Lemurs are mammals of the order Primates, divided into 8 families and consisting of 15 genera and around 100 existing species. They are native only to the island of Madagascar. Most existing lemurs are small, have a pointed snout, large eyes, and a long tail. They chiefly live in trees (arboreal), and are active at night (nocturnal).
Lemurs share resemblance with other primates, but evolved independently from monkeys and apes. Due to Madagascar's highly seasonal climate, lemur evolution has produced a level of species diversity rivaling that of any other primate group. Until shortly after humans arrived on the island around 2,000 years ago, there were lemurs as large as a male gorilla. Most species have been discovered or promoted to full species status since the 1990s; however, lemur taxonomic classification is controversial and depends on which species concept is used.
Compared to other mammals, primates in general are very vocal, and lemurs are no exception.Some lemur species have extensive vocal repertoires, including the ring-tailed lemur and ruffed lemurs. Some of the most common calls among lemurs are predator alarm calls. Lemurs not only respond to alarm calls of their own species, but also alarm calls of other species and those of non-predatory birds. The ring-tailed lemur and a few other species have different calls and reactions to specific types of predators. With mating calls, it has been shown that mouse lemurs that cannot be discerned visually respond more strongly to the calls of their own species, particularly when exposed to the calls of other mouse lemurs that they would encounter normally within their home range. Lemur calls can also be very loud and carry long distances. Ruffed lemurs use several loud calls that can be heard up to 1 km (0.62 mi) away on a clear, calm day. The loudest lemur is the indri, whose calls can be heard up to 2 km (1.2 mi) or more and thus communicate more effectively the territorial boundaries over its 34 to 40 hectares (0.13 to 0.15 sq mi) home range.Both ruffed lemurs and the indri exhibit contagious calling, where one individual or group starts a loud call and others within the area join in. The song of the indri can last 45 seconds to more than 3 minutes and tends to coordinate to form a stable duet comparable to that of gibbons.
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