New Rare, Endangered Primate Species Native to Madagascar Discovered

Madagascar is a unique place where numerous plant and animal species are found solely on the island nation and nowhere else in the world. Lemurs, a subgroup of primates, are among the most prominent representatives of Madagascar's unique fauna and are found almost exclusively on the island. Through fieldwork and laboratory analyses, scientists from the universities of Mainz and Antananarivo have identified a previously unknown species of dwarf lemur, the Lavasoa Dwarf Lemur (Cheirogaleus lavasoensis).

Dr. Andreas Hapke of the Institute of Anthropology at Johannes Guteberg University Mainz (JGU), said:

"Together with Malagasy scientists, we have been studying the diversity of lemurs for several years now. It is only now that we were able to determine that some of the animals examined represent a previously unknown species."

The newly described species inhabits three isolated forest fragments in the extreme south of Madagascar. According to current knowledge, the Lavasoa Dwarf Lemur is not found outside of this area. The species' exact population size is not known, although preliminary estimates indicate that there are less than 50 individuals remaining. Thus, the Lavasoa Dwarf Lemur is rare and extremely endangered.

The lifestyle of a dwarf lemur makes them difficult to study. The nocturnal creatures live in forests and often remain in the upper parts of the forest canopy. They also hibernate for several months during the austral winter. Their primary period of activity is the rainy season, when many of the forests that the inhabit are virtually inaccessible to scientists.