Eulemur fulvus is found on Madagascar and the Comoro Islands. This species includes five subspecies. They are Eulemur fulvus fulvus (common brown lemurs), Eulemur fulvus albifrons (white-fronted lemurs), Eulemur fulvus collaris (collared lemurs), Eulemur fulvus rufus (red-fronted lemurs), and Eulemur fulvus sanfordi (Sanford's lemurs). They all have their own specific ranges within the larger range shared by the entire species.
Red fronted lemurs (E. f. rufus) are found naturally in western and eastern Madagascar. There is also a small introduced population in Southern Madagascar at the Berenty Private Reserve. Common brown lemurs (E. f. fulvis) are found in northwest portions of Madagascar. White-fronted lemurs (E. f. albifrons) are found throughout most of the remaining northeastern rain forest in Madagascar. Collared lemurs (E. f. collaris) are found in southeastern Madagascar, and Sanford's lemurs (E. f. sanfordi) have a very restricted range in northern Madagascar.
At some points, these subspecies exist sympatrically.
Biogeographic Regions: ethiopian (Native )
Other Geographic Terms: island endemic
The western populations can be divided into two subpopulations, a southern one extending from the Betsiboka River/Ankarafantsika National Park to the Maverano River, and a northern one ranging from the Andranomalaza River and Manongarivo Reserve to the Mahavavy du Nord River south of Ambilobe. Animals in the northern reaches of this range may also be found throughout the moister forests of the Sambirano region, as well as on the slopes of the Tsaratanana Massif, and are very similar in colouration to the Brown Lemurs found on the island of Mayotte (Mittermeier et al. 2008). It ranges from sea-level to 400 m.
Brown lemurs, like all true lemurs, have binocular vision and long furry tails. They have a scent gland located at their wrist that is used in olfactory communication. This species is sexually dichromatic - its males and females have different fur patterns.
All the members of this species fall within the broad size range of 2 to 4 kg. This is about the size of a housecat. Each subspecies has its own unique markings on its fur.
Red-fronted brown lemurs have an average weight of about 2.7 kg and their average body length is 40 cm. The tail is about 55 cm long. The males are gray to gray-brown and have a reddish crown. The females are reddish-brown. All red-fronted brown lemurs have pale patches over their eyes.
Common brown lemurs, weigh around 2.6 kg. Their body length is 50 cm, as is their tail length. Both males and females are brown to dark-gray with light beards and dark faces.
White-fronted lemurs have a body weight of 2.3 kg, and body length of 40 cm, and a tail length of greater than 50 cm. Generally, this subspecies is dark brown with a lighter underside. Males have a white or cream colored head, ears and beard.
Collared lemurs are around 2.6 kg, with a body length of 50 cm and a tail length of 50 cm as well. Males are brownish-gray with a dark stripe down the back, a dark tail and tail tip, and a lighter underside. Females have a reddish to brown coat and a gray face. Both sexes have a distinct beard that is reddish-brown in females and cream to reddish-brown in males.
Sanford's lemurs weigh around 2.3 kg and have a body length of 40 cm with a tail length of 50+ cm. They can be distinguished from the other subspecies by their fur. Both sexes are dark brown with a lighter underside. Noses, snouts and the area between the eyes are black, and a dark "T" that connects the eyes and nose dominates the head. Males have white-reddish ear tufts and thick beards, providing them the illusion of a 'ragged mane' around their faces.
Range mass: 2 to 4 kg.
Range length: 40 to 50 cm.
Sexual Dimorphism: sexes colored or patterned differently
Other Physical Features: endothermic ; bilateral symmetry
Average basal metabolic rate: 4.239 W.
The habitat for E. fulvus varies slightly for each of the included subspecies. Red-fronted lemurs are found in the canopy of deciduous forests in western and eastern Madagascar. Common brown lemurs and collared lemurs live in scattered forest fragments in the high plateaus of western Madagascar. White-fronted lemurs are found in rain forest fragments. Sanford's lemurs inhabit a very limited area of secondary forest.
As mentioned earlier, the habitats for these subspecies do overlap, since some of the groups exist sympatrically.
Terrestrial Biomes: forest ; rainforest
Habitat and Ecology
This species is largely folivorous. It also eats flowers, fruit, and bark. The diet of E. fulvus varies slightly between subspecies and populations.
Red-fronted lemurs are mainly folivorous (leaf-eating). They also consume pods, stems, flowers, fruit, bark and sap of the kily tree (Tamarindus indica). However, they have very adaptable diets. These lemurs have the ability to shift their normally herbivorous diet to invertebrates and fungi when plant matter is scarce. Eastern populations are specifically known to include insects, bird eggs, and dirt in their diets. They are known to have higher dietary diversity than those populations found in the west and a unique predominance of fruit.
Common brown lemurs, white-fronted lemurs, and collared lemurs eat mainly fruit, young leaves and flowers. Sanford's lemurs feed on primarily fruit, occasional plant parts and invertebrates.
Animal Foods: eggs; insects
Plant Foods: leaves; wood, bark, or stems; fruit; flowers; sap or other plant fluids
Other Foods: fungus
Primary Diet: herbivore (Folivore , Frugivore )
As frugivores, these lemurs are likely to aid in dispersal of seeds. As predators on insects and bird nests, they may affect relevant populations of animals. To the extent that these lemurs serve as prey for other species, they may have some impact on predator populations.
Ecosystem Impact: disperses seeds
Predators of these lemurs have not been reported, although possibilities include fossas, raptors, and humans.
Life History and Behavior
Grooming is a way for E. fulvus to establish and maintain social bonds. Their unique method of grooming is a result of their 6 lower procumbent teeth that form a dental comb. This instrument is used to groom their own fur and that of the other members in the group.
Communication is achieved by both olfactory and vocal means. Olfactory communication is extremely important and is made possible by the scent glands located at the wrist throat. This type of communication is used for transmitting physical state, location, and individual recognition.
The sounds brown lemurs use for vocal communication have been described and partly deciphered. A nasal sound used in maintaining group cohesion has been described as 'ohn'. A 'cree' or high pitched sound is used as a territorial call, and 'Crou' is the alarm call of this lemur.
In addition to these forms of communication, body postures and facial expressions are likely to be important visual signals.
Communication Channels: visual ; tactile ; acoustic ; chemical
Other Communication Modes: scent marks
Perception Channels: visual ; tactile ; acoustic ; chemical
One individual of this species lived over 36 years in captivity. It is likely that, as with other lemurs in the genus, the maximum lifespan in the wild ranges between 20 and 25 years.
Status: captivity: 36 (high) years.
Status: wild: 25 (high) years.
Status: captivity: 35.5 years.
Lifespan, longevity, and ageing
The mating system of these lemurs has not been reported. However, other species in the genus Eulemur are either monogamous or polygynous. It is likely that E. fulvus is similar. Unlike other members of the genus, females are not usually dominant to males, so the degree to which females exert active mate choice is not known.
Brown lemurs reach sexual maturity between 1 and 2 years of age. Their mating habits are very seasonal with mating occuring sometimes in late May (Sanford's lemurs only) but usually throughout June and July (all subspecies). The gestation period for these animals is approximately 120 days. Infants are born in the fall, between September and November. Only one infant is born per year to each mother.
Breeding interval: These lemurs breed once per year.
Breeding season: Mating occurs sometimes in late May (Sanford's lemurs only) but usually throughout June and July (all subspecies)
Average number of offspring: 1.
Average gestation period: 120 days.
Range weaning age: 4 to 6 months.
Range age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female): 1 to 2 years.
Range age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male): 1 to 2 years.
Key Reproductive Features: iteroparous ; seasonal breeding ; gonochoric/gonochoristic/dioecious (sexes separate); sexual ; viviparous
Average birth mass: 83.3 g.
Average gestation period: 118 days.
Average number of offspring: 1.1.
For the first three weeks of their lives, young lemurs hang onto the mother's bellies. They alter their grasp only to nurse. After three weeks have passed, they shift and ride on the mother's backs. They then begin to take their first steps. Following this, they start to sample solid food, nibbling on whatever the other members of the group happen to be eating. This is their first sign of independence. Nursing continues but its importance in the infant's diet tapers. The young lemur is weaned after approximately 4 to 6 months - usually by January.
The role of males in parental care in this species has not been described.
Parental Investment: pre-fertilization (Provisioning, Protecting: Female); pre-hatching/birth (Provisioning: Female, Protecting: Female); pre-weaning/fledging (Provisioning: Female, Protecting: Female); pre-independence (Provisioning: Female, Protecting: Female); extended period of juvenile learning
- Nowak, R. 1999. Walker's Mammals of the World, Sixth Edition. Baltimore and London: The Johns Hopkins University Press.
Molecular Biology and Genetics
Barcode data: Eulemur fulvus
Below is a sequence of the barcode region Cytochrome oxidase subunit 1 (COI or COX1) from a member of the species.
See the BOLD taxonomy browser for more complete information about this specimen and other sequences.
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Download FASTA File
Statistics of barcoding coverage: Eulemur fulvus
Public Records: 4
Specimens with Barcodes: 6
Species With Barcodes: 1
The conservation status of brown lemurs is partially due to their restricted geographical area. Their primary threat is habitat destruction. Habitat destruction is largely the result of the explosive growth rate of the human population of Madagascar. This species is placed in a somewhat lower risk category (Vulnerable) because of its presumably large wild population and occurrence in a number of protected areas.
For red-fronted lemurs, the western habitats are largely at risk because of burning and clearing of land for pasture. In the east, the chief hazards are the slash-and-burn agriculture and forest cutting for fuel wood and construction. This subspecies occurs in some protected areas of Madagascar and can be found in captivity in 22 zoos worldwide where approximately 100 individuals are held.
Forest destruction is the primary threat to the survival of common brown lemurs. They are also hunted throughout much of their range. This subspecies is found in protected areas in Madagascar, and may be one of the lowest risk subspecies of brown lemur. Common brown lemurs have bred in captivity and there are currently about 140 animals at 40 institutions worldwide.
The white-fronted lemurs are threatened by the destruction of Madagascar's eastern rain forest for slash-and-burn agriculture. This animal is also hunted for food throughout most of its range. Presently, it does exist in protected areas in Madagascar. White-fronted lemurs do breed in captivity, and there are over 200 animals in captivity at more than 40 zoos worldwide.
Forest destruction is the primary threat to the survival of collared lemurs as well. They too, are hunted for food throughout much of their range. In addition to this, they are occasionally trapped for the pet trade. Collared lemurs occur naturally in only one of Madagascar's protected areas, but have been introduced into two others. Approximately 40 collared lemurs are currently in captivity in 6 institutions worldwide.
Sanford's lemurs are also threatened by forest destruction. This subspecies, however, does appear to be able to survive in slightly degraded habitats. Although Sanford's lemurs are found in protected areas in Madagascar, the level of protection varies among the reserves. This is because poaching and brush fires are common events in many of Madagascar's nature reserves. There are only two captive breeding groups of sanford's lemurs.
US Federal List: endangered
CITES: appendix i
IUCN Red List of Threatened Species: near threatened
IUCN Red List Assessment
Red List Category
Red List Criteria
The taxon is in decline due to continuing decline in area, extent and quality of habitat, in addition to exploitation through unsustainable hunting pressure. Eulemur fulvus is suspected to have undergone a reduction of 20-25% over the past 24 years (three generations, assuming a generation length of 8 years). Due to the close proximity of this value to the Vulnerable category (under criterion A2cd), in addition to suspected future increases in fragmentation, hunting and population decline, the species is listed as Near Threatened.
- 1994Vulnerable(Groombridge 1994)
- 1994Rare(Groombridge 1994)
- 1990Rare(IUCN 1990)
- 1990Rare(IUCN 1990)
- 1990Vulnerable(IUCN 1990)
Relevance to Humans and Ecosystems
The protected areas of Madagascar, which many lemurs (as well as many other types of flora and fauna) reside in, have become quite an attraction for tourists. Communities in Madagascar benefit greatly from this. They receive fifty percent of national park entry fees. Local inhabitants also benefit by serving as guides and by selling handicrafts to the tourists.
Members of this species are sometimes hunted for meat.
Positive Impacts: food ; ecotourism
Common brown lemur
The common brown lemur lives in western Madagascar north of the Betsiboka River and eastern Madagascar between the Mangoro River and Tsaratanana, as well as in inland Madagascar connecting the eastern and western ranges. They also live on the island of Mayotte, although this population is believed to have been introduced there by man.
The common brown lemur has a total length of 84 to 101 centimeters, including 41 to 51 centimeters of tail. Weight ranges from 2 to 3 kilograms. The short, dense fur is primarily brown or grey-brown. The face, muzzle and crown are dark grey or black with paler eyebrow patches, and the eyes are orange-red.
Similar lemur species within their range include the mongoose lemur, E. mongoz, in the west and the red-bellied lemur, E. rubriventer, in the east. They can be distinguished from these species by the fact that E. mongoz is more of a grey color and E. rubriventer is more reddish. There is also some overlap with the black lemur in northeast Madagascar in the Galoko, Manongarivo and Tsaratanana Massifs. There is also overlap and hybridization with the white-fronted brown lemur, E. albifrons, in the northeast portion of the common brown lemur's range.
The common brown lemur's diet consists primarily of fruits, young leaves, and flowers. In some locations it eats invertebrates, such as cicadas, spiders and millipedes. It also eats bark, sap, soil and red clay (see geophagy). It can tolerate greater levels of toxic compounds from plants than other prosimians can.
Consistent with its large range, the common brown lemur occupies a variety of forest types, including lowland rainforests, montane rainforests, moist evergreen forests and dry deciduous forests. They spend about 95% of their time in upper layers of the forest and less than 2% of their time on the ground.
They normally live in groups of 5 to 12, but group size can be larger, especially on Mayotte. Groups occupy home ranges of 1 to 9 hectares in the west, but more than 20 hectares in the east. Groups include members of both sexes, including juveniles, and there are no discernible dominance hierarchies.
In the western part of its range, the common brown lemur overlaps that of the mongoose lemur, and the two species sometimes travel together. In the areas of overlap, the two species also adapt their activity patterns to avoid conflict. For example, the Mongoose Lemur can become primarily nocturnal during the dry season in the areas of overlap.
At Berenty (south Madagascar) there is a population of introduced E. fulvus rufus x collaris. These lemurs show linear hierarchy, adult female dominance, and the presence of conciliatory behavior after aggressions. Additionally, stress levels (measured via self-directed behaviors) decrease at the increase of the hierarchical position of individuals within the social group and reconciliation is able to bring stress down to the baseline levels.
The common brown lemur's mating season is May and June. After a gestation period of about 120 days, the young are born in September and October. Single births are most common, but twins have been reported. The young are weaned after about 4 to 5 months. Sexual maturity occurs at about 18 months, and females give birth to their first young at 2 years old. Life span can be as long as 30+ years.
- White-fronted brown lemur, E. albifrons
- Gray-headed lemur, E. cinereiceps
- Collared brown lemur, E. collaris
- Red-fronted brown lemur, E. rufus
- Sanford's brown lemur, E. sanfordi
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