Behavior

All Lemuridae species are arboreal, although most spend some minimum time on the ground. The ringtailed lemurs are notable for spending about half their foraging time on the ground and can live in treeless areas.

In the trees, Lemuridae walk and run quadrupedally along the tops of tree limbs and leap between trees. At rest, they sit upright or lay down. The tail is about as long as the body, thickly furred, and used for balance and for steering during jumps.

The Lemuridae are for the most part diurnal foragers, with some exceptions. Lemur mongoz alternates between diurnal and nocturnal activity in response to season and food availability.

All the Lemuridae species are social, but the exact formalities vary among species. The number of individuals within a group may range anywhere from two to 20. There may be large groups that break up into smaller foraging groups during the day, then reconglomerate at nightfall into the origi

Gray gentle lemurs (Hapalemur griseus griseus) eat primarily bamboo shoots, leaves, and stems. (Photo by Rod Williams. Bruce Coleman, Inc. Reproduced by permission.)

nal, single, large group. There may be small family groups of permanently bonded males and females and their offspring.

Groups maintain their cohesion by means of the frequent and all-important activity of mutual grooming with the "grooming comb" derived from the lower incisor and canine teeth.

Lemuridae societies are female-dominant. Females have priority in choosing mating partners and helping themselves to larger amounts of food. A single female leads a typical group of females and males in foraging and sheltering. Either sex has its own dominance hierarchy.

Lemuridae are territorial. Abutting same-species territories may or may not overlap. When neighboring foraging troops meet at territory boundaries, both react by staging hyperactive bouts of alarm calls and branch-shaking.

The Lemuridae have an almost musical range of vocalizations for various needs. There are calls for greeting, territorial assertions, contact and threats between in-group or out-group individuals, and alarm calls that vary according to the type of threat.

Red-fronted lemurs (Lemur fulvus rufus) touching noses; the female is on the left. (Photo by Animals Animals ┬ęDavid Haring. Reproduced by permission.)
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