Fat-Tailed Dwarf Lemur

Fat-Tailed Dwarf Lemur

Lesser dwarf lemur, Western fat-tailed dwarf lemur, Spiny forest dwarf lemur

Cheirogaleus medius
Population size
Life Span
15-30 yrs
120-270 g
20-23 mm

Fat-tailed dwarf lemurs are about the same size as a small rat. They have soft and woolly fur. Their large, lustrous eyes are encircled by dark rings and they have a white stripe on their nose. Their color is brownish-red or gray with a white underside and they have white feet.


Fat-tailed dwarf lemurs live in western Madagascar and in the south as far the island’s southern tip. They occur in dry deciduous forests, moist evergreen forests and thorn scrub.

Fat-Tailed Dwarf Lemur habitat map



Climate zones

Habits and Lifestyle

Fat-tailed dwarf lemurs are nocturnal. They live in a small group consisting of a male and female mated pair and their young from the last one or two mating seasons. Females usually occupy “home ranges” in the centre of a group’s range, while one male’s home range may overlap with those of a few females. Females, in general, appear to be dominant to males. These lemurs move in a squirrel-like quadrupedal fashion. They spend almost all their time up in trees. In the dry winter months they are dormant for as long as 6 months, nesting in tree holes, surviving on fat stored in their tails until the following wet season. While dormant, their body temperature varies with the ambient temperature. While sleeping and when dormant, they roll up into a tight ball. Fat-tailed dwarf lemurs tend to be quiet, with a few weak calls when making contact, with a louder cry in aggressive situations.

Group name

Diet and Nutrition

Fat-tailed dwarf lemurs are mostly frugivores, but they also eat flowers, nectar, seeds, and insects. They also occasionally eat small vertebrates.

Mating Habits

end of November
61 days
1-4 infants

Fat-tailed dwarf lemurs exhibit monogamous (one male mating with one female exclusively) and polygynandrous (promiscuous) (both males and females having multiple mates) mating systems. Despite their monogamous structure, however, approximately 40% of the young have a different father. Fat-tailed dwarf lemurs start mating towards the end of November, the time they emerge from the winter hibernation. Gestation is for about 61 days, 1 to 4 young being born, although twins are very common. The young are born with their eyes open, well-developed and fully furred. The females nurse their babies and both parents keep them warm and protect them until they reach independence. Fat-tailed dwarf lemurs are mature at one year old, although females usually are not capable of being mothers until the age of 18 months.


Population threats

Fat-tailed dwarf lemurs are mainly threatened by hunting and habitat loss, mainly as a result of slash-and-burn agriculture, bushfires and charcoal extraction. The predators of fat-tailed dwarf lemurs include fossas, hawks, owls and boas.

Population number

According to IUCN, the Fat-tailed dwarf lemur is abundant and widespread throughout its range but no overall population estimate is available. Currently this species is classified as Least Concern (LC), but its numbers today are decreasing.

Ecological niche

Fat-tailed dwarf lemurs have a big part to play in the dispersal of seeds in the forests where they live, due to their diet. They are an important prey animal for medium-sized carnivores.

Fun Facts for Kids

  • A lemur in hibernation can slow its heart rate from 800 beats a minute to just eight.
  • Fat-tailed lemurs do not jump well and depend on their balance while moving along branches on all four feet. They travel either through the trees or on the ground, so long as jumping is not required.
  • Fat-tailed dwarf lemurs can go without food for a long time because they store fat in their tails.
  • “Lemur” is a Latin word, meaning “spirit of the dead” because of its silent movement.
  • Lemurs could be distant cousins of humans, being other members of the primate family. Lemurs are likely to be our ancestors. Better known as “prosimians,” or “before monkeys,” they look like our most ancient primate ancestors from many millions of years in the past, and although today they are the smallest primates, they were once the size of full-grown adult gorillas.
  • Primates are spread across 92 countries but a quarter of the primate species of the world live only in Madagascar.
  • King Julien comes to mind in relation to lemurs, having proclaimed himself the “Lord of the Lemurs” and the party king. King Julien as King of the Jungle would not happen in real life. Although male and female ring-tailed lemurs look the same, females are the actual leaders. They decide who stays and who leaves, and have the first choice of the available food.


1. Fat-Tailed Dwarf Lemur Wikipedia article - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fat-tailed_dwarf_lemur
2. Fat-Tailed Dwarf Lemur on The IUCN Red List site - http://www.iucnredlist.org/details/54778866/0

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