Phaner furciferfork-marked lemur

Geographic Range

Phaner furcifer has a wide but discontinuous distribution on the island of Madagascar. The majority of the population is found in the coastal forests of northern and western Madagascar.


These lemurs are typically found within the humid forests of eastern Madagascar and in the dry temperate forests of the west. They are limited to the areas in which gum producing trees are common and dense. Typically, they are found 3 to 4 meters above the ground, but they have been observed moving on the ground and as high as 10 meters.

Physical Description

The head and body length ranges from 227 to 285 mm, with the tail adding an additional 285 to 370 mm to the total lenth. Weights are typically between 300 and 500 g. Pelage is reddish gray to brownish gray, with the brightest pelage on the neck and head. Forked-marked lemurs take their name from the charateristic dorsal stripe that splits on top of the head and continues on each side down to the eyes. (Nowak, 1999)

  • Range mass
    300 to 500 g
    10.57 to 17.62 oz
  • Range length
    227 to 285 mm
    8.94 to 11.22 in


Fork-marked lemurs mate in monogomous pairs. Once a bond has been formed between them, the male and female share a tree hole and are found together at any given time after that. Bachelor males and male bigamists have been found but are extremely rare.

Details on the reproduction of these animals are limited. The female experiences estrous for only 3 to 4 days of the entire year, typically in June. She gives birth to a single offspring in November or December. The offspring initially lives in the tree hole of the parents, then is carried by the mother, first ventrally, then dorsally.

  • Breeding interval
    These animals appear to breed only once per year.
  • Breeding season
    Breeding occurs in June.
  • Average number of offspring
  • Average number of offspring

As in all primates, the basic care for the young is the responsibility of females. However, because this species tends toward monogamy, males may play some role in protection and grooming of offspring.

  • Parental Investment
  • altricial
  • pre-fertilization
    • provisioning
    • protecting
      • female
  • pre-hatching/birth
    • provisioning
      • female
    • protecting
      • male
      • female
  • pre-weaning/fledging
    • provisioning
      • female
    • protecting
      • male
      • female
  • pre-independence
    • protecting
      • male
      • female


The typical life expectancy in captivity is about 12 years. Lifespan for wild individuals has not been reported, but is likely to be less, due to risk of mortality from predation and disease. (Nowak, 1999)


Fork-marked lemurs live in either monogomous pairs or as solitary individuals within small territories that they protect aggressively. They very vocal in nature, especially when they feel threatened. They emit an average of 30 vocalizations per hour. The great success of fork-marked lemurs may be related to their efficient method of gum collection. These lemurs are completely nocturnal and have developed large, portruding eyes to utilize all available light in their surroundings. Movement is quadrupedal, both in walking and climbing.

Unlike many other small prosimians, these animals do not accumulate fat reserves, and neither hibernate nor aestivate.

Home Range

The average territory size is about 4 hectares. (Nowak, 1999)

Communication and Perception

As in all primates, communication is complex and varied. Scent marking and chemical communication are important in marking territories. They are also likely to play some role in reproductive behavior, as this is common in prosimians. These animals are highly vocal and use many different calls in communicating with conspecifics. Tactile communication is important between mothers and their offspring, as well as between mates. This communication includes grooming. Visual signals, such as body postures, have not been reported for these animals, but are probably used to some extent. (Nowak, 1999)

Food Habits

Fork-tailed lemurs subsist on a diet consisting mainly of the gum of trees in temperate deciduous forests. They have become specialized for harvesting this substance. They have evolved a "dental comb," which is used to scrape the gum that oozes from insect holes in a tree's surface). This structure consists of a row of lower teeth that are long and forward pointing. These lemurs also consume some insects.

  • Primary Diet
  • herbivore
    • eats sap or other plant foods
  • Animal Foods
  • insects
  • Plant Foods
  • sap or other plant fluids


Predation on these animals undoubtedly occurs. Among potential mammalian predators are carnivorous tenrecs, fossas, and herpestids native to Madagascar. These lemurs are also likely to fall victim to snakes and birds of prey.

  • Known Predators
    • unknown

Ecosystem Roles

These animals play a unique role in the ecosystem through their consumption of plant saps and gums. They may have some role in controlling insect populations, and to the extent that they serve as food for predators, they may impact predator populations.

Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

This species has no known economic importance for humans.

Economic Importance for Humans: Negative

Phaner furcifer has no known negative economic impact on humans.

Conservation Status

The main threat to P. furcifere (and lemurs in general) is habitat destruction. The clearing of forest land to produce pasture land and room for crops threatens lemur habitats across Madigascar. Measures have been taken to create a National Park on Madagascar's Masoala peninsula to ensure that fork-marked lemurs have preserved habitat. CITES Appendix I.


Ken Briercheck (author), University of Michigan-Ann Arbor.



living in sub-Saharan Africa (south of 30 degrees north) and Madagascar.

World Map


uses sound to communicate


young are born in a relatively underdeveloped state; they are unable to feed or care for themselves or locomote independently for a period of time after birth/hatching. In birds, naked and helpless after hatching.


Referring to an animal that lives in trees; tree-climbing.

bilateral symmetry

having body symmetry such that the animal can be divided in one plane into two mirror-image halves. Animals with bilateral symmetry have dorsal and ventral sides, as well as anterior and posterior ends. Synapomorphy of the Bilateria.


uses smells or other chemicals to communicate


animals that use metabolically generated heat to regulate body temperature independently of ambient temperature. Endothermy is a synapomorphy of the Mammalia, although it may have arisen in a (now extinct) synapsid ancestor; the fossil record does not distinguish these possibilities. Convergent in birds.


union of egg and spermatozoan


forest biomes are dominated by trees, otherwise forest biomes can vary widely in amount of precipitation and seasonality.


An animal that eats mainly plants or parts of plants.

island endemic

animals that live only on an island or set of islands.


offspring are produced in more than one group (litters, clutches, etc.) and across multiple seasons (or other periods hospitable to reproduction). Iteroparous animals must, by definition, survive over multiple seasons (or periodic condition changes).


Having one mate at a time.


having the capacity to move from one place to another.

native range

the area in which the animal is naturally found, the region in which it is endemic.


active during the night


having more than one female as a mate at one time


rainforests, both temperate and tropical, are dominated by trees often forming a closed canopy with little light reaching the ground. Epiphytes and climbing plants are also abundant. Precipitation is typically not limiting, but may be somewhat seasonal.

scent marks

communicates by producing scents from special gland(s) and placing them on a surface whether others can smell or taste them

seasonal breeding

breeding is confined to a particular season


remains in the same area


reproduction that includes combining the genetic contribution of two individuals, a male and a female


associates with others of its species; forms social groups.


lives alone


uses touch to communicate


Living on the ground.


defends an area within the home range, occupied by a single animals or group of animals of the same species and held through overt defense, display, or advertisement


the region of the earth that surrounds the equator, from 23.5 degrees north to 23.5 degrees south.


uses sight to communicate


reproduction in which fertilization and development take place within the female body and the developing embryo derives nourishment from the female.


Harcourt, Caroline (1990). Lemurs of Madagascar and the Comoros. The World Conservation Union, Gland, Switzerland.

Napier J.R., Napier P.H. (1985). The Natural History of Primates. The MIT Press, Cambridge, Massachutsetts.

Kavanaugh, Micheal (1983). The Complete Guide to Monkeys and Other Primates. Jonathan Cape, London.

Nowak, R. 1999. Walker's Mammals of the World, Sixth Edition. Baltimore and London: The Johns Hopkins University Press.