A new species of mouse lemur has been discovered in eastern Madagascar, report researchers from Germany. The species is described in a recent issue of the journal Primates.
The diminutive primate is named Gerp’s mouse lemur (Microcebus gerpi) after a GERP (Groupe d’Étude et de Recherche sur les Primates de Madagascar), a local lemur research group. It was discovered during surveys in 2008 and 2009 in Sahafina Forest, a fragment of rainforest just 50 km away from the well-known Mantadia National Park, which lies east of Madagascar’s capital city of Antananarivo. The lemur was confirmed as a “new species” after genetic analysis of small biopsies collected during the surveys. Lemurs were not killed to make the determination that it was an undescribed species.
Microcebus gerpi. Photo by Blanchard Randrianambinina
At 68 grams (2.4 ounces), Gerp’s mouse lemur is “a giant” relative to Goodman’s mouse lemur, a species found in nearby Mantadia, according to a press release from Stiftung Tierärztliche Hochschule Hannover, the German institution that supported the research.
The conservation status of the new species is presently unknown, but due to fragmentation of habitat in the region, it is likely at risk from further deforestation.
More than 40 species of lemur have been described in the past decade. There are more than 100 lemur species Madagascar, the only place lemurs occur naturally in the wild.
Mouse lemurs are the smallest lemurs and among the tiniest primates in the world. They are found in virtually all of Madagascar’s forests where they feed on insects, fruit, and plant sap. Mouse lemurs are nocturnal and betray their presence with high-pitched chirps.
CITATION: Ute Radespiel, Jonah H. Ratsimbazafy, Solofonirina Rasoloharijaona, Herimalala Raveloson, Nicole Andriaholinirina, Romule Rakotondravony, Rose M. Randrianarison, Blanchard Randrianambinina. First indications of a highland specialist among mouse lemurs (Microcebus spp.) and evidence for a new mouse lemur species from eastern Madagascar. Primates, 2011; DOI: 10.1007/s10329-011-0290-2
Cultural shifts in Madagascar drive lemur-killing
(12/15/2011) Conservationists have often found that some cultural norms, religious beliefs, and taboos play a role in holding back traditional peoples from overusing their environment. Examples of such beliefs include days wherein one cannot hunt or fish, or certain species or regions that are off limits to exploitation. But the influence of the modern world can rapidly extinguish such beliefs, sometimes for the better, in other cases not. In many parts of Madagascar, lemurs are off the menu. These primates, found only in Madagascar, play a big role in Malagasy ‘fady’ or taboo-related folk stories: lemurs are protectors and, in some cases, even relatives. However, according to a new paper in PLoS ONE an influx of migrants, widespread poverty, lack domestic meat, and poor law enforcement has caused a sudden rise in eating lemurs, many of which are already near-extinction due to habitat loss.
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