[lE' mur kat' tuh]
The coat of the ring-tailed
lemur is light reddish gray to dark red-brown in
color, with the limbs and belly being lighter in
color. The extremities are white, and the long,
pointed muzzle is black. The characteristic
features of this lemur are the white rings around
the eyes and the black and white bands on the
Adults are up to 18 inches in
length, not counting the tail, which can be up to
24 inches long. They weigh from 6 to 8 pounds.
Both sexes are similar in size and coloration.
As are all other lemurs of the
world, the ring-tailed lemur is only found on the
island of Madagascar, which lies off the east
coast of Africa. It inhabits the forested regions
of southwestern Madagascar, but tends to prefer
areas that have plenty of open space. While it
does spend a considerable part of its life in the
trees, the ring-tailed is the only lemur that
frequently travels on the ground.
All mating occurs within the
span of about two weeks in either late April or
early May. A single baby (twins are rare) is born
after a gestation period of about 3.5 months.
Individual babies are cared for by the entire
group, and it is not uncommon for a female to
adopt an orphan, even if she already has an
infant of her own. The infant is carried on its
mother's belly for the first two weeks of its
life, and then on her back for another one or two
weeks; it will be independent at four weeks, but
will continue to return to its mother for up to a
year or so. Ring-tailed lemurs live 16 to 19
years in the wild.
Ring-tailed lemurs are
primarily herbivorous, with a variety of fruits
taken, as well as leaves, flowers, grasses, bark,
and tree sap. They will occasionally take insects
and other small animals, as well as bird eggs.
Other Habits and
Ring-tailed lemurs live in
groups of up to 24 individuals. These groups are
comprised of both sexes and all ages. Females
generally stay with their natal group, while
males tend to go from group to group. The
"top spot" within any group always
belongs to a female, and there is a social
hierarchy amongst female group members. There is
also a dominance hierarchy among males, but the
status of any one male within that hierarchy
often changes from one mating season to another.
Most dominance "fights" consist of two
individuals waving their tails and scent glands
at each other, with the one producing the most
vile smell often being "declared" the
Groups typically begin their
day in the early morning hours, coming down out
of their sleeping trees onto the forest floor to
feed. As the day warms up the lemurs can often be
seen stretched out it the sun seemingly basking
in the sun.
Mutual grooming is as important
in ring-tailed lemur society as it is in many
other primate societies. Unlike most other
primates, however, ring-tailed lemurs use their
hands only to grasp each other's fur; the actual
grooming is done by literally eating the
parasites off the companion.
Ring-tailed lemurs have
different calls to warn their brethren of
potential threats -- one type for threats from
the ground, another for threats from the sky.
They also have a vocalization that sounds very
much like a cat's purr, which accounts for the
species name catta.
As are all other lemurs (and
most other animals on Madagascar for that matter)
the ring-tailed lemur has been seriously
threatened by the destruction of Madagascar's
forests. Fortunately it does relatively well in
captivity, and many zoos around the world have
been successful at breeding them and there is a
conscious effort to establish a large enough
captive breeding population to keep the species
from going extinct.
genus & species Lemur catta
Primate Info Net pin.primate.wisc.edu/factsheets/entry/ring-tailed_lemur
Rolling Hills Wildlife Adventure
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