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Bible Encyclopedias

1911 Encyclopedia Britannica


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LEMUR (from Lat. lemures, " ghosts"), the name applied by Linnaeus to certain peculiar Malagasy representatives of the order PRIMATES which do not come under the designation of either monkeys or apes, and, with allied animals from the same island and tropical Asia and Africa, constitute the sub-order Prosimiae, or Lemuroidea, the characteristics of which are given in the article just mentioned. The typical lemurs include species like Lemur mongoz and L. catta, but the English name "lemur" is often taken to include all the members of the sub-order, although the aberrant forms are often conveniently termed "lemuroids." All the Malagasy lemurs, which agree in the structure of the internal ear, are now included in the family Lemuridae, confined to Madagascar and the Comoro Islands, which comprises the great majority of the group. The other families are the Nycticebidae, common to tropical Asia and Africa, and the Tarsiidae, restricted to the Malay countries. In the more typical Lemuridae there are two pairs of upper incisor teeth, separated by a gap in the middle line; the premolars may be either two or three, but the molars, as in the lower jaw, are always three on each side. In the lower jaw the incisors and canines are directed straight forwards, and are of small size and nearly similar form; the function of the canine being discharged by the first premolar, which is larger than the other teeth of the same series. With the exception of the second toe of the hind-foot, the digits have well-formed, flattened nails as in the majority of monkeys. In the members of the typical genus Lemur, as well as in the allied Hapalemur and Lepidolemur, none of the toes or fingers are connected by webs, and all have the hind-limbs of moderate length, and the tail long. The maximum number of teeth is 36, there being typically two pairs of incisors and three of premolars in each jaw. In habits some of the species are nocturnal and others diurnal; but all subsist on a mixed diet, which includes birds, reptiles, eggs, insects and fruits. Most are arboreal, but the ring-tailed lemur ( L. catta ) often dwells among rocks. The species of the genus Lemur are diurnal, and may be recognized by the length of the muzzle, and the large tufted ears. In some cases, as in the black lemur ( L. macaco ) the two sexes are differently coloured; but in others, especially the ruffed lemur (L. varius ), there is much individual variation in this respect, scarcely any two being alike. The gentle lemurs (Hapalemur) have a rounder head, with smaller ears and a shorter muzzle, and also a bare patch covered with spines on the fore-arm. The sportive lemurs ( Lepidolemur ) are smaller than the typical species of Lemur, and the adults generally lose their upper incisors. The head is short and conical, the ears large, round and mostly bare, and the tail shorter than the body. Like the gentle lemurs they are nocturnal. (See AVAHI, AYE-AYE, GALAGO, INDRI, LORIS, POTTO, SIFAKA and TARSIER.) (R. L.*)

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Bibliography Information
Chisholm, Hugh, General Editor. Entry for 'Lemur'. 1911 Encyclopedia Britanica. 1910.

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