Cheirogaleidae – Dwarf & mouse lemurs

Smallest lemurs & smallest primates, weighing no more than 500 g (1.1 pound)

Encompassing both dwarf and mouse lemurs, this family is renowned for its diminutive members, some of which weigh no more than 500 grams (1.1 pounds), making them not only the smallest within the primate world but also some of the most elusive and fascinating creatures in Madagascar’s forests.

The physical characteristics of Cheirogaleidae primates reflect their arboreal and nocturnal lifestyle. They possess long, soft fur that ranges in color from reddish to grey-brown on the dorsal side, with a lighter shade on the underside, providing camouflage within the dappled light of their forest habitats. Their large, close-set eyes are a critical adaptation for nocturnal activity, allowing for enhanced night vision in the low-light conditions of the forest underbrush. Small ears and long hind legs further exemplify their specialized anatomy, facilitating remarkable agility and the ability to leap significantly between trees.

Cheirogaleidae lemurs are exceptional climbers, utilizing their tails for balance and coordination as they navigate the complex vertical terrain of Madagascar’s forests. Their tails are not prehensile but aid in maintaining stability during their acrobatic movements. When they venture to the forest floor, a rare occurrence, they exhibit a distinctive hopping motion propelled by their powerful hind legs. This mode of terrestrial locomotion is seldom observed, as these lemurs prefer the safety and resources available within the canopy.

The diet of Cheirogaleidae family members varies among species but generally includes a mix of fruits, insects, and small vertebrates, as well as nectar and plant exudates. Some species exhibit remarkable dietary adaptations, such as seasonal fat storage in their tails, which allows them to survive periods of food scarcity. This ability to accumulate and utilize energy reserves is particularly important for species that undergo torpor or extended periods of dormancy during the dry season, a unique physiological trait within the primate order.