Cheirogaleus majorgreater dwarf lemur

Geographic Range

Greater dwarf lemurs are found in the eastern and northern parts of Madagascar. They might also inhabit a section of west-central Madagascar. (Nowak, 1999) (Nowak, 1999)


Greater dwarf lemurs are arboreal (Cockram, 1962). They inhabit forests and can also be found in dry scrub areas (Grzimek, 1988; Hill, 1953). (Cockram, 1962; Grzimek, 1988)

Physical Description

The length of the head and body range from 167 to 264 mm, with a mass between 167 and 600 g. The tail is longer than the body and has a length between 195 and 310 mm (Cockram, 1962; Nowak, 1999). The tail is broad at the base and tapers to the end. They eyes are large and conspicuous eyes, with a reflective tapetum lucidum for night vision (Grzimek, 1988). A black ring of hair surrounds the eyes. The ears are thin and have small, sparse hairs (Hill, 1953). Thick fur covers the rest of the body. The fur varies from gray to reddish brown on the head, back, and tail. The rump of greater dwarf lemurs is white and usually has a yellow tint (Nowak, 1999). (Cockram, 1962; Grzimek, 1988; Hill, 1953; Nowak, 1999)

  • Sexual Dimorphism
  • sexes alike
  • Range mass
    177 to 600 g
    6.24 to 21.15 oz
  • Range length
    167 to 264 mm
    6.57 to 10.39 in


The mating system of these animals is not known. Cheirogaleus major is reported to be solitary, with males demonstrating intolerance for one another. This suggests that mating is either monogamous or polygynous. (Nowak, 1999)

The estrus period of females lasts 2 to 3 days and mating usually occurs in October or November. Gestation period takes 70 days (Nowak, 1999). In December or January, females give birth in a tree cavity that is padded with leaves. Litter sizes of 2 or 3 are common. young are weaned around 45 days of age, and reach sexual maturity by the age of 10 to 14 months. (Nowak, 1999)

  • Breeding interval
    It is likely that these animals breed once per year.
  • Breeding season
    Mating usually occurs in October or November.
  • Range number of offspring
    2 to 3
  • Average number of offspring
  • Average gestation period
    70 days
  • Average gestation period
    65 days
  • Average weaning age
    45 days
  • Average time to independence
    1.5 months
  • Range age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female)
    10 to 14 months
  • Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male)
    Sex: male
    365 days

Females build nests where they give birth to their offspring. Offspring are fully furred at birth and have open eyes. By 3 to 4 weeks, they begin climbing and can trail after their mother (Grzimek, 1988). The period of nursing is 45 days (Nowak, 1999). A month and a half after birth, the offspring no longer rely on the mother (Grzimek, 1988). (Grzimek, 1988; Nowak, 1999)

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


A closely related animal, Cheirogaleus medius is reported to have lived nearly 20 years in captivity. It is likely that C. major has a similar maximum lifespan. (Nowak, 1999)


Greater dwarf lemurs are nocturnal (Hill, 1953). They sleep during the day in nests composed of twigs, leaves, and grass, or in hollowed sections of trees that are padded with dry leaves. They are usually solitary, but may be found with other lemurs while resting during the day (Grzimek, 1988).

Greater dwarf lemurs inhabit areas of Madagascar with pronounced dry seasons. They become seasonally torpid during dry times (aestivation). During torpor, the lemurs find a secluded area such as a hollow tree or a tunnel in the roots of a tree (Grzimek, 1988). Torpor can last over a month and fat that is stored in the base of the tail is used during this time. These animals can lose up to 100 g of their weight during torpid periods (Grzimek, 1988; Nowak, 1999).

Greater dwarf lemurs are not known to be very vocal or make many calls. Soft calls are made in order to locate other individuals (Nowak, 1999). When disturbed, louder trills can be heard (Grzimek, 1988; Nowak, 1999). They have been observed licking and grooming the fur of other lemurs (Grzimek, 1988). (Grzimek, 1988; Nowak, 1999)

Home Range

Individual home ranges of the greater dwarf lemur are usually less than 200 meters in diameter. There is large overlap of the home ranges between individual lemurs. They are not believed to be territorial (Nowak, 1999). They have no scent glands for marking, but urine and feces are used for marking limbs of trees. (Nowak, 1999)

Communication and Perception

These lemurs are not reported to be highly vocal, but do emit some calls. Tactile communication is of importance between rivals and mates, as well as between offspring and their mother. Such communication may include grooming, playing, and aggression. Urine is used for scent marking, indicating that some chemical communication is used. Although not specifically reported for this species, visual communication, through body postures, etc, is usually used by primates. (Nowak, 1999)

Food Habits

Greater dwarf lemurs are omnivorous. They usually feed on fruits, flowers, and nectar (Nowak, 1999). The diet sometimes also includes insects and small vertebrates (Grzimek, 1988). Greater dwarf lemurs may also eat honey (Cockram, 1962). (Cockram, 1962; Grzimek, 1988; Nowak, 1999)

  • Animal Foods
  • birds
  • mammals
  • amphibians
  • eggs
  • insects
  • Plant Foods
  • fruit
  • nectar
  • flowers


Specific predators of these animals have not been reported. However, many different tenrecs, fossas, and civets may prey upon these small primates. In addition, nocturnal birds of prey and snakes may also feed upon them.

  • Anti-predator Adaptations
  • cryptic

Ecosystem Roles

These creatures are inadequately studied, so little is known about thier role in the ecosystem. However, it is likely that they have some impact on insect populations through predation. They may help to disperse seeds from the fruits they eat, and they may help to polinate plants when the forage for nectar. To the extent that these animals are preyed upon by others, they may have some impact on predator populations.

  • Ecosystem Impact
  • disperses seeds
  • pollinates

Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

There is no known positive benefit to human economies. However, it has been reported that local people sometimes keep these lemurs as pets. They are quite affectionate once habituated, and come when called. (Nowak, 1999)

Economic Importance for Humans: Negative

There is no known adverse affect on humans.

Conservation Status

Greater dwarf lemurs are under a low degree of threat. The total population is estimated to be over 100,000 animals (Mittermeier et al., 1992). Densities range from 75 to 110 animals/sq km (Nowak, 1999). In an IUCN evaluation of the lemurs of Madagascar completed in 1992, greater dwarf lemurs were not listed as a High Priority or Priority species. This species can be found in many of the parks in Madagascar (Mittermeier et al., 1992). (Mittermeier, et al., 1992)


Nancy Shefferly (editor), Animal Diversity Web.

Arthur Cooper (author), University of Michigan-Ann Arbor, Phil Myers (editor), Museum of Zoology, University of Michigan-Ann Arbor.



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

World Map


uses sound to communicate


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.


uses smells or other chemicals to communicate


having markings, coloration, shapes, or other features that cause an animal to be camouflaged in its natural environment; being difficult to see or otherwise detect.


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


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


having a body temperature that fluctuates with that of the immediate environment; having no mechanism or a poorly developed mechanism for regulating internal body temperature.

island endemic

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.

native range

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


active during the night


an animal that mainly eats all kinds of things, including plants and animals


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.

scent marks

communicates by producing scents from special gland(s) and placing them on a surface whether others can smell or taste them

scrub forest

scrub forests develop in areas that experience dry seasons.

seasonal breeding

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


lives alone


uses touch to communicate


Living on the ground.


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.

young precocial

young are relatively well-developed when born


Cockram, E. 1962. Introduction to Mammology. New York: Ronald Press Company.

Grzimek, B. 1988. Grzimek's Encyclopedia of Mammals. New York: McGraw-Hill Publishing Company.

Hill, W. 1953. Primates: Comparative Anatomy and Taxonomy. London: Edinburgh University Press.

Mittermeier, R., W. Konstant, M. Nicoll, O. Langrond. 1992. Lemurs of Madagascar - Action Plan for Their Conservation 1993-1999. Gland, Switzerland: IUCN.

Nowak, R. 1999. Walker's Mammals of the World, Sixth Edition. Baltimore and London: The Johns Hopkins University Press.