Read out Mouse Lemurs on Madagascar Three new species of tiny primates have been discovered in research in the forests of Madagascar, according to the International Journal of Primatology in its December issue. The animals are lemurs - these are very primitive, tree-dwelling primates found only on this island and the Comoros to the northwest. The fact that the mites are attributable to new types of mouse lemurs, confirmed genetic studies.

The heads of the animals are no larger than a human thumbnail and are characterized by long noses, highly movable lips and large, piercing eyes. The weight of mouse lemurs is around 100 grams. In total, seven species found in 12 areas have been identified, according to Steven Goodman of the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago. Three of these species (Microcebus berthae, Microcebus sambiranensis and Microcebus tavaratra) were previously unknown to science.

The forests of Madagascar provide a unique habitat for a wide range of animals and plants. More than 12, 000 plant species, around 300 butterfly species and around 100 species of mammals have their home here. Almost all of these mammal species are found nowhere else in the world. However, the natural habitat of all these forms is acutely threatened: it is estimated that the island has only about 10 percent of its original forest cover. And still the local agriculture builds on deforestation and slash and burn.

It is generally accepted in the scientific community that Madagascar separated itself from the African mainland about 165 million years ago and that since then fauna and flora have largely developed independently. This makes the island a popular research object of evolutionary biologists. (BBC & International Journal of Primatology, vol. 21, issue 6) advertisement

Olaf Elicki

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