Picture: New lemur in Madagascar
December 15, 2010

Close-up of a potentially new species of fork-marked lemur discovered in Madagascar, October 3, 2010. © Conservation International/ photo by Russell A. Mittermeier

Researchers have discovered a new species of lemur in Madagascar.

The squirrel-sized beast is a type of fork-marked lemur, a nocturnal species that feeds on nectar and bark. It belongs to the Phaner genus (which includes four other species) and lives in Daraina, a region in northeast Madagascar that is being pillaged for rosewood, a valuable timber used for making luxury furniture in China.

The lemur was first spotted by western scientists in 1995 when Conservation International president and primate expert Russ Mittermeier sighted it during an expedition. But it wasn't until October 2010 that Mittermeier could confirm via genetic analysis it was indeed an undescribed species.

Close-up of a potentially new species of fork-marked lemur discovered in Madagascar, October 3, 2010. © Conservation International/ photo by Russell A. Mittermeier

"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," Mittermeier said in a statement.

Footage of species was shown for the first time today on BBC's "Decade of Discovery" special.

Russell Mittermeier, primate expert and President of Conservation International, with geneticist Ed Louis and his team in the forests of Madagascar with a species of fork-marked lemur believed to be new to science. © Conservation International/ photo by Russell A. Mittermeier

The number of lemur species described in Madagascar has more than doubled since the 1990s despite ongoing destruction of the island nation's forests, including a surge in deforestation since 2005. Illegal logging of Madagascar's rainforest parks exploded last year in the aftermath of a military coup that displaced the country's democratically elected president.

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CITATION: (December 15, 2010). Picture: New lemur in Madagascar.

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