The quirky 100-plus lemur species call just one place home: the island of Madagascar. Since arriving there some 62 million years ago, the primates that became lemurs have enjoyed an island paradise, where there were few predators and plenty of food. The tens of current species have taken on various shapes and sizes, as well as lifestyles.
Now, results of a June 2012 conference of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Species Survival Commission finds that many lemurs are on the brink of extinction due primarily to habitat loss. Here's a look at our wacky Madagascar pals.
A prosimian primate, lemur in Latin means "ghost." In fact, lemurs' haunting stares and nocturnal activity have led many of the Malagasy people to believe they are ghostlike or spiritlike creatures, according to Duke University Lemur Center. Here, a greater bamboo lemur (Prolemur simus).
This red-ruffed lemur is found only in the rain forests of Masoala, in the northeast of the island. It is one of the largest primates of Madagascar with a body length of 20 inches (53 centimeters), a tail length of 24 inches (60 cm) and a weight of up to 9 pounds (4 kilograms).
The Diademed sifaka (Propiethecus diadema) is the largest species of the genus Propithecus; it has long silky fur that's gray on the back and shoulders.
The blue-eyed black lemur (Eulemur flavifrons), a male shown here, is the only primate species other than humans that has blue eyes.
The world's smallest primate, the Madame Berthe's mouse lemur (Microcebus berthae) weighs just 30 grams. Here, the primate is being released into the forest, Kirindy, Madagascar, in August 2007.
Among the most spectacular species of lemurs assessed as "critically endangered," is the indri, the largest of the living lemurs and a species of symbolic value comparable to that of China's giant panda.
A Diademed sifaka (Propiethecus diadema) suspended from a tree branch.
The Oreo Lemur
A black-and-white ruffed lemur ( Varecia variegata). In general, ruffed lemurs are found in the eastern rain forests of Madagascar, with this one having a wider range than the other ruffed-lemur species, V. rubra, according to the University of Wisconson-Madison's National Primate Research Center.
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Jeanna served as editor-in-chief of Live Science. Previously, she was an assistant editor at Scholastic's Science World magazine. Jeanna has an English degree from Salisbury University, a master's degree in biogeochemistry and environmental sciences from the University of Maryland, and a graduate science journalism degree from New York University. She has worked as a biologist in Florida, where she monitored wetlands and did field surveys for endangered species. She also received an ocean sciences journalism fellowship from Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution.