Microcebus myoxinusPeters's mouse lemur

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Geographic Range

Peters's mouse lemurs are endemic to Madagascar. They are reported to have a disjunct range between the northern banks of the Tsiribihina River north to Baie de Baly. (Groves, 2005; Mittermeier, 2006; Schwab, 2000)

Habitat

Peters's mouse lemurs are found in the dry deciduous forests of western Madagascar and occasionally in secondary forests. They have also been found in costal mangrove forests. The majority of their time is spent in cool, dry places such as tree holes, abandoned lemur nests, and in tangled tree branches. Most of the top canopy in the Kirindy forest is about 14 m in height. They are generally found at elevations from sea level to 150 m. (Andrainarivo and Andrianholinirina, 2010; Groves, 2005; Mittermeier, 2006)

Physical Description

Peters's mouse lemurs are the smallest living primates in the world, weighing 30 to 55 g and measuring 12 to 13 cm in length. Although males and females are roughly the same length, females are heavier than males most of the year, except during the mating season. The testes of males vary in size seasonally and become especially large during the mating season, leading to a gain of weight during the reproductive period. Sexual dimorphism is only consistently expressed in ear length: the ears of males are longer than the ears of females. Peters's mouse lemurs are similar in physical appearance to most primitive primates. They have reddish-brown coats, with a lighter (cream) underside. They also have distinct dark eyebrows and tawny ears. Their tail is typically twice the length of their body and head combined. Their snout is relatively short and pointed, and their ears are large and membranous. They have short limbs relative to the length of their trunk, and their forelimbs are somewhat shorter than their hind-limbs. Their hands are very similar in proportion to those of humans. (Fleagle, 1998; Mittermeier, 2006; Rasoloarison, et al., 2000; Schmid and Kappeler, 1994; Fleagle, 1998; Mittermeier, 2006; Rasoloarison, et al., 2000; Schmid and Kappeler, 1994)

  • Sexual Dimorphism
  • female larger
  • Range mass
    30 to 55 g
    1.06 to 1.94 oz
  • Range length
    12 to 13 cm
    4.72 to 5.12 in

Reproduction

Instead of defending a specific territory, male Peters's mouse lemurs roam around to have the best access to receptive females. Male sleeping sites are scattered over a wider area than female sleeping sites, and males cover on average an area 4.4 times larger than females. Male home ranges also overlap during breeding season. Some females do not show any reproductive signs during the reproductive period. Although males are lighter than females during the majority of the year, they are heavier during the reproductive period. Their testes vary in size seasonally and enlarge significantly during the mating season: from 1.4 to 3.8% of the mean body mass during the non-reproductive season to 4.3% during November. The relative size of their testes is the largest among primates. Males insert a vaginal sperm plug in the female after mating to prevent matings by other males. Sexual size dimorphism, testes size, and the use of sperm plugs by Peters's mouse lemurs indicate a multi-male mating system with promiscuous matings and male sperm competition. Peters's mouse lemurs are thus polygynandrous. (Kenagy and Trombulak, 1986; Schmid and Kappeler, 1994; Schwab, 2000)

Peters's mouse lemurs breed between November/December and May/June. The main period of estrus is between November and December, but female cycles are not synchronized within the mating season. Peters's mouse lemurs give birth to 1 to 2 offspring during a breeding season. Gestation lasts 50 to 62 days and offspring are weaned around 60 days of age.

The mating season of Peters's mouse lemurs is longer than that of gray mouse lemurs. (Kenagy and Trombulak, 1986; Schmid and Kappeler, 1994; Schwab, 2000)

  • Breeding season
    Peters's mouse lemurs breed between November/December and May/June.
  • Range number of offspring
    1 to 2
  • Range gestation period
    50 to 62 days
  • Average gestation period
    61 days
  • Average weaning age
    60 days

Members of the genus Microcebus are known for "infant parking," in which parents leave their infants in one location while foraging for food to save energy. Although this is common in all closely-related mouse lemurs, this behavior has not been documented in Peters's mouse lemurs. (Fleagle, 1998; Schmid and Kappeler, 1994; Fleagle, 1998; Schmid and Kappeler, 1994)

  • Parental Investment
  • pre-hatching/birth
    • provisioning
      • female
    • protecting
      • female
  • pre-weaning/fledging
    • provisioning
      • female

Lifespan/Longevity

Peters's mouse lemurs generally live 6 to 8 years in the wild.

  • Typical lifespan
    Status: wild
    6 to 8 hours

Behavior

Peters's mouse lemurs are strictly nocturnal, and they run and jump quadrupedally through the trees. They have an overall non-gregarious lifestyle and are solitary foragers and sleepers that seem even less social than other nocturnal, solitary lemurs. Occasionally, however, males travel together, indicating a non-territorial behavior. Their social system is influenced by predation as well as the limited number of small sleeping holes in the forest. Peters's mouse lemurs are too small to fight against larger competing mouse lemurs and rodents for these sleeping sites, so they tend to be solitary. Females are dependent on protective sleeping places to successfully rear their offspring during the reproductive season. Peters's mouse lemurs also take part in spontaneous daily torpor for an average of 9.6 hours to conserve energy during cool dry season. (Fleagle, 1998; Ortmann and Heldmaier, 1997; Schmid and Kappeler, 1994; Schwab, 2000)

Home Range

The home ranges of female Peters's mouse lemurs tend to overlap less than those of males. Males have larger and more overlapping home ranges during the mating season. Sleeping sites of males are distributed over a larger area than those of females, and males tend to travel longer distances than females. Occasionally males travel together, indicating a non-territorial behavior. (Schwab, 2000)

Communication and Perception

Little information is available regarding communication and perception of Peters's mouse lemurs.

Food Habits

Peters's mouse lemurs are mainly frugivorous, but they also supplement their diet with flowers, gums, and insects. They mainly eat fruits because many plants in their dry habitat produce protective toxins in their leaves. Eating these leaves would require a high water intake to avoid poisoning. (Groves, 2005; Hart and Hart, 2006)

  • Animal Foods
  • insects
  • Plant Foods
  • fruit
  • flowers
  • sap or other plant fluids

Predation

Peters's mouse lemurs are preyed upon by mammals larger than themselves as well as birds, especially owls. (Fleagle, 1998; Schmid and Kappeler, 1994)

Ecosystem Roles

Because a high proportion of their diet is fruit, Peters's mouse lemurs act as seed dispersers. They also are prey for a variety of larger mammals, birds, and owls.

  • Ecosystem Impact
  • disperses seeds

Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

Peters's mouse lemurs contribute to the growing industry of ecotourism in western Madagascar. They are also fruit eaters and thus seed dispersers and may contribute to the overall growth of fruit trees for human consumption. (Fleagle, 1998)

Economic Importance for Humans: Negative

There are no known adverse effects of Peters's mouse lemurs on humans.

Conservation Status

Peters's mouse lemurs were classified as vulnerable by the IUCN in 1996 and were classified as endangered in 2000. They are also listed on Appendix I of CITES, and are thus protected against international trade. They are protected in two national parks in Madagascar, Tsingy de Bemaraha and Tsingy de Namoroka, as well as a nature reserve, Tsingy de Bemaraha. However, further studies of ecology, behavior, and distribution are required for effective conservation initiatives to be put in place. (Andrainarivo and Andrianholinirina, 2010)

Other Comments

Until recently, the genus Microcebus> was only considered to include two species (Microcebus murinus and Microcebus rufus). However, after a review of external, cranial, and dental characteristics, the genus was reclassified and now contains seven species, including the smallest species Microcebus myoxinus, Peters's mouse lemurs. (Rasoloarison, et al., 2000)

Contributors

Rebecca Cudmore (author), University of Oregon, Stephen Frost (editor), University of Oregon, Gail McCormick (editor), Animal Diversity Web Staff.

Glossary

Ethiopian

living in sub-Saharan Africa (south of 30 degrees north) and Madagascar.

World Map

acoustic

uses sound to communicate

arboreal

Referring to an animal that lives in trees; tree-climbing.

bilateral symmetry

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.

chemical

uses smells or other chemicals to communicate

ecotourism

humans benefit economically by promoting tourism that focuses on the appreciation of natural areas or animals. Ecotourism implies that there are existing programs that profit from the appreciation of natural areas or animals.

endothermic

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.

forest

forest biomes are dominated by trees, otherwise forest biomes can vary widely in amount of precipitation and seasonality.

frugivore

an animal that mainly eats fruit

herbivore

An animal that eats mainly plants or parts of plants.

island endemic

animals that live only on an island or set of islands.

motile

having the capacity to move from one place to another.

native range

the area in which the animal is naturally found, the region in which it is endemic.

nocturnal

active during the night

polygynandrous

the kind of polygamy in which a female pairs with several males, each of which also pairs with several different females.

seasonal breeding

breeding is confined to a particular season

sexual

reproduction that includes combining the genetic contribution of two individuals, a male and a female

solitary

lives alone

tactile

uses touch to communicate

tropical

the region of the earth that surrounds the equator, from 23.5 degrees north to 23.5 degrees south.

visual

uses sight to communicate

References

Andrainarivo, C., V. Andrianholinirina. 2010. "Microcebus myoxinus" (On-line). IUCN Red List of Endangered Species. Accessed October 28, 2010 at http://www.iucnredlist.org/apps/redlist/details/41573/0.

Fleagle, J. 1998. Primate Adaptation and Evolution (2nd ed.). London: Academic Press.

Groves, C. 2005. Mammal Species of the World (3rd ed.). Baltimore: John Hopkins University Press.

Hart, G., S. Hart. 2006. Ankara: a haven for xerophytes and crown lemurs among the tsingy of Madagascar. Cactus and Succulent Journal, 78/6: 105-112. Accessed October 28, 2010 at http://www.bioone.org/doi/abs/10.2985/0007-9367%282006%2978%5B105%3AAAHFXA%5D2.0.CO%3B2.

Kenagy, G., S. Trombulak. 1986. Size and function of mammalian testes in relation to body size. Journal of Mammology, 67: 1-22. Accessed October 26, 2010 at http://www.jstor.org/stable/1380997.

Mittermeier, R. 2006. Lemurs of Madagascar (2nd ed). Virginia: Conservation International.

Ortmann, S., G. Heldmaier. 1997. Spontaneous Daily Torpor in Malagasy Mouse Lemurs. Naturwissenschaften, 84: 28-32.

Rasoloarison, R., S. Goodman, J. Ganzhorn. 2000. Taxonomic Revision of Mouse Lemurs (Microcebus) in the Western Portions of Madagascar. International Journal of Primatology, 21/6: 963-1016. Accessed November 21, 2010 at http://content.ebscohost.com/pdf10/pdf/2000/IJP/01Dec00/4082649.pdf?T=P&P=AN&K=4082649&EbscoContent=dGJyMNHr7ESeqK84zOX0OLCmr0iep7NSsKq4TLGWxWXS&ContentCustomer=dGJyMPGuslGwrbVNuePfgeyx%2BEu3q64A&D=aph.

Schmid, J., P. Kappeler. 1994. Sympatric Mouse Lemurs (Microcebus spp.) in Western Madagascar. Folica Primatologica, 63: 162-170.

Schwab, D. 2000. A Preliminary Study of Spatial Distribution and Mating System of Pygmy Mouse Lemurs (Microcebus Cf Myoxinus). American Journal of Primatology, 51: 41-60.