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Lemurs

( Originally Published 1936 )

The true Lemurs are confined to Madagascar, allied species, however, being found in Africa and various parts of India and neighbouring islands. They feed on fruits and insects, but will also eat lizards and small birds. Their thumbs and big toes are large and opposable, and at least the second finger or toe is furnished with a large claw, the others being generally provided with nails. On account of its habit of feeding at night, the Lemur does not see well in the day-time, when it is usually quiet, becoming restless and walking about as evening approaches. It can, how-ever, on occasion, exhibit remarkable activity. In captivity they may sometimes be seen turning back-somersaults over and over in their cages with most amazing rapidity. The eyes are large and round, and have a curious unseeing expression as the animal gazes sleepily about.

Native to Madagascar, only, is a form of this order that is of much interest to naturalists because of its strange characters. This animal, the Aye-Aye (Chiromys madagascarensis) has very long, slender fingers and toes, the third finger, especially, being extremely long, and all except the thumb and big toe ending in claws. It is a rather large animal, measuring about forty inches including the tail, has large black ears, and long stiff bristles that project from the head and face in various directions. It lives in dense forests, is nocturnal in habits, and is of a low order of intelligence, but is regarded by the natives as a supernatural animal, perhaps because of ifs rarity and curious appearance. Specimens are difficult to obtain and it is seldom seen in zoological collections.

Ruffed Lemur (Lemur varius)

This species is remarkable for the sharply contrasted black and white markings of its fur, although most of the Lemurs are of a red colour more or less varied with grey or white. The face is black, and the ears are almost concealed by the ruff of white hair surrounding it. The Ruffed Lemur is one of the largest species, none of which exceed a common cat in length of body. A peculiar characteristic is the attitude of the tail, which is held erect, slightly drooping at the tip, like that of a house cat, when pleased. See Plate 4, Fig. 17. This animal is nocturnal, sleeping during the day and becoming active at night. Its cry is loud and penetrating.

Another form of this family, common in captivity, is the Ring-tailed Lemur (Lemur catta), so called from the alternate rings of white and black on its tail. This species is less arboreal than the others, living more in rocky country.

Slender Loris (Loris gracilis)

This is a slender little animal, found in Ceylon, Java and Sumatra, distinguished from the true Lemurs by the absence of a tail, its shorter muzzle, and long, delicate limbs. The colour is grey tinged with red, the under parts of the body paling to white. The nose is made conspicuous by a streak of white running down it, and the fur surrounding the eyes is darker than that of the rest of the body. See Plate 4, Fig. 18. It is found in low-growing forests near the sea, sleeping during the day " rolled up in a ball, with its head between its legs, grasping its perch with its arms," says one authority, and coming out at night to feed on birds, insects, and lizards.

Tarsier (Tarsius spectrum)

This grotesque-looking little creature, only six or seven inches in length, inhabits the same general region as the preceding form. It is eminently adapted for a tree-living existence, being provided with cushions, or " suckers," on its fingers and toes somewhat like those of the tree-frog. The hind legs are very long, the second and third toes on them being furnished with claws instead of nails like the others, and it leaps from tree to tree with remarkable agility.

The tail is longer than the body and bears a tuft at the end. See Plate 4, Fig. 19. The Tarsier is allied to the lemurs, like them in habits, being a night animal, and is often called the Spectral Lemur—probably on account of its large round yellowish eyes.



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