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Lemurs: Lemuridae

Behavior And Reproduction

All lemurs are arboreal, living in trees. Some species also spend time on the ground. When in trees, lemurs walk and run on all fours. They also leap between trees. Their tail helps in balancing and steering during these leaps.

Lemurs are social, living in groups of two to twenty members, depending on species. Large groups break up into smaller groups to look for food, then rejoin at night. Within each group, lemurs groom each other. This is a very important lemur activity, reinforcing group bonding.

Most lemurs search for food during the day, although some species, like the mongoose lemur, may feed in the day or evening. They are territorial, each group claiming a certain feeding area. When groups meet at territory boundaries, or edges, they get quite upset. Alarm calls and branch shaking are used to get another group to move away. Besides different alarm calls, there are sounds for greeting, meeting other lemurs, and threat calls.


When ringtailed lemur mating occurs in April, males begin fighting over females. These fights involve lots of loud noises, and "stink fights." The wrists of male ringtailed lemur have scent or stink glands. Males pull their long tail between their wrists, picking up the smell. Males then stand face-to-face, shaking their stinky tail in the direction of their enemy. As yet, no one is sure how a winner is declared.

Females often supervise lemur groups. A dominant, or stronger, female in each group leads males and other females in searching for food and shelter. Females have first food choices, with males waiting their turn. Females also choose their mating partners. Females are ready to have young at two to three years old.

After mating, females are pregnant about four months. They usually give birth when the monsoon, or rainy season, starts. There are usually one or two infants each birth, although the ruffed lemur may have up to six infants.

At first, a newborn lemur rides under its mother's body, clinging onto her fur. At a month old, it begins riding on its mother's back. Shortly after, the young lemur starts wandering on its own. It is weaned, or taken off breastmilk, by five months.

Additional topics

Animal Life ResourceMammalsLemurs: Lemuridae - Physical Characteristics, Behavior And Reproduction, Conservation Status, Ringtailed Lemur (lemur Catta): Species Accounts - GEOGRAPHIC RANGE, HABITAT, DIET, LEMURS AND PEOPLE