Black lemurs are limited to the northwestern tip of Madagascar and the two adjacent islands of Nosy Komba and Nosy Be. In Madagascar, the two subspecies are separated by the Andranomalaza river, but clear separation only occurs in a relatively small area (Rabarivola and Meyers,1991). Eulemur macaco macaco can be found to the north of the river and Eulemur macaco flavifrons to the south of it (Rabarivola and Meyers, 1991). (Nowak, 1999; Rabarivola, et al., 1991)
Black lemurs are primitive primates that are about the size of a house cat. Adults can weigh about 2.4 kg (Duke Primate Center, 1998). Head and body lengths vary between 300 and 450 mm (Nowak, 1999). There are two subspecies of the black lemur: black lemurs (Eulemur macaco macaco) and blue-eyed lemurs (Eulemur macaco flavifrons). These subspecies are similar in size, shape and behavior. Differences between the two subspecies include habitat, coat and eye color.
There is striking sexual dimorphism in color. Males in both subspecies are black. Female black lemurs have a dark coat which lightens to a deep rust on the sides. They are off-white on the stomachs. Female blue-eyed lemurs have a coat that is reddish-tan in color over the entire body. All black lemurs have brown eyes as opposed to blue-eyed lemurs which all have turquoise blue eyes (Duke University, 1998). (Duke University, 1998; Nowak, 1999)
The mating system of these animals has not been well studied. In the wild, groups range in size from 4 to 15 individuals. Females are dominant to males, and there may be some exchange of adults between groups. In captivity, females have their choice of mates. From this information, it seems likely that breeding is polygynous. (Duke University, 1998; Nowak, 1999)
Black lemurs breed seasonally in June and July. Birth occurs after a gestation period of 120 to 129 days. One offspring is usually born, however, twins are fairly common. The young are weaned at five to six months of age. Sexual maturity is reached by about 2 years of age. (Duke University, 1998; Henson Robinson Zoo, 1997; Nowak, 1999)
Infants can be found clinging to their mothers' bellies for the first 3 weeks and will shift only to nurse. At about 3 weeks of age, the young lemur will begin to ride on its mother's back and will soon after take its first tentative steps. Nursing continues until about 5 to 6 months of age. Mothers provide grooming, protection, and transportation for their young, as well as valuable socialization. The role of males in parental care is not clear, although there is some evidence that males can be infanticidal in captivity. They may, therefore, have some role in protecting their offspring in the wild. (Duke University, 1998; Nowak, 1999)
These animals are reported to live 20 to 25 years, presumably in captivity. (Duke University, 1998)
Black lemurs are social, living in groups of between 2 to 15 related individuals. The average group size is between 7 to 10 individuals. The group sex ratio tends to favor males and the females are usually the dominant members. Grooming is important in the establishment and reinforcement of social bonds within the group. (Duke University, 1998)
During the rainy season, their diet seems to consist mainly of fruit. They have also been reported to eat mushrooms and millipedes on occasion during this season. Early in the dry season, a significant part of their diet comes from the nectar of flowers. Other things included in the dry season diet are seed pods, leaves, and flowers (Kappeler and Ganzhorn, 1993). (Kappeler and Ganzhorn, 1993)
Predators of these lemurs are not known. However, it seems likely that animals like fossas and raptors are possible predators.
As frugivores, these lemurs are likely to play some role in seed dispersal. However, because they eat nectar, they may also be important pollinators. To the extent that these lemurs are food for predators, they may have impact in local food webs.
Humans have found the black lemurs to be useful as a food resource and for their furs. They can also be trapped and sold to people as pets or used as attractions in zoos.
All lemurs are considered endangered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and are protected under Appendix I of CITES. They are also listed as vulnerable in the IUCN Red Data Book. Evidence indicates that their numbers are declining. The main threats to black lemurs include habitat destruction, poaching for their meat or fur, and capture for the pet trade or zoos. They have also been killed in some areas as crop pests.
Lemurs breed fairly well in captivity and are popular in zoos worldwide. The St. Louis Zoological Park in the United States coordinates the Species Survival Plan (SSP) for black lemurs. Reintroduction of lemurs bred in captivity may be used one day to boost wild populations. (Henson Robinson Zoo, 1997)
Black lemurs may breed with blue-eyed lemurs and will produce brown-eyed offspring in every case (Duke University, 1998). (Duke University, 1998)
Nancy Shefferly (editor), Animal Diversity Web.
Barbara Lundrigan (author), Michigan State University, Daniel Davis (author), Michigan State University.
living in sub-Saharan Africa (south of 30 degrees north) and Madagascar.
uses sound to communicate
living in landscapes dominated by human agriculture.
young are born in a relatively underdeveloped state; they are unable to feed or care for themselves or locomote independently for a period of time after birth/hatching. In birds, naked and helpless after hatching.
Referring to an animal that lives in trees; tree-climbing.
having body symmetry such that the animal can be divided in one plane into two mirror-image halves. Animals with bilateral symmetry have dorsal and ventral sides, as well as anterior and posterior ends. Synapomorphy of the Bilateria.
uses smells or other chemicals to communicate
ranking system or pecking order among members of a long-term social group, where dominance status affects access to resources or mates
animals that use metabolically generated heat to regulate body temperature independently of ambient temperature. Endothermy is a synapomorphy of the Mammalia, although it may have arisen in a (now extinct) synapsid ancestor; the fossil record does not distinguish these possibilities. Convergent in birds.
union of egg and spermatozoan
an animal that mainly eats leaves.
A substance that provides both nutrients and energy to a living thing.
An animal that eats mainly plants or parts of plants.
animals that live only on an island or set of islands.
offspring are produced in more than one group (litters, clutches, etc.) and across multiple seasons (or other periods hospitable to reproduction). Iteroparous animals must, by definition, survive over multiple seasons (or periodic condition changes).
having the capacity to move from one place to another.
the area in which the animal is naturally found, the region in which it is endemic.
an animal that mainly eats nectar from flowers
the business of buying and selling animals for people to keep in their homes as pets.
having more than one female as a mate at one time
rainforests, both temperate and tropical, are dominated by trees often forming a closed canopy with little light reaching the ground. Epiphytes and climbing plants are also abundant. Precipitation is typically not limiting, but may be somewhat seasonal.
communicates by producing scents from special gland(s) and placing them on a surface whether others can smell or taste them
breeding is confined to a particular season
remains in the same area
reproduction that includes combining the genetic contribution of two individuals, a male and a female
associates with others of its species; forms social groups.
uses touch to communicate
Living on the ground.
defends an area within the home range, occupied by a single animals or group of animals of the same species and held through overt defense, display, or advertisement
the region of the earth that surrounds the equator, from 23.5 degrees north to 23.5 degrees south.
uses sight to communicate
reproduction in which fertilization and development take place within the female body and the developing embryo derives nourishment from the female.
Duke University, 1998. "Blue eyed lemur" (On-line). Duke Primae Center. Accessed August 08, 2005 at http://primatecenter.duke.edu/animals/blueeyed/print.php.
Henson Robinson Zoo, 1997. "BLACK LEMUR (Eulemur macaco)" (On-line). Accessed (Date Unknown) at http://www.hensonrobinsonzoo.org/o003.html.
Kappeler, P., J. Ganzhorn. 1993. Lemur Social Systems and Their Ecological Basis. New York: Plenum Press.
Nowak, R. 1999. Walker's Mammals of the World, Sixth Edition. Baltimore and London: The Johns Hopkins University Press.
Rabarivola, C., D. Meyers, Y. Rumpler. 1991. Distribution and Morphological Characters of Intermediate Forms Between the Black Lemur (Eulemur macaco macaco) and the Sclater's Lemur (E. m. flavifrons). Primates, 32(2): 269-273.