About 240 species of mammal have been described from Madagascar, but the basic inventory of its mammal species is ongoing: dozens of new species have been described in recent decades.Each of Madagascar’s major terrestrial mammal groups: tenrecs, lemurs, rodents and carnivores, seems to have originated from a single colonizing event, most likely animals that rafted their way onto the island. For example, the whole range of lemurs, from tiny mouse lemurs up to the extinct ‘gorilla’ lemurs, are likely to have evolved from a single common ancestor. Several species of mammal appear to have reached Madagascar with human assistance, namely: Asian Musk Shrew Suncus murinus, Small Indian Civet Viverricula indica, Black Rat Rattus rattus and Brown Rat Rattus norvegicus, House Mouse Mus musculus and Bush Pig Potamochoerus larvatus. Of these, the rats and mice are by far the most frequently seen. Lemurs are Madagascar’s most celebrated biological treasure. Fifteen percent of the world’s primate species and subspecies, 20% of its primate genera, and one third of its primate families, are endemic to this island. Lemurs form one of the most prominent voices in the Malagasy forest. Most species are vocal and produce many different calls. The majority of Madagascar’s mammals are nocturnal. Three of its five lemur families consist of nocturnal species, while bats, tenrecs and rodents are either mainly or entirely nocturnal. The Malagasy carnivorans vary from being mainly diurnal to entirely nocturnal.
Local guides in all protected areas invariably prioritize lemurs, and are very good at finding their quarry. Seeing most tenrecs, rodents, carnivorans and bats is a matter of luck and the amount of time spent in the forest, particularly on night walks. Most lemur species time their breeding for the flush of food that becomes available during the wet season, so most eastern species give birth between September and November, and western species slightly later. One of the reasons to visit Madagascar between October and February is to see lemur babies. The identification of most Malagasy mammals is made easier by reference to their ranges. Confusing groups, like woolly lemurs and sportive lemurs, often have only a single species in any one location.
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