Lonely Planet Writer

Scientists discover three new species of mouse lemur in Madagascar

At a time when wildlife news is so focused on conservation and endangered species, it’s comforting to think that there may still be some more species out there yet to be discovered. And now, scientists have discovered three new species of primates in Eastern Madagascar.

A view across the Madagascan mountains.
A view across the Madagascan mountains. Image by Chris / CC BY-SA 2.0

The primates are mouse lemurs, tea-cupped sized nocturnal creatures with characteristically large eyes and brown fur that were popularised by the animated movie Madagascar.

The discovery comes after only three years since the same team of scientists discovered two other new species of lemurs native to the island. These species were related to the Madame Berthe mouse, the smallest primate in the world weighing only 30g.

Lemurs face extinction in the wild over next quarter of a century due to deforestation in Madagascar
Lemurs face extinction in the wild over next quarter of a century due to deforestation in Madagascar Image by Tambako The Jaguar / CC BY 2.0

The new discoveries have been made possible in part due to improved analytical methods as well as improved accessibility to extremely remote areas in Madagascar.

Peter Kappeler, a researcher at the German Primate Centre in Madagascar for more than 20 years, spoke of the importance of these discoveries to Science Daily. “This new information is an important element towards better understanding how biodiversity on Madagascar arose.”

Mouse lemurs are native to Madagascar
Mouse lemurs are native to Madagascar Image by Arjan Haverkamp / CC BY 2.0

There are more than 100 more known species of lemur.