5. Physical Description
The Ring-Tailed Lemur is a primate with a long, conspicuous, bushy, black and white ringed tail. Its dense fur is grayish-brown on its back, and grey on the rump and limbs.The Ring-Tailed Lemur's underparts are a mixture of white, grey, and cream colors, according to the ARKive Initiative (AI). Its face is white, and its eyes are surrounded by dark patches. The Ring-Tailed Lemur's dog-like snout, nose, lips, and eyelids are dark, though its furred ears are white. The upper part of its forelimbs are covered by grayish-white fur, and their paws and feet are dark. The adult Ring-Tailed Lemur weighs 5 to 5.7 pounds, its tail length is 55 centimeters, and its head and body length is between 38.5 and 45.5 centimeters, according to National Geographic (NG).
The Ring-Tailed Lemur is an opportunistic omnivore in order to exploit any food sources available, due to the hostile habitats it lives in. It feeds on fruits, leaves, flowers, stems, spiders, caterpillars, cicadas, insect cocoons, birds, chameleons, and grasshoppers. However, the primary food of its choice diet is the tamarind's pod fruit and leaves, which at certain times of the year provides up to 50 percent of their food, according to research conducted by the National Primate Research Center at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. For water, the Ring-Tailed Lemur takes dew and water from tree holes or crevices in wet seasons, and feeds on succulents such as aloe and cactus to receive moisture in dry seasons.
3. Habitat and Range
Unlike other lemurs, the Ring-Tailed Lemur tolerates a wider range of habitats. The island of Madagascar is where the Ring-Tailed Lemur is found, in extreme hot, dry, and cold environments alike. According to ARKive Initiative, its populations there are spread across spiny forests, lowland gallery forests, dry deciduous forests, rainforests, rocky canyons, and dry scrublands. The Ring-Tailed Lemur is classified as an "Endangered" species, according to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature's (IUCN's) 2014 Red List. The IUCN attributes their population decline mainly to habitat loss caused by felling of trees for fuel, overgrazing of domesticated animals, and hunting of them for food and to keep as pets. Frequent droughts are also further diminishing their populations.
Ring-Tailed Lemurs live in groups called "troops". A troop has 6 to 30 animals, but on average has 17 male and female Ring-Tailed Lemurs, according to National Geographic. Each troop is dominated by a powerful female. These lemurs have powerful scent glands, and use their odors to communicate or as a defense mechanism. The Ring-Tailed Lemur marks its territory by scent, giving notice to others smelling it. When other packs of lemurs cross a territory, there will often be territorial fights to ensue. Researchers have observed that, after cold nights or mornings, the Ring-Tailed Lemur will assume a “sunning” posture, where it exposes its underside to direct sunlight, possibly for thermoregulation.
Sexual maturity for a Ring-Tailed Lemur begins at 2.5 to 3 years of age. Males assert their dominance by trying to outstink each other. They cover their long tails with smelly secretions, and wave them in the air to show power and attract females. After mating, their gestation period takes 4.5 months, according to Smithsonian National Zoological Park. A female typically gives birth to only one infant, though twins are also a possibilty. For two weeks, the infant clings to its mother's belly, and therefater will ride upon her back. In the wild, a Ring-Tailed Lemur can live on average 18 years.