Mouse Lemurs

Taxonomic Classification:

  • Family- Cheirogaleidae
  • Genus- Microcebus
  • Species: There are a total of 15 species (listed in section bellow)

Common Name: Mouse Lemur

Physical Description:

  • Smallest primates
  • Grey, red, or brown fur (with a white strip between the eyes; and often belly)
  • Average head and body length is 9cm (for both male and female)
  • Weight: 30.6 to 71.1 g (for both male and female)
  • Prominent eyes and ears
  • Hind legs are longer then the front legs
  • Scent glands at their wrists to help communication
  • Moves in quadrupedal manner in the branches, and sometimes ground
  • Can also leap short distances
  • Dentition: 2-1-3-3
  • Brain mass: about 1.7 grams
  • No sexual dimorphism

Geographic Location and Range

  • Location: Madagascar
  • -each of the 15 species lives in a particular region of the country, though
  • M. bongolavensis = northwestern Madagascar
  • M. danfossi = north of M. bongolavensis
  • M. rufus = southeastern and eastern Madagascar
  • M. mittermeieri = northern Madagascar
  • M. jollyae eastern Madagascar
  • M. simmonsi = northeastern Madagascar
  • M. mamiratra = northwest coast of Madagascar
  • M. ravelobensis = northwest Madagascar
  • -M. tavaratra = far northern Madagascar
  • M. sambiranensis = northern Madagascar
  • M. murinus = distribution is wide
  • M. myoxinus = northwestern Madagascar
  • M. berthae = further north in western Madagascar
  • M. griseorufus = distribution is wide
  • M. lehilahytsara = eastern Madagascar
  • M. simmonsi = eastern Madagascar
  • Type of environment/habitat:
  • -One of the most adaptable primates
  • -All types of forests, even suburban and agricultural (those changed by people)
  • -Deciduous, evergreen, transitional, spiny, scrub, mangrove, and even eucalyptus
  • -Live at sea level up to 6500ft
  • -Sleep in tree trunks/hollows or tree tops in nests made of leaves or sticks
  • Range:
  • – 0.01-0.02 sq. miles


  • Mouse Lemurs mainly feed on fruit, insects and gums
  • Classified as an omnivore
  • They acquire food via foraging at night

Social Organization:

  • Organized into matrilineal groups
  • They hunt alone
  • Nest in groups that can range from 1-5
  • Composed of both sexes
  • Dominance of the groups is with the females
  • Mating system most commonly resembles polygyny
  • Territoriality:

o   They share a region with their troop

o   They are occasionally observed chasing and fighting


  • Births occur between October and March
  • Gestation last for about 2 – 3 months
  • Can have 2 – 3 offspring
  • Only one litter per year
  • Sexual maturity occur around 1 year
  • Females swell during estrus
  • Male testes also swell 5-10x larger (!) during the mating season
  • Female vagina is closed except during estrus and birth in most species

Parental Care:

  • Babies are born with grasping reflex
  • Weaned around 6 weeks
  • Independence occurs at 2 months
  • Allomothering occurs: females have been seen nursing and grooming babies that are not theirs
  • Infants are carried by the mouth
  • Suckling occurs frequently during the night
  • Females are responsible for parental care

Language/Communication Abilities:

  • Scent Marking:

-Saliva, urine, feces, gland, and genital secretions on branches of trees

-Urine marking most popular

-Olfactory communication for recognition of an individual, reproduction/sexual

attraction, territory claims, and as an alarm.

  • Vocalizations:

-Species differ in their calls

-Used for alarm, defense, contacting each other, and mating

-High pitched trills (i.e. gray mouse lemurs) and chirps (rufous mouse lemurs)

-Sound clip of M. rufus:

-credit goes to Erik Patel; Cornell University

  • Visual:

-Facial expressions and posture do not play a large part in communication

  • Sign language:

-Mouse lemur hands are too small

Evidence of Culture:

  • There is  no evidence of culture

Other Topics of Special Interest

  • Pygmy mouse lemur = smallest primate in the world
  • Hibernate from May to Sept. when food is not plentiful and store fat in their tails and hind legs during the rest of the year to survive winter


Both are by A.J. Haverkamp @


Zimmermann, E., E. Vorobieva, D. Wrogemann, and T. Hafen. “Use of Vocal Fingerprinting for Specific Discrimination of Gray (Microcebus Murinus) and Rufous Mouse Lemurs (Microcebus Rufus).” International Journal of Primatology 21.5 (2000): 837-52. Print

Dewey, T. and P. Myers. “ADW: Cheirogaleidae: Information.” Animal Diversity Web.

2009. Web. Accessed 05 Feb. 2011. <;.

Gron, K. “Primate Factsheets: Mouse Lemur (Microcebus) Taxonomy, Morphology, & Ecology.” Primate Info Net. 11 Feb. 2009. Web. Accessed 05 Feb. 2011. <;.

Evan L. MacLean, Nancy L. Barrickman, Eric M. Johnson, Christine E. Wall, Sociality, ecology, and relative brain size in lemurs, Journal of Human Evolution, Volume 56, Issue 5, May 2009, Pages 471-478, ISSN 0047-2484, DOI: 10.1016/j.jhevol.2008.12.005.


Grizmeck’s Animal Life encyclopedia. 2nd. 14. Farmington Hills, MI: Gale Groupe, 2003. Print.

Maynihan, Marting. The New World Primates: Adaptive Radiation and the Evolution of Social Behavior, Languages and Intelligence. Princeton Press, 1976. Print.

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8 Responses to Mouse Lemurs

  1. megan says:

    Oh, did you find their dental formula anywhere? It is probably the same for all lemurs.

  2. sagittal2crest says:

    We do have the dental formula, it is in the physical description next to dentition. 🙂

    • Megan M. says:

      oh yeah, right in front of me. Whoops! Another question – do you remember where you found the information on estrus swellings? Because I thought estrus swellings were exclusive to females (what part of the male genitalia is swelling up?). I just want to make sure it wasn’t saying something about male response to estrus or something like that…

  3. indigenousppl says:

    One of the other group members did this part, but I think this fact sheet was used for that info:
    It is in the “reproduction” section and says that the testes swell up 5-10x larger.

    The fact sheet creators used “Atsalis S. 2008. A natural history of the brown mouse lemur. Upper Saddle River (NJ):Prentice Hall. 230p.” as their reference to that statement, and that seems fairly legitimate! But then again, I am definitely not an expert in source accuracy. 🙂

    • Megan M. says:

      Ah! Okay. That is very helpful. Can you all clarify that in the fact sheet, because those are not actually estrus swellings. It’s just the terminology – estrus swellings are only female, but the fact that there is testicular swelling in the males is also interesting and worth noting.

      5-10x, those tiny little mouse lemurs, I can only imagine…

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