Gray Mouse Lemur

Gray Mouse Lemur

Grey mouse lemur, Lesser mouse lemur, Gray mouse lemur, Grey mouse lemur, Lesser mouse lemur

2 languages
Microcebus murinus
Population size
Life Span
3-15.5 yrs
Top speed
32 km/h
40-70 g
12-14 cm

The gray mouse lemur (Microcebus murinus ), grey mouse lemur or lesser mouse lemur, is a small lemur, a type of strepsirrhine primate, found only on the island of Madagascar. Weighing 58 to 67 grams (2.0 to 2.4 oz), it is the largest of the mouse lemurs (genus Microcebus ), a group that includes the smallest primates in the world. The species is named for its mouse-like size and coloration and is known locally (in Malagasy) as tsidy, koitsiky, titilivaha, pondiky, and vakiandry. The gray mouse lemur and all other mouse lemurs are considered cryptic species, as they are nearly indistinguishable from each other by appearance. For this reason, the gray mouse lemur was considered the only mouse lemur species for decades until more recent studies began to distinguish between the species.

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Like all mouse lemurs, this species is nocturnal and arboreal. It is very active, and though it forages alone, groups of males and females form sleeping groups and share tree holes during the day. It exhibits a form of dormancy called torpor during the cool, dry winter months, and in some cases undergoes seasonal torpor (or hibernation), which is unusual for primates. The gray mouse lemur can be found in several types of forest throughout western and southern Madagascar. Its diet consists primarily of fruit, insects, flowers, and nectar. In the wild, its natural predators include owls, snakes, and endemic mammalian predators. Predation pressure is higher for this species than among any other primate species, with one out of four individuals taken by a predator each year. This is counterbalanced by its high reproductive rate. Breeding is seasonal, and distinct vocalizations are used to prevent hybridization with species that overlap its range. Gestation lasts approximately 60 days, and typically two young are born. The offspring are usually independent in two months, and can reproduce after one year. The gray mouse lemur has a reproductive lifespan of five years, although captive individuals have been reported to live up to 15 years.

Although threatened by deforestation, habitat degradation, and live capture for the pet trade, it is considered one of Madagascar's most abundant small native mammals. It can tolerate moderate food shortages by experiencing daily torpor to conserve energy, but extended food shortages due to climate change may pose a significant risk to the species.

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Dominance hierarchy


Not a migrant


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Big-Eyed Animals


The Gray mouse lemur is a primate, not a rodent, despite its name and appearance. Currently not much is known about this species of lemur. The mouse lemurs are the smallest of the lemur species, with the gray mouse lemur being the largest of them. They are mostly gray in color, in a range of shades going from light to dark, with some changes in color at different times of the year. Gray mouse lemurs rely on their senses to survive, including good night vision and a keen sense of smell. Using a combination of these senses they are able to quickly avoid predators.



Biogeographical realms

The Gray mouse lemur inhabits the western coasts and the south-eastern part of Madagascar and mostly occurs in deciduous or spiny forests, secondary forests, including plantations, and semi-arid thorn scrub.

Gray Mouse Lemur habitat map

Climate zones

Gray Mouse Lemur habitat map

Habits and Lifestyle

Gray mouse lemurs are nocturnal and arboreal. In the daytime, they sleep in leaf nests or hollow trees and at night they hunt for food. They can be described as solitary but social. Females sleep in groups numbering two to nine, while males sleep alone or in twos. At night both genders go foraging alone. Activity times differ between the genders: in the dry season, the female is in hibernation for a long period, during which the energy conversion and metabolism functions are at a minimum. In this way, females often survive through the dry season when there is little food, whereas males remain active. A male has a home range that is twice as large as that of females, and this is expanded during the breeding season. Both genders exhibit territorial behavior and will mark their territories with urine and feces.

Group name
Seasonal behavior

Diet and Nutrition

Gray mouse lemurs have an omnivorous diet. They eat small reptiles like chameleons and tree frogs, plants, leaves, flowers, and fruits.

Mating Habits

60 days
2 infants
2 months

The Gray mouse lemur has a polygynandrous (promiscuous) mating system, with both males and females having multiple mates, but studies show that females do show indirect mate selection behavior (selected polyandry). This study showed that during their one night of receptivity, females mated with 1–7 males, but avoided or counteracted males that tried to monopolize mating. The female uses a specific call of high frequency when ready for mating. The breeding season for these lemurs goes from September to March. Females typically produce twins, following a gestation period of about 60 days. They may give birth to two litters every year. Young reach independence in about two months, being able to breed before they are one year old. Related females typically stay in the same area once they reach maturity, whereas males disperse.


Population threats

The Gray mouse lemur presently faces no significant threats and it is not thought to be at risk from extinction. However, because of the large-scale habitat loss throughout its range, due mainly to cattle grazing and agriculture, the population of gray mouse lemurs is likely to be in decline. This species is sometimes also hunted for the pet trade.

Population number

The IUCN Red List and other sources do not provide the Gray mouse lemur's total population size. However, it is amongst the most abundant, widespread, and adaptable of the lemur species. It is one of the least threatened as well. Overall, Gray mouse lemurs are classified on the IUCN Red List as Least Concern (LC) but their numbers today are decreasing.

Ecological niche

The Gray mouse lemur may regulate populations of insects and small reptiles upon which it preys. To the extent that they are food for predators (owls, snakes), these lemurs may impact local food webs.

Fun Facts for Kids

  • Behind the Gray mouse lemur’s retinas is a reflective layer called the ‘tapetum’, which reflects light, so this lemur is easy to spot at night with a torch.
  • The Gray mouse lemur uses all four of its limbs when leaping through the branches and along the forest floor. When on the ground, it travels in a frog-like manner, while up in the trees it jumps about, using the hind legs as a spring.
  • Gray mouse lemurs are sometimes seen in roadside brush and gardens in Madagascar.
  • Some Gray mouse lemurs, in fact, have a coat of a reddish color.
  • Gray mouse lemurs frequently move from tree to tree (usually every 5 days) in order to mask their own smell and escape from their predators.
  • A family of mouse lemurs (father, mother, and two to three offspring) could fit easily into your palm.


1. Gray Mouse Lemur Wikipedia article -
2. Gray Mouse Lemur on The IUCN Red List site -

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