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Location and Habitat

Ring-tailed lemurs can be found in the dry woodlands of southwestern Madagascar. They live together in social groups of up to about 25 lemurs and are very territorial. A groupís range can be as small as around 15 acres and as large as 60. Ring-tailed lemurs mark their territory with scents produced in glands in their wrists. They will often fiercely defend their territories from other groups.


Ring tailed lemurs most often dine on fruits, leaves and flowers. The juicy vegetation helps keep them hydrated in their dry environment. They may also sometimes eat insects or small vertebrates.

Size and Description

Adult ring-tailed lemurs weigh approximately 6-7 pounds and are comparable in size to a large house cat. The ring-tailed lemur is easy to identify because of its long, gray tail banded with 13 black rings. In the wild, the tail helps members of a group keep track of each other as they move through the forest. This tail can grow to approximately two feet long.

Ring-tailed lemurs have a primarily gray body with a black muzzle and white extremities. Their back legs are longer than the front, which gives them a distinctive walk with their rump held higher than their head.

Behaviors and Adaptations

Lemurs are highly social animals. In any group, the females are always dominant. If a male and female should have any sort of disagreement, the female will always prevail. Females usually remain with the same group they were born into. Males will leave their birth group once they reach sexual maturity to join another group, thus helping to keep the gene pool strong and diverse. Both males and females have status within their groups, however this status often changes quickly as they challenge each other frequently for dominance. During breeding season, the social status of the males does not seem to offer any advantage, as the lower ranking males seem to have about the same chance of breeding as those who are dominant.

While most lemurs spend the majority of their time in the trees, ring-tailed lemurs spend about 40% of their time on the ground - the most of any lemur species.

Ring-tailed lemurs have a broad range of vocalizations that are used for communication within their group and as warnings to others who may be encroaching on anotherís territory. These range from barks to catlike purrs to a startling scream.


Ring-tailed lemurs reach sexual maturity between 1 Ĺ and 3 years of age. Mating usually takes place in the spring, with babies born around August and September after a gestation period of about 4 Ĺ months. A female will usually give birth to one offspring, however twins are not that uncommon if food is plentiful. A mother lemur will carry her babies in her mouth until they are old enough to cling to her back.

Special Facts

One of the more interesting habits of ring-tailed lemurs is their love for sunbathing. A group will sit together facing the sun, sprawled on their backs with their arms spread at their side. It is believed that they do this to warm their underbellies, which have a thinner fur coat.

Although they are protected in some areas, ring-tailed lemurs are still endangered due to loss of habitat in their native land of Madagascar.

© Petr Masek | Dreamstime.com
    Kingdom: Phylum: Order: Class: Family: Genus: Species: Animalia Chordata Mammalia Primates Lemuridae Lemur catta
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