Lepilemur mustelinusweasel sportive lemur

Geographic Range

Sportive lemurs, Lepilemur mustelinus, live in the deciduous forests of the East and West coasts of Madagascar (Macdonald, 1984; Grzimek, 1990). (Grzimek, 1990; Macdonald, 1984)


Sportive lemurs live in the deciduous, humid, and gallery forests of Madagascar. They sleep during the day in tree hollows or occasionally in nests in the open when there is little threat from predators (Macdonald, 1984; Richard, 1987). (Macdonald, 1984; Richard, 1987)

Physical Description

Sportive lemurs measure about 24 to 30 cm for head and body length, with a tail of about 22 to 29 cm. Typically, members of the genus weigh between 500 and 900 g. The tail is always shorter than the body, and the legs are always much longer than the arms. There are six recognized subspecies and fur coloration differs between populations. However, in general sportive lemurs are brown to grey on their backs and tails with a light to white underbelly. They have dense, woolly fur, and prominent ears. Their dental formula is 0/2, 1/1, 3/3, 3/3 = 32 (Macdonald, 1984). (Macdonald, 1984)

  • Range mass
    500 to 900 g
    17.62 to 31.72 oz
  • Range length
    24 to 30 cm
    9.45 to 11.81 in


Males occupy territories by themselves which tend to overlap with the territories of two to three females with which they will mate (Macdonald, 1984; Richard, 1987). (Macdonald, 1984; Richard, 1987)

Sportive lemurs reach sexual maturity at about 18 months of age. Sexual receptivity in females, estrous, is marked by a distinct swelling of the genitalia. Mating occurs from May through August. Females give birth to single young between September and November with a gestation period of about 135 days. The young are weaned around 4 months of age, but are not independent until they are about one year old. (Nowak, 1999; Macdonald, 1984; Richard, 1987).

  • Breeding interval
    Breeding occurs annually.
  • Breeding season
    Mating occurs from May through August.
  • Average number of offspring
  • Average number of offspring
  • Average gestation period
    135 days
  • Average gestation period
    135 days
  • Average weaning age
    4 months
  • Average time to independence
    1 years
  • Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female)
    18 months
  • Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female)
    Sex: female
    592 days
  • Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male)
    18 months
  • Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male)
    Sex: male
    546 days

Not much is known about the parental behavior of these animals. Females sometimes carry their young, and sometimes "park" them on a branch while they forage. The young are weaned at about 4 months of age. Young follow their mother until they are around one year of age. The role of males in parental care has not been described. (Nowak, 1999)

  • Parental Investment
  • altricial
  • pre-fertilization
    • provisioning
    • protecting
      • female
  • pre-hatching/birth
    • provisioning
      • female
    • protecting
      • female
  • pre-weaning/fledging
    • provisioning
      • female
    • protecting
      • female
  • pre-independence
    • protecting
      • female
  • extended period of juvenile learning


Members of the genus Lepilemur are reported to have lived as long as 12 years in captivity. Lepilemur mustelinus is probably similar. (Nowak, 1999)

  • Average lifespan
    Status: captivity
    12 years


Lepilemur mustelinus is both arboreal and nocturnal. These lemurs move from tree to tree by leaping vertically beween tree trunks or vertical branches. They leap an average of five meters. When travelling on the ground, sportive lemurs can walk on all four feet or can leap on their hind legs. Although most of their activities are solitary, sportive lemurs sometimes gather in large groups before going out to feed alone. Occasionally a male-female pair will meet to feed, rest, or groom together but they rarely stay together for more than an hour at a time (Richard, 1987). (Richard, 1987)

Home Range

In Lepilemur leucopus, another member of the genus, home ranges of females measure 0.18 hectares, and those of males measure 0.30 hectares. Home ranges of L. mustelinus are probably comparable. (Nowak, 1999)

Communication and Perception

Visual displays, vocalizations, chases, and severe fighting have all been reported for this genus. Although not reported for these animals, prosimians usually scent mark their territories, and it is reasonable to suppose that L. mustelinus engages in some scent marking and chemical communication. (Nowak, 1999)

Food Habits

The diet of L. mustelinus is primarily leaves. However, these animals also eat fruit, flowers, and bark. Sportive lemurs may not be capable of completely digesting this folivorous diet and they have been known to eat their own feces, perhaps in order to extract more nutrients from the food on its second journey through their digestive tract. Sportive lemurs do not pick leaves or fruit from branches when feeding, but instead they bring branches to their mouths and feed directly from them (Grzimek, 1990; Richard, 1987). (Grzimek, 1990; Richard, 1987; Grzimek, 1990; Richard, 1987)

  • Plant Foods
  • leaves
  • wood, bark, or stems
  • fruit
  • flowers
  • Other Foods
  • dung


These small nocturnal primates probably fall prey to raptors, snakes, fossas, and any other carnivorous animal large enough to subdue them. Humans are reported to hunt members of this genus for meat. (Nowak, 1999)

Ecosystem Roles

As frugivores, these primates probably help to disperse seeds. To the extent that they serve as prey for other animals, they may impact local food webs.

  • Ecosystem Impact
  • disperses seeds

Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

Sportive lemurs are sometimes hunted for their meat (Grzimek, 1990). (Grzimek, 1990)

  • Positive Impacts
  • food

Economic Importance for Humans: Negative

There are no known negative effects of sportive lemurs on humans.

Conservation Status

Lepilemur mustelinus is considered threatened due to habitat destruction and the breakdown of anti-hunting rules (Richard, 1987).

Other Comments

Due to human introduction of farming and domesticated animals on Madagascar, many species of lemurs have become extinct. Therefore, it is important to remember that no animals of Madagascar, including sportive lemurs, are members of intact ecological communities (Richard, 1987).


Nancy Shefferly (editor), Animal Diversity Web.

Christina Schreffler (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


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.

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


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.


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


An animal that eats mainly plants or parts of plants.

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


having more than one female as a mate at one time

scent marks

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

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.


Grzimek, 1990. Grzimek's Encyclopedia of Mammals. McGraw-Hill, Inc..

Macdonald, D. 1984. Encyclopedia of Mammals. Oxford: Equinox.

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

Richard, A. 1987. Malagasy Prosimians: Female Dominance. Pp. 25-33 in D Cheney, R Seyfarth, B Smuts, T Struhsaker, R Wrangham, eds. Primate Societies. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.