Cheirogaleus mediusfat-tailed dwarf lemur

Geographic Range

Fat-tailed dwarf lemurs are found in the dry forests of western Madagascar and south to the southern tip of Madagascar, where their range extends into moist evergreen forest habitats. (Mittermeier, et al., 2006)


Fat-tailed dwarf lemurs inhabit dry deciduous forests and thorn scrub forests in western Madagascar. Their range extends to southeastern Madagascar, where they inhabit moist evergreen forests. They are seen on thick and medium-sized branches that are usually low down. Fat-tailed dwarf lemurs make their nests in holes in trees, where they lie dormant throughout the dry season. (Mittermeier, et al., 2006)

Physical Description

Fat-tailed dwarf lemurs are small animals, about the size of a small rat. Head and body length is 20 to 23 cm and tail length is 20 to 27 cm. Body weight varies between 120 and 270 grams, being heaviest just prior to entering seasonal torpor. Their fur is soft and woolly. They have large, lustrous eyes which are surrounded by dark rings. They are a brownish-red or grey color, and their underside is completely white. Along with the dark eye rings, fat-tailed dwarf lemurs have a white nasal stripe and white feet. (Mittermeier, et al., 2006)

  • Sexual Dimorphism
  • sexes alike
  • Range mass
    120 to 270 g
    4.23 to 9.52 oz
  • Range length
    20 to 23 mm
    0.79 to 0.91 in
  • Average basal metabolic rate
    1.088 W


Females have an estrous cycle which lasts about 20 days. During this time males compete fiercely for the estrous females. Social groups consist of a mated female and male and offspring from previous breeding efforts. Despite this apparently monogamous structure, approximately 40% of young are fathered by a different male. (Mittermeier, et al., 2006)

Fat-tailed dwarf lemurs begin mating near the end of November, when they emerge from their winter torpor. The gestation period is approximately 61 days and 1 to 4 young are born, although twins are most common. Fat-tailed dwarf lemurs become sexually mature in their second year of life. (Mittermeier, et al., 2006)

  • Breeding interval
    Fat-tailed dwarf lemurs breed once a year.
  • Breeding season
    Fat-tailed dwarf lemurs begin mating at the end of November.
  • Range number of offspring
    1 to 4
  • Average number of offspring
  • Average number of offspring
  • Average gestation period
    61 days
  • Average gestation period
    61 days
  • Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female)
    2 years
  • Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female)
    Sex: female
    365 days
  • Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male)
    2 years

Fat-tailed dwarf lemur females care for their young by nursing them and protecting them until they are independent. Young are born well-developed, fully furred and with their eyes open. Both females and male participate in caring for the young. (Mittermeier, et al., 2006)

  • Parental Investment
  • altricial
  • pre-fertilization
    • provisioning
    • protecting
      • female
  • pre-hatching/birth
    • provisioning
      • female
    • protecting
      • female
  • pre-weaning/fledging
    • provisioning
      • female
    • protecting
      • male
      • female
  • pre-independence
    • protecting
      • male
      • female
  • post-independence association with parents


Fat-tailed dwarf lemurs are reported to have lived up to 20 years in captivity. (Nowak, 1999)


Fat-tailed dwarf lemurs are nocturnal primates. They live in small groups of a mated male and female and their offspring from the previous one or two breeding seasons. They move in a quadrupedal, squirrel-like fashion. Fat-tailed dwarf lemurs spend virtually all their time in trees. During the winter dry months they become dormant for up to 6 months, nesting in holes in trees. During this time they use stored fat in their tails to survive until the next wet season. Their body temperatures while dormant vary with ambient temperature. During sleep and times of dormancy they are rolled up in a tight ball. No territorial behaviors or marking have been observed. Population densities range from 40 to 400 per square kilometer. (Mittermeier, et al., 2006)

Home Range

Most individuals have home ranges of 1 to 2 hectares. (Mittermeier, et al., 2006)

Communication and Perception

Fat-tailed dwarf lemurs are relatively quiet animals. They do have a few weak calls for contact and a louder cry in agonistic situations. They use fecal scent marks to mark territories. (Mittermeier, et al., 2006)

Food Habits

Fat-tailed dwarf lemurs are predominantly frugivores, but they also feed on flowers, seeds, nectar and insects. They take small vertebrates occasionally. During the wet season fat-tailed dwarf lemurs store fat in their tails in preparation for their dry season aestivation. Just before aestivation they begin to incorporate higher quantities of fruit in their diet. (Mittermeier, et al., 2006)

  • Animal Foods
  • reptiles
  • insects
  • Plant Foods
  • seeds, grains, and nuts
  • fruit
  • nectar
  • flowers
  • sap or other plant fluids


Predators of fat-tailed dwarf lemurs include fossas, Madagascar harrier-hawks, Madagascar buzzards, barn owls, Madagascan long-eared owls, and native boas. Fat-tailed dwarf lemurs are nocturnal and cryptically colored, which helps them to avoid some predation.

  • Anti-predator Adaptations
  • cryptic

Ecosystem Roles

Fat-tailed dwarf lemurs may play a role in seed dispersal in the forests they inhabit. They are also important prey for medium sized carnivores.

Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

Since these animals are confined to only the island of Madagascar their economic importance to humans is extremely little, if their is any at all.

Economic Importance for Humans: Negative

There are no known negative impacts of Cheirogaleus medius on humans.

Conservation Status

Fat-tailed dwarf lemurs are currently listed as lower risk/least concern by the IUCN. They are considered endangered by the U.S. Endangered Species Act and on Appendix I of CITES by virtue of being in the family Cheirogaleidae. They are fairly widespread and abundant currently and populations are protected in 4 national parks. (Mittermeier, et al., 2006)


Tanya Dewey (author), Animal Diversity Web.

Kevin F. Older (author), 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


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.


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


an animal that mainly eats fruit


an animal that mainly eats seeds


An animal that eats mainly plants or parts of plants.


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.


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 one mate at a time.


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


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

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.


A Handbook of Living Primates J.R. Napier and P.H. Napier 1967 Academic Press.

Grzimek's Encyclopedia of Mammals vol. 2 Dr. Bernhard Grzimek 1990 McGraw-Hill Publishing Company.

The Encyclopedia of Mammals Dr. David MacDonald 1984 Facts on File Publications.

The Evolution of Primate Behavior Alison Jolly 1972 Macmillan Publishing Company.

Mittermeier, R., W. Konstant, F. Hawkins, E. Louis, O. Langrand, J. Ratsimbazafy, R. Rasoloarison, J. Ganzhorn, S. Rajaobelina, I. Tattersall, D. Meyers. 2006. Lemurs of Madagascar. Washington, D.C.: Conservation International, Tropical Field Guide Series.

Nowak, R. 1999. Walker's Mammals of the World. Baltimore, Maryland: The Johns Hopkins University Press.