Lepilemur septentrionalisnorthern sportive lemur

Geographic Range

Like all sportive lemurs, Lepilemur septentrionalis is found on the island of Madagascar. Northern sportive lemurs are confined to the northern tip of Madagascar from the left bank of the Loky river to the coast. ("Lemurs", 2003)


Northern sportive lemurs live in dry, deciduous forests and more humid evergreen forests. They spend most of the day sleeping in tree holes or dense bundles of vines. Most sleep sites are 6 to 8 m above ground, but some have been found as low as 1 m. ("Lemurs", 2003; Garbutt, 1999; Richardson, 2005)

  • Average elevation
    800 m
    2624.67 ft

Physical Description

Northern sportive lemurs are among the smallest members of the genus Lepilemur. They grow to around 53 cm, with a head and body length averaging 28 cm and tail length averaging 25 cm. The average weight of northern sportive lemurs is 0.7 to 0.8 kg. Their coloration is grey-brown and is darkest at the crown. There is a dark grey stripe that begins at the crown and runs down the dorsal line. The underside is grey. Northern sportive lemurs have enlarged, fleshy pads on their hands and feet that improve their grasp on tree branches, making them agile in the trees. They have binocular vision and large eyes. They have a large caecum to accomodate their folivorous diet. The ears are much less prominent in L. septentrionalis than in other members of the genus Lepilemur. ("Lemurs", 2003; Garbutt, 1999; Richardson, 2005)

  • Sexual Dimorphism
  • sexes alike
  • Average mass
    0.7 kg
    1.54 lb
  • Average length
    28 cm
    11.02 in


Male northern sportive lemurs are solitary and have territories that overlap those of one or more females. Males are polygynous and will visit each female in their territory during the mating season. ("Lemurs", 2003)

Within Lepilemur birthing happens between September and December, after a gestational period of 120 to 150 days. The young are weaned at four months, but can remain with the mother for up to a year, and they typically reach sexual maturity at around 18 months. Although there is little specific information on northern sportive lemurs, it is likely that reproduction is similar to other Lepilemur species. ("Sportive lemur", 2005)

  • Breeding interval
    Lepilemur septentrionalis breeds once per year.
  • Breeding season
    Breeding occurs from April to August.
  • Average number of offspring
  • Range gestation period
    120 to 150 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 (male)
    18 months

Females give birth to one offspring each year. Offspring are raised entirely by the mother. The mother lives with and cares for the offspring by providing food and protection, but will leave the offspring on a branch when going to forage for food. (Richardson, 2005)

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


The lifespan of L. septentrionalis has not been specifically studied. However, members of the genus Lepilemur have lived as long as 15 years in captivity and have an average lifespan of about 8 years . It is likely that L. septentrionalis has a similar potential lifespan. ("Sportive lemur", 2005; Reynolds, 2005)

  • Average lifespan
    Status: captivity
    15 years
  • Average lifespan
    Status: wild
    8 years


Lepilemur septentrionalis is arboreal and nocturnal. They sleep in tree holes or foliage of trees from heights of 1 to 8 m during the day. They cling to a tree in a vertical position and leap from that position. This leaping behavior is why this genus is called "sportive." Leaping is the primary mode of locomotion. (Richardson, 2005)

The solitary lives of males means that each has a territory, and the territory can overlap many female home ranges. The male breeds with each female in its territory during mating season. Males of this species will aggressively defend their territory. ("Northern Sportive Lemur (Lepilemur septentrionalis)", 2000; Richardson, 2005)

  • Average territory size
    Male: 0.03, Female: 0.018 km^2

Home Range

The home range for L. septentrionalis is not known. However, for L. leucopus, a member of the same genus, the average home range of a female is 0.18 hectares, and the average home range of a male is 0.3 hectares. It is likely that L. septentrionalis has a similarly sized home range. (Schreffler, 2000)

Communication and Perception

Northern sportive lemurs communicate through vocal communication or calls. There are two primary calls, a loud call and a contact rejection call. ("Northern Sportive Lemur (Lepilemur septentrionalis)", 2000; "Northern Sportive Lemur (Lepilemur septentrionalis)", 2000)

The loud call is a crow-like call used to indicate their presence and territorial claims. ("Lemurs", 2003)

The contact rejection call is a series of resonant hisses trailed by a two phase vocalization. This is heard when two individuals are close to each other in the wild. It also occurs in captivity if an individual is approached by a conspecific. ("Northern Sportive Lemur (Lepilemur septentrionalis)", 2000)

Also, many members of the genus Lepilemur engage in latrine behavior to scent mark their territorial boundaries. Therefore, it is likely that L. septentrionalis employs scent marking as a form of chemical communication. (Irwin, et al., 2004)

Food Habits

Northern sportive lemurs mainly feed on leaves, along with some flowers and fruit. They are cecotrophic, meaning they re-digest their own feces to break down the cellulose from the leaves even more. They do this because of the low energy value of leaves as a food source. (Richardson, 2005)

  • Plant Foods
  • leaves
  • fruit
  • flowers
  • Other Foods
  • dung


Northern sportive lemurs are preyed upon by Sanzinia madagascariensis, a boa species native to Madagascar, which takes the lemurs from their holes during the daytime, while they sleep. Also, members of the genus Lepilemur are sometimes hunted for food by humans, so it is likely that L. septentrionalis is hunted for food. Large birds of prey are also likely to prey on northern sportive lemurs. ("Lemurs", 2003)

Northern sportive lemurs are agile and wary, and try to avoid many predators by being inactive during the day and staying in the trees.

Ecosystem Roles

Northern sportive lemurs serve as prey to Sanzinia madagascariensis, a native boa species. Therefore, they have some effect on the local food webs. Also, because they are nocturnal folivores, they have an impact on the trees in the area. (Reynolds, 2005)

  • Ecosystem Impact
  • disperses seeds

Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

Northern sportive lemurs are sometimes hunted for food. The endemic lemur radiation in Madagascar is a rich natural heritage, with both research and ecotourism value. ("Lemurs", 2003)

Economic Importance for Humans: Negative

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

Conservation Status

Northern sportive lemurs are listed as "Vulnerable" by the IUCN. They are at risk due to a loss of habitat from the slash and burn agricultural technique practiced in its area. They are also illegally hunted for food. The total population of the species is estimated to be between 10,000 and 100,000 individuals. All members of the genus Lepilemur are considered endangered by the U.S. Endangered species act and are on the CITES Appendix I. ("Lemurs", 2003; Richardson, 2005)

Other Comments

All sportive lemurs belong to the genus Lepilemur. In recent times, some regarded all forms as subspecies of Lepilemur mustelinus. However, due to genetic and morphological differences, these subspecific divisions became full species divisions. (Garbutt, 1999)


Tanya Dewey (editor), Animal Diversity Web.

Mike Benson (author), Kalamazoo College, Ann Fraser (editor, instructor), Kalamazoo College.



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


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.


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


specialized for leaping or bounding locomotion; jumps or hops.

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.


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.


2003. Lemurs. Pp. 83 in M Hutchins, D Kleiman, V Geist, M McDade, eds. Grizmek's Animal Life Encylopedia, Vol. 12: Mammals I, 2nd Edition. Farmington Hills, MI: Gale Group.

2000. "Northern Sportive Lemur (Lepilemur septentrionalis)" (On-line). Accessed October 20, 2005 at http://members.tripod.com/uakari/lepilemur_septentrionalis.html.

2005. "Sportive lemur" (On-line). Accessed November 21, 2005 at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Megaladapidae.

Garbutt, N. 1999. Mammals of Madagascar. New Haven: Yale University Press.

Irwin, M., K. Samonds, J. Raharison, P. Wright. 2004. Lemur Latrines: Observations of Latrine Behavior in Wild Primates and Possible Ecological Significance. Journal of Mammalogy, 85/3: 420-427.

Reynolds, L. 2005. "Lepilemur leucopus" (On-line). Animal Diversity Web. Accessed November 23, 2005 at http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/site/accounts/information/Lepilemur_leucopus.html..

Richardson, M. 2005. "Northern Sportive Lemur" (On-line). Accessed October 20, 2005 at http://www.arkive.org/species/GES/mammals/Lepilemur_septentrionalis/more_info.html.

Schreffler, C. 2000. "Lepilemur mustelinus" (On-line). Animal Diversity Web. Accessed November 10, 2005 at http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/site/accounts/information/Lepilemur_mustelinus.html.