The isolated island of Madagascar is famous for its lemur inhabitants. This fantastically diverse group of primates have adapted to almost every niche available.


Attenborough on Lemurs


Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Primates
Suborder: Strepsirrhini


Lemurs are a group of primates endemic Madagascar, arriving on the island approximately 65 million years ago, they are often confused as ancestral primates. However, while monkeys, apes, and humans did not evolve from lemurs, they both share the same common primate ancestor.

Lemurs are named after lemures, meaning ghosts or spirits of Roman mythology. This is due to their ghostly noises, nocturnal habits and associated reflective eyes.


Lemurs exhibit a wide range of different modes of locomotion. Sportive lemurs and indri lemurs have longer back limbs making them excellent leapers. While some lemurs like the ring-tailed variety have an almost quadrupedal locomotion, others use an arboreal, quadrupedal locomotion and some have a suspensory locomotion, much like a sloth. It is rare to see lemurs exhibiting brachiation (swinging between branches) like some monkeys and apes.

Red-ruffed lemur

Red-ruffed lemur


Possibly the strangest of the lemurs, the aye-aye has evolved traits unique among primates; rodent-like, gnawing teeth, an extremely long and thin middle finger and large ears. These are all used in unison to detect and extract grubs from underneath the bark of trees.


Humans arrived on Madagascar about 2,000 years ago and have since had a negative effect on the lemur population. Many species of lemur are under the threat of extinction. This is mostly down to habitat loss, from practices such as logging, and hunting.