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Saturday, October 25, 2008

The Lemurs of Madagascar

During the geological Eocene Epoch there was emerging in Africa a class of mammals that took to the trees and became primates. When Madagascar became isolated some 80-100 million years ago, some of these primates were geographically isolated from the "parent" population on the mainland. Those on the mainland progressed and radiated like a "family tree" into the primates we know today (monkeys, apes and Man) whilst those isolated on Madagascar evolved along a separate route and diversified into the present-day lemurs.

There are about 75 species of lemurs surviving on Madagascar, of which we saw about twelve.

The tiny Mouse Lemur - the smallest of the lemurs. It may be hard to imagine that this little fellow is our cousin (having evolved from a common primate ancestor). However the orbital convergence (forward facing eyes to give "binocular vision); the manual grasping hand with opposable thumb; the presence of finger nails (rather than claws); and the relatively large cranium (required for the eye-limb coordination in an arboreal life) are all clues.

The Bamboo Lemur - another very small lemur

Ring-tailed Lemurs are among the best known. They live in troupes and spend considerable time on the ground

Do you like my tail? The tail held high is considered to be like a "flag" that other members of a troupe can recognise

A Verreaux's Sifaka looks for a tree-top breakfast in dawn sunshine. You can see here the forward-facing eyes and manually grasping hands that are typical of primates

When crossing open spaces the Verr- eaux's Lemur prefers to "dance" his way across ...

...which is tempting to think this could represent the origin of Man's bi- pedalism (upright walking). However the lemurs diverged from mainstream primate evolution long before the hominids appeared on the scene. It may may however be be a case of convergent evolution.

A female Verreaux's Lemur with a young one clinging for dear life to its mother while she forages through the trees in gathering dusk

A Red-tailed Sportive Lemur peers inquisitively at us from his lofty perch in the Zombitse National Park

An aptly-named Wooly Lemur in the Ranomafana National Park

A beautiful Diadem Sifaka clings to a vine in typical lemur fashion

A Black-and-white Ruffed Lemur demonstrates articulation skills in its arboreal habitat

The "king" of the lemurs, the Indri, keeps a watchful lookout in the high forest canopy

We were lucky to find a family group of Indri moving through the Madagascan rain forest in the PĂ©rinet National Park

The tail-less Indri moves effortlessley through the jungle in search of leaves and fruits


Blogger indicaspecies said...

This post is full of interesting information with fabulous photographs. Brilliant. Thank you for sharing.

12:23 pm  
Blogger Kiwi Nomad 2008 said...

Your photos are remarkable maalie: you must have been able to spend quite some time observing and looking for these remarkable creatures.
We separated from Oz in the same kind of time frame, but we just ended up with a whole lot of different birds.... not quite as exciting as lemurs (to a non-ornithologist like myself)!

1:04 pm  
Blogger simon said...

great photos, and trip mate. The wildlife seems to be everywhere!

12:17 am  
Blogger lorenzothellama said...

You mean they are more than 5000 years old?

1:58 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Stunning photos Jimmy!


1:03 am  
Blogger Shrinky said...

These photographs are amazing Maalie, absolutely wonderful.

I love, love, love lemurs, there is something so tactile about them, isn't there?

12:49 pm  
Blogger Ellee Seymour said...

They look so cute, I would loved to have seen them. You are sooo lucky. I would have laughed and laughed at that walking lemur. Well done Maalie, they are great photos. Are you off again soon?

5:52 pm  
Blogger lorenzothellama said...

Did you take all these photos yourself?

7:44 pm  
Blogger Maalie said...

Thanks for the nice comments everyone. Yes, all my own pictures (I always acknowledge the source if not).

8:35 pm  
Blogger lorenzothellama said...

I found my old llama again! The other one got lost the first time I used it in Japan! Obviously the Japanese airways don't approve of llamas. It also wiped out all my previous llama pictures too.

3:57 pm  
Blogger TCA said...

Oof... I'm all lemured out! Better use my binocular vision and opposable thumbs to pur myself a drink...

Great pics and excellent commentary.


8:48 am  
Blogger donsands said...

Incredible photos, really.

The one dancing had me singing the song from the film "Madagascar", "I like to move it, move it!"

7:59 pm  

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