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Gray mouse lemur

The gray mouse lemur (Microcebus murinus) is primarily found on the west coast of Madagascar. With a body length of a maximum of 14 centimeters and a weight of only 60 gram, it is considered one of the smallest primates.

Gray mouse lemurs are nocturnal and arboreal and feed mainly on insects. Photo: Manfred Eberle
Gray mouse lemurs are nocturnal and arboreal and feed mainly on insects. Photo: Manfred Eberle

Description

In addition to its petite stature, they are also known for their larger eyes and ears. Their limbs are very short. The fur on their backs and tail is gray-brown mixed with different shades of red. The flanks and belly area are colored beige to white.

Nutrition

The gray mouse lemur prefers insects such as beetles and moths as well as spiders as part of their diet. Occasionally they hunt for frogs, geckos and chameleons or eat fruit, flowers, leaves and plant exudates. An interesting food source for gray mouse lemurs is the secretion of the Madagascar White Flower Bug Flatida coccinea on which they rely particularly in the barren dry season. The larvae of these insects gather in large numbers on tree trunks and branches and excrete sugary substances that serve as an energy reserve for the mouse lemurs.

Habitat and lifestyle

An adult grey mouse lemur (Microcebus murinus) looking out his shelter in Kirindy Forest, Madagascar. Photo: Elise Huchard
An adult grey mouse lemur (Microcebus murinus) looking out his shelter in Kirindy Forest, Madagascar. Photo: Elise Huchard

Gray mouse lemurs live in a variety of forest types. They prefer tropical dry forests and thorny scrubland as well as mixed deciduous and coastal forests. They are exclusively arboreal and nocturnal animals. During the day they sleep in hollow tree or leaf nests and during the night they go in search of food. The related females sleep in groups of two to nine whereas the men are loners. The activity times of the gray mouse lemurs differ between the genders: during the dry season, the female does not only rest during the day but remains in a continuous dormant state over a long period of time. During this time the metabolism and energy conversion functions are reduced to a minimum (torpor). In this way, the females often survive the months of the dry season where little food is available whereas the males remain active.

A female gray mouse lemur with four-weeks-old offspring, Madagascar. Photo: Manfred Eberle
A female gray mouse lemur with four-weeks-old offspring, Madagascar. Photo: Manfred Eberle

Gray mouse lemurs are loners. In the inactive phase the males and females sleep separately. While the females form sleeping groups with other related females and their offspring, the males mostly remain alone or a maximum of two in their tree hollows. At night both sexes go foraging alone. The home ranges of males are twice as large as those of the females and are expanded during the mating season. Both sexes show territorial behavior and mark their territory with urine and feces. The gray mouse lemur's mating season lasts for about four weeks and takes place in the dry season from October to November. In this time, the female is fertile for a timeframe of only a few hours. During the mating season the male’s testicles swell up to eight times the normal size. Usually, a female mates with several males. After a gestation period of around 60 days the females give birth to one, rarely two or three, still underdeveloped, naked cubs that weigh only four to seven grams and their eyes open after two to four days. The first three weeks the young remain in the nest and are also taken care of by related females. After about a month the young start to take solid food but the mother continues to nurse until the sixth week. During their nocturnal forays, the mother carries the young in her mouth or "parks" it in in the thicket. The young are weaned at six weeks. With their hairless belly and a gray stripe on her back, they differ from adult animals.

 

Source: Handbook of the Mammals of the World: Primates (edited by Mittermeier, R.A., Ryland, A.B., Wilson D.E., published by Lynx Edicions, Conservation International, IUCN, 2013)

Distribution

Distribution area of gray mouse lemurs on the island of Madagascar. Image: Sylvia Siersleben
Distribution area of gray mouse lemurs on the island of Madagascar. Image: Sylvia Siersleben

Profile gray mouse lemur

Scientific nameMicrocebus murinus
Taxonomy

Suborder:
Lemurs

Family:
Cheirogaleidae

Genus:
Mouse lemur

Species:
Gray mouse lemur

DistributionWest- and Southwest
Madagascar
Head and body length12 - 14 cm
Tail length13 - 14.5 cm
Weigth60 g
Diet beetles, moths, praying mantises, cicadas, spiders, fruits, blossoms, rubber, nectar, exudates, tree frogs, geckos, chameleons, leaves
Lifestylenocturnal, aboreal
Social organizationsolitary
Mating systempromiscuous
Life expectancy (husbandry)In the wild: average 2 years
In an animal husbandry: up to 18 years
Status
(IUCN Red List)
least concern