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Gray Mouse Lemur Fact File

Microcebus murinus

Credit: Charles J. Sharp, CC BY-SA 3.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0>, via Wikimedia Commons

Weight

60g

(2oz)

Length

10cm

(4in)

Lifespan

Wild 14 years

Captive 14 years

Diet

Omnivore

Fruit, Insects, Reptiles

Conservation Status

IUCN

Least Concern

The gray mouse lemur or lesser mouse lemur is among the world's smallest primate at lengths of up to 10cm (4in) long.

These animals are omnivores which will feed on a range of fruits, insects, small reptiles and flowers. Their diet is subject to high levels of seasonal variation.

Females will form a nest from leaves or use a tree hollow to raise two young. For the first three weeks of life they rarely leave the nest.

This species is increasingly threatened by habitat loss and collection for the pet trade.

Read on to learn more about these marvellous mammals.

Appearance

What does the gray mouse lemur look like?

Across the body of the gray mouse lemur they are colored brownish-grey. This has reddish tones throughout it. Their underside is pale. Some individuals have a dark mark around the eye.

The eyes of these primates are incredibly large. Behind the eye is a layer which reflects light helping them to see at night.

At the end of the body is a long tail which could be longer than the rest of the body at up to 15cm (6in) long.

These animals are among the world's smallest primate species. They average a length of just 10cm (4in) long and a weight of 60g (2oz).

Until the rediscovery of the pygmy mouse lemur (Microcebus myoxinus) which was thought to be extinct they were believed to be the world's smallest primate.

Diet

What does the gray mouse lemur eat?


Gray mouse lemurs are omnivores. Their diet is highly variable and may include insects, fruit, flowers and leaves, small reptiles and amphibians.

The diet is highly seasonable, for example they are reliant on gum during the dry season. They will scrape small branches using their comb like teeth to obtain this.

To survive through periods of food scarcity they will store fat in their tail and hind limbs.

Gray Mouse Lemur (Microcebus murinus)

Credit: Arjan Haverkamp, CC BY 2.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0>, via Wikimedia Commons

Range

Where can you find the gray mouse lemur?

Gray mouse lemurs are found exclusively on the island of Madagascar off the east coast of Africa. They are primarily found along the west coast of the island with another isolated population in the south east.

Habitat

What kind of environment does the gray mouse lemur live in?

This species is found in forest and shrubland habitats. They make use of tropical dry forests, sub-arid thorn scrub, gallery forest and spiny forest.

They are occasionally spotted in gardens and on roadside verges.

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Reproduction

How does the gray mouse lemur produce its young?

Mating takes place during mid-September.

Following a 60 day gestation period the female will give birth to two young. At birth they weigh just 3g (0.1oz). The female will create a nest from leaves or use a tree hole.

During the first three weeks of the infants life they will rarely leave the nest.

If the young must be moved the female will pick them up in her mouth.

Young feed by suckling milk from their mother. These animals begin to move independently of their mother by two months old.

Sexual maturity is reached by 8 months old.

In two regions within their range they are known to produce hybrids with the reddish-gray mouse lemur (Microcebus griseorufus).

Behavior

What does the gray mouse lemur do with its day?

These animals are solitary and spend their time foraging for good.

They are nocturnal emerging at night for food. During the day they nest as part of a group. Females form large groups of up to 15 while males tend to rest in pairs. Most females in these groupings are related to one another.

Both males and females will maintain a home range. Males maintain larger territories than females. His range will overlap those of many females with which he can maintain breeding rights.

During the dry season from April to October this species will become dormant and will spend long periods resting in a tree hole. This helps them to conserve their energy during periods of resource scarcity.

Males may become more active during this period and will use the time to establish a hierarchy for the upcoming breeding season.

Within their society the females are considered dominant.

A range of vocalizations are produced by the gray mouse lemur. This includes a series of rapid whistles to show alarm and trill produced by the male during mating.

Gray Mouse Lemur (Microcebus murinus)

Credit: Arjan Haverkamp, CC BY 2.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0>, via Wikimedia Commons

Predators and Threats

What is impacting the survival of the gray mouse lemur?

Natural predators of the gray mouse lemur include the fossa, snakes, birds of prey such as the barn owl and the ring-tailed mongoose.

Populations of the gray mouse lemur are decreasing across their range despite this species being one of the most abundant small mammals on the island.

They are affected by habtiat loss due to the large amounts of burning which occur to create land for agriculture or cattle grazing. They may also lose habitat or be affected by mining.

Small numbers are collected through live capture to supply the pet trade.

This species has shown an ability to persist in areas of disturbed habitat. This is aided by their small size and the small amount of resources they require to survive. These degraded habitats do show some signs of affecting population dynamics.

They are protected by law but this does not prevent their capture.

Quick facts

Gray mouse lemurs have been identified as one of the best models for neurological aging research. Non-invasive research is being undertaken at the Duke Lemur Center in the US.

They may also be known as the lesser mouse lemur.

Gray Mouse Lemur (Microcebus murinus)

Credit: photographer: Gabriella Skollar; editor: Rebecca Lewis, CC BY-SA 3.0 <http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/>, via Wikimedia Commons

References

Jackson, T. and Chinery, M., 2012. The illustrated encyclopedia of animals of the world. London: Southwater.

Reuter, K.E., Blanco, M., Ganzhorn, J. & Schwitzer, C. 2020. Microcebus murinus (amended version of 2020 assessment). The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2020: e.T163314248A182239898. https://dx.doi.org/10.2305/IUCN.UK.2020-3.RLTS.T163314248A182239898.en. Accessed on 10 December 2021.

Covert, T., 2021. Gray mouse lemur. [online] New England Primate Conservancy. Available at: <https://www.neprimateconservancy.org/gray-mouse-lemur.html> [Accessed 10 December 2021].

Duke Lemur Center. 2021. Gray Mouse Lemur – Duke Lemur Center. [online] Available at: <https://lemur.duke.edu/discover/meet-the-lemurs/grey-mouse-lemur/> [Accessed 10 December 2021].

Pairi Daiza. 2021. Grey Mouse-lemur. [online] Available at: <https://www.pairidaiza.eu/en/activities/grey-mouse-lemur> [Accessed 10 December 2021].

Lemurworld.com. 2021. Gray Mouse Lemur – Lemur Facts and Information. [online] Available at: <https://www.lemurworld.com/gray-mouse-lemur/> [Accessed 10 December 2021]. Alvarado, D. 2000. "Microcebus murinus" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed December 10, 2021 at https://animaldiversity.org/accounts/Microcebus_murinus/

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