Last Reviewed and Updated on July 29, 2022
Lemurs are primates that live exclusively on the island of Madagascar and on a few nearby islands. They have some unique and even quirky traits, so be sure to read through all of these facts about lemurs to learn more about these amazing animals.
1. Lemurs are native to Madagascar only
In the wild, these animals can only be found on Madagascar and some of the small neighboring islands. Madagascar is an island country in the Indian Ocean about 250 miles / 400 km off the coast of East Africa. This island is home to many unique species both in the animal and plant kingdoms.
2. There are around 100 species of lemurs
Considering they can only be found on one island, albeit a large one, the number of distinct species of lemurs is pretty impressive.
The ring-tailed lemur is the most recognizable species.
3. They come in many sizes, from inches to a couple of feet
Madame Berthe’s mouse lemur (Microcebus berthae) is the smallest species of lemur. It is also the smallest primate in the world, with an average length of only 3.6 in / 9.2 cm.
Indri lemur is one of the largest, with its head to body length between 25–28.5 in / 64-72 cm.
They also come in a variety of fur colors.
4. Many lemur species have a matriarchal society
Matriarchal societies are rare in the animal kingdom, but this type of society is most common in lemur species. These lemurs live in groups called troops and are led by a matriarch lemur. She determines where the group feeds, sleeps, and travels.
5. In ring-tailed lemurs the stinkiest wins the fight
Ring-tailed lemurs participate in something called stink fights. They mark their tails with their scent and waft it at their opponents, sending the stink their way. These fights last until one lemur backs off. These fights are usually used during the breeding season. The greatest benefit to these fights is that they have no risk of injury.
They engage in other ways of fighting as well.
6. Dwarf lemurs hibernate for extended periods and are the only known primate that does
Primates aren’t known to hibernate. The fat-tailed dwarf lemur is the only known primate in the world that hibernates for extended periods. These animals hibernate even though the temperatures of their habitat remain high in the winter. It appears that the fat-tailed dwarf lemur hibernates to avoid the drought rather than the temperature drops.
7. They have a toothcomb
A toothcomb is a special dental structure where the front teeth are arranged in a way that resembles a hair comb. This dental structure is used for grooming. Lemurs will run these teeth through their fur to comb it.
8. They have a sublingua, a secondary tongue
This is one of the most bizarre facts about lemurs. Yes, lemurs have two tongues. One tongue is used for chewing and swallowing food, just like with any other animal. The secondary tongue, the sublingua, is used for cleaning their toothcomb.
Think this is weird? Take a look at our list of 100 weirdest facts about animals.
9. Aye-aye lemur is the largest nocturnal primate
The majority of lemurs are diurnal, meaning they are active during the day. A few species are nocturnal, meaning they are active during the night. The Aye-aye lemur is nocturnal and is the largest of all nocturnal primates, apes and monkeys included.
10. The name lemur means ghost
We’re concluding this list of facts about lemurs with a linguistic one. The name lemur is derived from the Latin word lemures. This word refers to ghosts and specters that were exorcised during the Lemuria festival of ancient Rome.
The name was first intended for another species, the slender lorises, as those animals are nocturnal and slow moving. But the name was later limited to primates endemic to Madagascar.