Black lemur

Lemur macaco

TAXONOMY

Lemur macaco Linnaeus, 1766, Madagascar. OTHER COMMON NAMES

English: Blue-eyed lemur, Sclater's lemur; French: Lémur macaco, maki dimorphisme; German: Mohrenmaki; Spanish: Lemur negro.

PHYSICAL CHARACTERISTICS

There are two subspecies, black lemurs or Lemur macaco macaco and blue-eyed lemurs or Sclater's lemurs, Lemur macaco flav-ifrons. Blue-eyed lemurs are the only primates besides humanity to bear blue eyes. The trait is probably due to the genetics of an isolated population that enabled recessive genes to ex-

H Lemur macaco H Lemur coronatus H Varecia variegata press. Matings of black and blue-eyed lemurs produce only brown-eyed young.

The two subspecies are nearly identical in shape, size, and behavior, but they live in different habitats and show different colors in pelage and eyes. An adult individual of either subspecies has an average adult head-and-body length of 16 in (41 cm), tail length of 22 in (55 cm), and an adult body weight of 5 lb (2.4 kg).

Both subspecies are sexually dichromatic. Lemur macaco macaco males have jet-black fur with brown highlights from nose tip to tail tip, while female pelages sport mixtures of brown, reddish brown, and gray on their backs, with off-white undersides and black faces. Both sexes bear somewhat ragged-looking ruffs of fur framing the sides of their faces, black in males and off-white in females. Males' eyes are dark brown; females' are golden to orange. Lemur macaco flavifrons males are completely black but with blue eyes. Females have a light reddish brown coat with a white brow-bar above the blue eyes.

DISTRIBUTION

Lemur macaco macaco are found in the northwest humid tropical forests of Madagascar, including those on the islands of Nosy Be and Nosy Komba off the northwest coast. On Nossi Komba, black lemurs have become part of the tourist circuit, semi-tame individuals obligingly cadging bananas from visitors and locals, and lounging about on rooftops. Lemur macaco flav-ifrons are found in northwestern Madagascar in a range south and separate from that of L. m. macaco, from the Andranom-alaza River further southward to the Sandrakota River.

HABITAT

Black lemurs are at home in humid and dry primary and secondary tropical forest, and humanity-altered land such as tim

ber plantations and combinations of partially cleared forests and plantings of coffee, citrus, and cashew.

BEHAVIOR

Black lemurs are diurnal and social, groups being made up of 2-15 individuals, often with more males than females. Small groups may forage within their own territories during the day, but several such groups may bunch together for the night.

FEEDING ECOLOGY AND DIET

Ripe fruit, leaves, flowers, and insects.

REPRODUCTIVE BIOLOGY

Polygamous. Black lemurs reach sexual maturity at two years. Mating in both subspecies takes place from June through July. Mothers give birth to one or two young after a gestation period of about 126 days.

CONSERVATION STATUS

Vulnerable. Deforestation and hunting are the primary threats.

SIGNIFICANCE TO HUMANS

Because of the large amounts of fruit in their diet, black lemurs may indirectly benefit man by being important dispersers of fruit seeds in forests, thus contributing to the overall health of those forests. ♦

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