Mongoose lemur

Lemur mongoz

TAXONOMY

Lemur mongoz Linnaeus, 1766, Anjouan Island, Comoros. OTHER COMMON NAMES

French: Lémur mongoz; German: Mongozmaki; Spanish: Lemur mangosta.

PHYSICAL CHARACTERISTICS

Adults have an average head-and-body length of 14 in (35 cm), tail length of 19 in (48 cm), and adult body weight of 4.5 lb (2 kg). Pelages are colored gray on the heads, forelimbs, and shoulders, dark grey on the back, accentuated by a reddish brown beard. Often the muzzle is white. The eyes are a lustrous red-brown.

DISTRIBUTION

Mongoose lemurs are found in forests in northwestern Madagascar and on the islands of Moili (Moheli) and Ndzouani (An-jouan) of the Comoros. In northwestern Madagascar, the range of mongoose lemurs extends from the Bay of Narinda in the north to as far south as the Betsiboka River.

The Comoros are a volcanic-origin island group in the Mozambique Channel, northwest of Madagascar, midway between Madagascar and mainland Africa. The mongoose lemur is one of only two lemur species living naturally outside of mainland Madagascar, the other being the brown lemur (L. ful-vus), also living on the comoro. Both species are probably feral descendants of individuals brought by man from Madagascar to the islands.

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Lemur mongoz

Lemur rubriventer

Mongoose lemurs live in tropical dry deciduous forests on Madagascar and in humid lowland and montane tropical forests on Moheli and Anjouan.

BEHAVIOR

Mongoose lemurs live in groups of three or four individuals, a female-male pair and their pre-weaned young, the adult female dominant to the adult male. Territories of neighboring groups often overlap. Groups encountering each other at the edges or overlap zones of abutting territories respond with elaborate, noisy intimidation displays. Yet, groups of mongoose lemur and brown lemur may forage alongside one another, or even intermingle as they forage.

Mongoose lemurs on mainland Madagascar forage diurnally or nocturnally, depending on the season, a prime changeover time from day to night activity taking place at the beginning of the dry season, when food becomes scarce. Nocturnal feeding reduces competition from other species.

FEEDING ECOLOGY AND DIET

Mongoose lemurs help themselves to flowers, nectar, pollen, fruits, and leaves.

REPRODUCTIVE BIOLOGY

Monogamous. Young are born in mid-October, usually one per litter, with annual births. Male mongoose lemurs are born with white beards that change to reddish-brown at five to six weeks of age. Newborn young cling to their mothers' undersides for the first three weeks. At five weeks, youngsters begin to walk independently and sample solid food. Nursing continues, with the mother's milk gradually replaced by solid food, until weaning at 5-6 months of age. Young mongoose lemurs reach sexual maturity by two or three years, at which time male and female young are driven from the parental group. In-tergroup encounters are rare, however, and often result in agitation, vocalizations, and scent marking.

CONSERVATION STATUS

Vulnerable. Mongoose lemurs exist in only a few limited populations threatened by deforestation. The species is hunted for food and for the illegal pet trade.

SIGNIFICANCE TO HUMANS Mongoose lemurs are hunted for food. ♦

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