The World's Smallest Primate!
The world's smallest primate is the Pygmy Mouse Lemur, weighing only 30 grams at maturity. That’s the same size as a ¼ cup!
The genus Cebus describes, depending on taxonomical preferences, anywhere from 8-15 species, ten of which have been described within the last decade. The most researched species are Grey Mouse Lemur M. murinus, Brown Mouse Lemur M. rufus and Golden-Brown Mouse Lemur M. ravelobensis.
These tiny primates are all less than 10.6 inches from head to tail, with size length ranging between species. Body fur color morphs are of either a grayish or reddish variety, with all mouse lemurs sporting a characteristic white stripe between the eyes. Mouse lemurs are nocturnal primates. Their means of locomotion is primarily quadrupedal however leaping and running on the ground have also been observed.
Mouse lemurs are omnivorous and exploit a variety of food sources that is dependent on availability, forest type and season. Foods include: gum, insects, fruit, leaves and buds, small vertebrates, arthropods and nectar.
Mouse lemurs, like many species on Madagascar, are endemic to the island and live sympatrically with other primate species. Despite being localized solely to the island they occupy various types of forest habitat including: dry deciduous, gallery, eucalyptus, arid spiny, sub-arid thorn scrub, spiny, mangrove, partially evergreen, evergreen littoral, lowland, mosaic and montane.
One of the most fascinating and wonderful things about Mouse lemurs is their relationship with the Baobab tree Adansonia. The Baobab tree, native to the island of Madagascar, is also known as the Tree of Life.
What Does It Mean?
Animals that are active during the night and sleeping during the day. Nocturnal animals usually have a great sense of hearing and smell.
To be quadrupedal is to use four limbs/legs to locomote. This word comes from the Latin meaning ‘four feet.’
Species that eat both plants and animals. This word also has Latin origin, Omni meaning ‘everything.’
These are invertebrate animals with an exoskeleton, jointed appendages and a segmented body.
This is when two species or groups can live in the same area and encounter each other.
Are a group of 35 species including the genets, binturong, civets and linsangs.
This is the level of variation of life in an ecosystem, biome or the entire planet. Biodiversity is a measure of the health and function of an ecosystem
These magnificent trees provide animals living in the surrounding area with food, water and shelter. Some of these primarily leafless trees are up to 2000 years old. Mouse lemurs, post hibernation following dry season, feed on nectar from the Baobab tree. Baobabs are pollinated by Giant Hawk Moths, Eumorpha typhon, which the lemurs also catch and eat on the flowers of the Baobab tree. This simple act of feeding pollinates the flowers - allowing the Baobab to thrive.
The IUCN lists mouse lemurs as Endangered or Critically Endangered, depending upon the subspecies.* Threats to mouse lemurs are from habitat loss and destruction, and predation. Predators include mongooses, dogs, raptors, snakes and other nocturnal viverrids.
Mouse lemurs are a very special part of the primate world and ecosystem of biodiversity rich Madagascar. They are not only the world’s smallest primates but also play a large role in forests with the magnificent Baobab tree.
*Conservation status update May 2016
What You Can Do?
What you can do?
Video of Grey Mouse Lemur courtesy of Arkive.org
Written by Kaitlyn-Elizabeth Foley as part of her September 2011 Letters from the Field blog series