Ring-tailed lemurs have soft, woolly fur generally of a solid color, small ears and an elongated
face. They have long, nearly dog-like
noses and scent glands on the wrist and inner side of the upper arm, relying heavily on their sense of smell. The word lemur
itself is an ancient Roman
word that refers to spirits of the departed. It is said that early travellers saw the glowing eyes of the lemurs staring out at them through the trees, hence their name.
The males have an unusual way of settling disputes using stink fight
s. Two males stand facing each other waving their tails which have been rubbed against their strong smelling wrist glands. The male who can stand and stink the longest wins
With a body length of 15 to 17 inches, their tails are much longer than their bodies, reaching from 21 to 24 inches. Very small creatures, they weigh only 6 to 8 lbs and move quadrupedally
along the forest floor. Their diet consists of mainly figs and bananas in the wild, but they also eat leaves, flowers, grasses, bark and tree sap.
They live in groups of 20 to 24 individuals of both sexes and ages and are led by a dominant female
. Breeding season lasts between April and June, and babies are carried for 136 days, usually single birth
s. Infants are born with blue eyes which later turn to the yellow adult color. They are carried on its mother's belly for the first 2 weeks of life
, then carried on their backs for 1 to 2 weeks more after that. By 4 weeks of age, young lemurs are quite inependent and return to their mother only to sleep and feed. The young are raised by the entire group rather than the mother alone.
Ring-tailed lemurs can be found in south and southeastern Madagascar
, from Fort-Dauphin west and extending as far north as Morandava
on the west coast. One additional population lives near the mountains of Andringita
on the southeastern plateau. In lives in many forest habitats, ranging from the dry scrub of the Didiereaceae
forest to other well, dediduous and gallery forests.