fruit. The diet is also occasionally supplemented with insects and small vertebrates.
Reproduction: At the age of 3, lemurs typically become sexually active. Mating is an annual event that takes place in the middle of April with estrus swellings present an average of 22 hours. Gestation lasts four and a half month, so in August and September the birth of babies begin. Normally litters consist of one child; however, twins are sometimes seen when food is abundant.
Social Organization: In a lemur troop a dominant female is the matriarch over all the other lemurs. Groups average about 17 members but can be anywhere from 6-30 members depending. Smaller groups are becoming more common due to the endangered nature of the species. Next to a matriarch, males fight over dominance in the group in the form of scent battles, where a male that can advertise his scent stronger is the more dominant.
Language: Each individual lemur has its own scent pattern, as discovered by researchers E. Scordato, G. Dubay, and C. Drea of Duke University. As they examined a specific lemur troop of 15 members for 2 years, they found that each individual had its own distinct scent by different chemical combinations. They were able to analyze and track these scents by gas chromatography and mass spectrometry.
In their research they also found, that unlike most primates, Lemurs show limited signs of ovulation, so it is essential that they communicate in other ways to show their sexual receptiveness. Due to this, Lemurs have developed acute sense and chemical receptors, in which they use visual and chemical displays to communicate with deeper meanings then just vocal callings. Three times a year a female will emit a stronger scent when they come into estrous which will send male lemurs into a scent battle frenzy where they fight to win the female by smell alone.
Parental Care: Infants become physically active relatively quickly after birth. Within two weeks of age they can be seen climbing trees. Children tend to explore, on their own, at the age of one month. They become more and more independent, but still return to their mothers to nurse till about the age of five months when they are weaned. It is common for all troop members help in raising the infants. Males will even play and groom the children in order to gain more opportunities with the females during mating season. Females tend to stay with the same troop for their entire life while it is not uncommon for males to move between troops during the mating season. It seems a relationship exists between mother and offspring as long as the child remains in the troop. Lemurs that are more closely related have been observed to spend more time grooming each other and remain closer together than lemurs that are more distantly related. Evidence exists that males will sometimes practice infanticide during the mating season.
Evidence of Culture: Children are raised by all members of the troop and are taught social interactions by all members. Ring Tailed Lemurs complete daily activities as an entire troop which also plays a role in teaching children behaviors. Members of troops have been observed to move between different troops which suggests that behaviors do not differ greatly between troops.
For more information:
- http://animals.nationalgeographic.com/animals/printa ble/ring-tailed-lemur.html,
“ANIMAL BYTES – Ring-tailed Lemur.” SeaWorld/Busch Gardens ANIMALS – HOME. Web. 25 Sept. 2010. <http://www.seaworld.org/animal-info/animal-bytes/animalia/eumetazoa/coelomates/deuterostomes/chordata/craniata/mammalia/primates/ring-tailed-lemur.htm>.
Preston-Mafham, Rod, and Ken Preston-Mafham. Primates of the World. New York: Facts on File, 1992. Print.
“Primates: Lemurs – National Zoo| FONZ.” Welcome to the National Zoo| FONZ Website – National Zoo| FONZ. Web. 25 Sept. 2010. <http://nationalzoo.si.edu/Animals/Primates/Facts/FactSheets/Lemurs/RingtailedLemur/default.cfm>.
“Ringtailed Lemur.” Grzimek’s Animal Life Encyclopedia. 2nd ed. Vol. 12-16. Farmington Hills: Gale Group, 2003. 55-56. Print.
“Ring-Tailed Lemur Printable Page from National Geographic Animals.” Animals, Animal Pictures, Wild Animal Facts – National Geographic. Web. 25 Sept. 2010. <http://animals.nationalgeographic.com/animals/printable/ring-tailed-lemur.html>.
Scordato, Elizabeth S., George Dubay, and Christine M. Drea. “Chemical Composition of Scent Marks in the Ringtailed Lemur (Lemur Catta): Glandular Differences, Seasonal Variation, and Individual Signatures.” Chemical Senses 32 (2007): 493-504. Print.
Wilson, Don E., and Elizabeth Hannon. “Lemur Catte (Primates: Lemuridae).” Mammalian Species 42.854 (2010): 58-74. Print.