This tiny primate was only discovered in 2005. Goodman’s mouse lemur has short, dense, bright maroon fur, tinged with orange on the back, head and tail, and blending to creamy-white on the underparts. A distinct white stripe extends along the bridge of its nose. The ears are small and round and the long, uniformly coloured tail can be used for storing fat reserves (2). The eyes of mouse lemurs contain a tapetum lucidum, a light reflecting layer behind the retina, which enhances their ability to see in the dark (3). The testes of the Goodman’s mouse lemur are noticeable large (2), which hints at their promiscuous behaviour. The species name lehilahytsara is a combination of the Malagasy words ‘lehilahy’ and ‘tsara’ which mean ‘man’ and ‘good’, respectively. This name was given in honor of a scientist who conducted much research in Madagascar (2).
Goodman’s mouse lemur is an arboreal and nocturnal species. Like other species belonging to the family Cheirogaleidae, it is likely that Goodman’s mouse lemur breeds at about one year of age, and will give birth to two to four offspring each year, after two to three months gestation. They are likely to have a maximum lifespan of five years in the wild. Most mouse lemurs feed on a diet of fruit and small invertebrates(3).
Due to the lack of information regarding this newly described species, the extent to which it is threatened is difficult to determine. However, its presumably small distribution within rainforest means it is highly likely to be threatened by habitat loss and degradation. Humans have already destroyed over 90 percent of Madagascar’s original forest cover, and the remaining forest continues to be threatened by intentional fires, which are lit to clear land for agriculture. The pressure on remaining forest will increase as human populations grow (5).
Specimens of Goodman’s mouse lemur have been found within two protected areas; Mantadia National Park and Analamazaotra Special Reserve (2), which may offer the species a small degree of protection. However, there are no conservation measures in place specifically for this little known species, and when faced with such intense threats, it is possible that this species could go extinct before we even understand the basics of its biology.
For further information on this species see Roos, C. and Kappeler, P. (2006) Distribution and Conservation Status of Two Newly Described Cheirogaleid Species, Mirza zaza and Microcebus lehilahytsara. Primate Conservation, 21: 51 – 53.
Kappeler, P.M., Rasoloarison, R.M., Razafimanantsoa, L., Walter, L. and Roos, C. (2005) Morphology, behaviour and molecular evolution of giant mouse lemurs with description of a new species. Primate Report, 71: 3 - 26.
Macdonald, D.W. (2006) The Encyclopedia of Mammals. Oxford University Press, Oxford.
Ashokan, K.V. (2006) New lemurs discovered in Madagascar. Current Science, 91: 13 - 14.
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