Dwarf lemurs are small nocturnal lemurs in the same family as mouse lemurs. They are remarkable as the only primates known to go into a hibernation-like torpor during the dry season (approximately May to September), during which they live off the reserves of fat stored in their tails. Dwarf lemur taxonomy is still imperfectly understood, and there are several undescribed species. There seems to be little overlap in the range of most species, so tentative identifications can be based on the location of a sighting.

DISTRIBUTION: Found almost throughout in forest and some human-modified habitats such as secondary forest and plantations. Generally absent from the High Plateau, and scarce in the southwest.

ID: Larger and slower-moving than mouse lemurs. Smaller and more horizontal than sportive lemurs. Superficially similar to fork-marked lemurs, but with smaller ears, no fork mark on the back, slower movements, and much less vocal. Separation of individual dwarf lemur species can be difficult, with range the best guide. There are three widespread groups. The western and northern medius complex (including Fat-tailed Dwarf Lemur ) is fairly distinctive: cold grey above and white below, with no warm tones. The eastern and northern crossleyi complex (including Montagne d’Ambre Dwarf Lemur ) has broad black eye rings and shows a considerable amount rufous-brown on the head, as well as on the body in some individuals. The eastern major complex (including Greater Dwarf Lemur ) has intermediate coloration, with colder brown on the head and body, and less black on the face than the crossleyi complex.

VOICE: Generally quiet. Calls that have been noted include screams during territorial confrontations, a rising squeak, and a high “kak-kak-kak…” similar to the call of the diurnal Broad-billed Roller (page 140).

BEHAVIOUR: Move slowly through the trees, with a mainly horizontal posture. Give birth during the wet season to 1–4 young, with 2–3 being the most common. Diet consists of fruit, nectar, leaves, buds, and insects.


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