New Lemur Species Discovered in Madagascar

Photo: Russell A. Mittermeier / Conservation International

According to researchers exploring in the forests of Madagascar, they've stumbled upon a species of lemur previously unknown to the world of science -- though its future may already be in jeopardy. Researchers suspect this new lemur, which has yet to be named, will eventually be classified among the island's growing list of threatened and endangered species.The new lemurs, believed to be fifth species found with the genus Phaner, are about the size of a squirrel and have a distinctive fork-shaped stripe above their eyes. The species is equipped with large hands perfect for climbing, and a long tongue which allows them to feast on the nectar of flowers. Researchers also observed that the lemurs had a habit of 'head-bobbing' -- a unique behavior among lemurs which isn't fully understood.

Although the species has just recently been confirmed as new to the world of science, primatologist Dr. Russ Mittermeier of Conservation International actually encountered the unnamed species in the forests of Madagascar 15 years ago. "I was surprised to all see a fork-marked lemur there, since this animal had not yet been recorded from the region. I immediately knew that it was likely a new species to science, but didn't have the time to follow up until now," he said.

This last October, however, Mittermeier had the chance to make his discovery official -- and this time he brought along a team from the BBC to join him.

After hearing its call in the treetops one night, the team managed to track down one adult lemur and tranquilize it. Blood samples and physical observations would later confirm that the small lemur was in fact a previously unrecorded species. But, while still very little is known about it -- researchers believe the tree-dwellers will likely end up being classified as a threatened or endangered species.

Dr. Mittermeier, from a press release:

This is yet another remarkable discovery from the island of Madagascar, the world's highest priority biodiversity hotspot and one of the most extraordinary places in our planet.It is particularly remarkable that we continue to find new species of lemurs and many other plants and animals in this heavily impacted country, which has already lost 90% or more of its original vegetation.

The forests of Madagascar, like many of the planet's most diverse biologically rich ecosystems, are among the most threatened from human activities, too. Deforestation on the island, driven in large part provide exotic lumber to manufactures throughout the world, continues to diminish the habitats of countless animals there -- even those yet to be discovered.

More on Madagascar's Biodiversity
New Population of Rare Lemurs Discovered in Madagascar
Thousands of Endangered Turtles Killed in Madagascar Despite Bans
Super-Tiny Chameleon Photographed in Madagascar
Madagascar Bird Declared Extinct

Tags: Africa | Animals | Biodiversity | Biology

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