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Lemur Discovery in Madagascar

News item submitted by Flora O'Brien
News item dated 13 Dec 2010

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It seems a new species of lemur has been found in Madagascar.  Famous for its status as a biodiversity hotspot, Madagascar is host to numerous rare and endemic species.  The new lemur species, which is currently unnamed but thought to be of the genus Phaner, was first spotted in 1995 by Conservation International’s president, Russ Mittermeier, in the Daraina forests of north-eastern Madagascar, only miles away from the Frontier Madagascar forest site.  Having already suspicions that this was a novel species, it was only on a recent trip back to Madagascar that Mittermeier and a group of researchers were able to tranquilise one of the lemurs and capture it for further investigation.  The specimen was microchipped for future monitoring and a blood sample taken, before it was carefully released back into its habitat. 

Phaner lemurs are easily identified by the black fork-shaped stripes on their forehead, and this new species is characterised by both their head-bobbing movements and the feathery nature of their tongue, believed to be an adaptation for feeding on nectar.  The nimble arboreal primates also have large hands for gripping onto tree branches and their teeth are adapted for scraping bark from trees in order to get to the sugary sap underneath.

The official verification that this is indeed a new species awaits results of genetic analysis, which has been performed using blood samples from the lemur.   If the study does conclude that this is a new species, then the cause for conservation in Madagascar, a country which has already witnessed devastating rates of habitat loss, would surely be bolstered.

 

Read more about Frontier Madagascar Wildlife Conservation project