Like all sportive lemurs, Lepilemur septentrionalis is found on the island of Madagascar. Northern sportive lemurs are confined to the northern tip of Madagascar from the left bank of the Loky river to the coast.
Biogeographic Regions: ethiopian (Native )
Other Geographic Terms: island endemic
Northern sportive lemurs are among the smallest members of the genus Lepilemur. They grow to around 53 cm, with a head and body length averaging 28 cm and tail length averaging 25 cm. The average weight of northern sportive lemurs is 0.7 to 0.8 kg. Their coloration is grey-brown and is darkest at the crown. There is a dark grey stripe that begins at the crown and runs down the dorsal line. The underside is grey. Northern sportive lemurs have enlarged, fleshy pads on their hands and feet that improve their grasp on tree branches, making them agile in the trees. They have binocular vision and large eyes. They have a large caecum to accomodate their folivorous diet. The ears are much less prominent in L. septentrionalis than in other members of the genus Lepilemur.
Average mass: 0.7 kg.
Average length: 28 cm.
Other Physical Features: endothermic ; homoiothermic; bilateral symmetry
Sexual Dimorphism: sexes alike
Northern sportive lemurs live in dry, deciduous forests and more humid evergreen forests. They spend most of the day sleeping in tree holes or dense bundles of vines. Most sleep sites are 6 to 8 m above ground, but some have been found as low as 1 m.
Average elevation: 800 m.
Habitat Regions: tropical ; terrestrial
Terrestrial Biomes: forest
Habitat and Ecology
Northern sportive lemurs mainly feed on leaves, along with some flowers and fruit. They are cecotrophic, meaning they re-digest their own feces to break down the cellulose from the leaves even more. They do this because of the low energy value of leaves as a food source.
Plant Foods: leaves; fruit; flowers
Other Foods: dung
Primary Diet: herbivore (Folivore )
Northern sportive lemurs serve as prey to Sanzinia madagascariensis, a native boa species. Therefore, they have some effect on the local food webs. Also, because they are nocturnal folivores, they have an impact on the trees in the area.
Ecosystem Impact: disperses seeds
Northern sportive lemurs are preyed upon by Sanzinia madagascariensis, a boa species native to Madagascar, which takes the lemurs from their holes during the daytime, while they sleep. Also, members of the genus Lepilemur are sometimes hunted for food by humans, so it is likely that L. septentrionalis is hunted for food. Large birds of prey are also likely to prey on northern sportive lemurs.
Northern sportive lemurs are agile and wary, and try to avoid many predators by being inactive during the day and staying in the trees.
- Humans (Homo sapiens)
- Madagascar tree boa Sanzinia madagascariensis
- large birds of prey (Falconiformes and Strigiformes)
Life History and Behavior
Northern sportive lemurs communicate through vocal communication or calls. There are two primary calls, a loud call and a contact rejection call.
The loud call is a crow-like call used to indicate their presence and territorial claims.
The contact rejection call is a series of resonant hisses trailed by a two phase vocalization. This is heard when two individuals are close to each other in the wild. It also occurs in captivity if an individual is approached by a conspecific.
Also, many members of the genus Lepilemur engage in latrine behavior to scent mark their territorial boundaries. Therefore, it is likely that L. septentrionalis employs scent marking as a form of chemical communication.
Communication Channels: visual ; tactile ; acoustic ; chemical
Other Communication Modes: scent marks
Perception Channels: visual ; tactile ; acoustic ; chemical
The lifespan of L. septentrionalis has not been specifically studied. However, members of the genus Lepilemur have lived as long as 15 years in captivity and have an average lifespan of about 8 years . It is likely that L. septentrionalis has a similar potential lifespan.
Status: captivity: 15 years.
Status: wild: 8 years.
Male northern sportive lemurs are solitary and have territories that overlap those of one or more females. Males are polygynous and will visit each female in their territory during the mating season.
Mating System: polygynous
Within Lepilemur birthing happens between September and December, after a gestational period of 120 to 150 days. The young are weaned at four months, but can remain with the mother for up to a year, and they typically reach sexual maturity at around 18 months. Although there is little specific information on northern sportive lemurs, it is likely that reproduction is similar to other Lepilemur species.
Breeding interval: Lepilemur septentrionalis breeds once per year.
Breeding season: Breeding occurs from April to August.
Average number of offspring: 1.
Range gestation period: 120 to 150 days.
Average weaning age: 4 months.
Average time to independence: 1 years.
Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female): 18 months.
Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male): 18 months.
Key Reproductive Features: iteroparous ; seasonal breeding ; gonochoric/gonochoristic/dioecious (sexes separate); sexual ; fertilization ; viviparous
Females give birth to one offspring each year. Offspring are raised entirely by the mother. The mother lives with and cares for the offspring by providing food and protection, but will leave the offspring on a branch when going to forage for food.
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); post-independence association with parents
IUCN Red List Assessment
Red List Category
Red List Criteria
Currently there are only about 50 remaining individuals of this species. Lepilemur septentrionalis has been observed to have undergone a population reduction of ≥80% over the past 21 years (three generations, assuming a generation length of 7 years) due primarily to continuing decline in the area of occupancy, the extent of occurrence, the quality of habitat, and exploitation through unsustainable levels of hunting. This cause has not ceased, and will to a large extent not be easily reversible. A future population reduction of ≥80% over a 21 year period is also suspected due to the same cause. The area of occupancy of L. septentrionalis covers less than 10 km2. Its geographic range is severely fragmented and is undergoing continuing decline in area and quality of habitat. The number of subpopulations and mature individuals is also known to be in decline. Based on these premises, the species is listed as Critically Endangered.
- 1994Vulnerable(Groombridge 1994)
- 1990Vulnerable(IUCN 1990)
- 1990Vulnerable(IUCN 1990)
- 1988Insufficiently Known(IUCN Conservation Monitoring Centre 1988)
- 1986Insufficiently Known(IUCN Conservation Monitoring Centre 1986)
Relevance to Humans and Ecosystems
There are no known negative effects of northern sportive lemurs on humans.
Northern sportive lemurs are sometimes hunted for food. The endemic lemur radiation in Madagascar is a rich natural heritage, with both research and ecotourism value.
Positive Impacts: food ; ecotourism ; research and education
Northern sportive lemur
The northern sportive lemur (Lepilemur septentrionalis), also known as the Sahafary sportive lemur or northern weasel lemur, is a species of lemur in the family Lepilemuridae. It is endemic to Madagascar. As a result of severe ecological and human pressures, the lemur is classified as Critically Endangered (CR) by the IUCN Red List, and is one of the world's most endangered primate species.
The Lepilemur genus was initially thought to comprise only 2 species: L. mustelinus and L. ruficaudatus, with the latter subdivided into 2 subspecies. The genus was later reclassified as having only 1 species, mustelinus, with 5 subspecies. In 1977, Petter et al. increased the species number of the genus to 7, at which point the species L. septentrionalis was demarcated, and classified as having 4 subspecies. As 2 of these subspecies were not geographically distinct, the number of L. septentrionalis subspecies was eventually condensed to 2: L. s. septentrionalis and L. s. ankaranensis. As a result of subsequent cytogenetic and molecular analyses, the 7 species of Lepilemur were confirmed by Rumpler et al., but the L. s. ankarensis subspecies was elevated to the status of full species, resulting in 8 species of lemur classified within the genus. A further three molecular genetic studies have led to the inclusion of another 15 species of Lepilemur, making it the most diverse lemur genus at 23 species. In 2004, a study of the evolutionary relationships of various subpopulations of the northern sportive lemur was carried out, in which sequence analyses of the mitochondrial DNA of a large number of L. septentrionalis individuals from the different subpopulations were performed. A significant number of fixed differences present in the lemurs in the Sahafary region distinguished them from the lemurs in other regions, suggesting that the northern sportive lemur in fact exists as two separate cryptic species, most likely caused by chromosomal rearrangements in one of the L. septentrionalis evolutionary lineages.
L. septentrionalis is a sportive lemur, so named due to the boxing-like stance assumed by the lemur when threatened. Northern sportive lemurs grow to a height of around 53 cm. They have a head and body length and tail length averaging at 28 cm and 25 cm respectively, and weigh an average of 0.7 to 0.8 kg. Their diminutive size makes them one of the smallest species in the Lepilemur genus. Their ears are also relatively less prominent than in the other Lepilemur species. They have a grey underside and their fur coat is a grey-brown colour, which is darkest at the crown and moves down the dorsal line in a dark grey stripe, ending in the rump and the hind limbs as a paler grey. The lemurs often adopt an upright vertical posture, using enlarged and fleshy digital pads on their hands and feet to cling tightly to tree branches. The lemurs can leap from this vertical position, making them an agile arboreal species. Their forward-facing large eyes give the lemurs binocular vision.
Distribution and habitat
The northern sportive lemur inhabits a highly restricted range in Northern Madagascar. The species is located from the left bank of the Loky River to the coast. The natural habitat of the species consists of small patches of deciduous forests north of the Irodo River, near the villages of Madirobe and Ankarongana in the Sahafary region and in the immediate vicinity of Andrahona, which is a small mountain that arises out lowlands south of Antsiranana.
The northern sportive lemur is nocturnal, foraging for food at night and sleeping in the day. The lemurs sleep in holes or dense foliage in trees ranging from 1 to 8 metres. Females will leave their young on a branch when foraging for food. Males are solitary and territorial, and their territories often overlap with many female home ranges. Male lemurs will aggressively defend their territories in the mating season. The male is generally thought to be loosely polygynous, but it has been suggested that males can be monogamous. L. septentrionalis individuals communicate through chemical communication in the form of latrine behaviour to mark territory, as well as vocal communication (calls). There are two main calls: a loud crow-like call and a contact rejection call. The loud call is used by the lemurs to reveal their presence and territorial claims to other individuals. The contact rejection call is a series of resonant hisses followed by a two-phase vocalisation, most commonly heard when two individuals approach each other in the wild. The contact rejection call is also heard when conspecifics come into contact with each other in captivity, at which point they may also strike each other with their hands.
|Breeding interval||Breeding season||Average number of offspring||Range gestation period||Average weaning age||Average time to independence||Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female)||Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male)|
|Once per year||April to August||1||120 to 150 days||4 months||1 year||18 months||18 months|
The northern sportive lemur is a foliovorous species, though they will also eat fruits and flowers to supplement their diet. Similarly to the other sportive lemurs, L. septentrionalis is caecotrophic, consuming its own faeces to digest food for a second time. The species have large bacteria-filled ceca, which helps them to digest plant matter such as cellulose and break it down into sugars and starches.
The northern sportive lemur is predated on by a boa species native to Madagascar, Sanzinia madagascariensis, which hunts the lemurs while they are sleeping in tree holes. Large birds of prey, Falconiformes and Strigiformes, are also natural predators of the lemurs. Along with these ecological threats, the arboreal lemur species are also highly threatened by human charcoal production, which still continues to remove the only remaining forest habitat of the lemurs, greatly restricting their range. L. septentrionalis is also illegally hunted as bushmeat. This combination of threats has severely reduced the population of the lemurs to only a few hundred individuals, as estimated by the IUCN Red List. They are classified as Critically Endangered under the IUCN Red List and are listed on CITES Appendix I, which only permits their trade in exceptional circumstances. The known habitat range of the lemurs does not overlap with any protected areas, and although the Andrahona Forest is considered sacred in Madagascar, it shows signs of human incursion.
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