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Small World

August 22, 2016

4 amazing facts about Madagascar's mouse lemurs.

When it comes to Madagascar's lemurs, species that are active during the day tend to grab a lot of the attention. But, WCS Madagascar's Petra Lahann says, don't ignore the small nocturnal ones. They're fascinating. Take the mouse lemur, which Lahann has spent years studying.

Photo Credit: ©Petra Lahann/WCS

1. Lemur Day Care

Female mouse lemurs normally live with their offspring and take very good care of them, says Lahann. When the mothers go looking for food, they take the young ones and drop them in some dense scrub with other babies. Then they go foraging while the babies hang around and wait to get picked up after a couple of hours.

2. Protective Parents

Generally, females are very protective of their offspring. Despite their small stature, if they perceive a threat, they'll stand up to snakes, cats, and even people—something Lahann knows from personal experience.

3. The Bachelors

A male roams alone half of the night patrolling his territory and looking for a female willing to mate. Come morning, he returns to his tree hole, which he often shares with up to 24 other males.

4. Power Down

Mouse lemurs have the ability to go into torpor for hours or days. That means if food is scarce, they can drop their metabolism and conserve resources. No other primate is known to be able to do that. Few mammals can do that.

"Imagine," says Lahann, "you look out the window in the morning and the weather is super bad and then you decide to stay in bed and just drop you body temperature about 25 degrees for eight hours and save 40 percent of your energy."

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