Scientists have found what they believe to be a new species of lemur in the dry forests of Madagascar.
With a ‘Y’- shaped pattern atop its body, primatologists identified it as a fork-marked lemur from the genus Phaner of which there were four known species, now possibly five. It also sports rather large feet and a long tongue.
Primate expert Russell Mittermeier, who is president of Conservation International, first spotted the animal in 1995 during an expedition to Daraina, a protected area in the northeast of Madagascar.
“I went to this area for the first time to see the spectacular Tattersall’s sifaka [Propithecus tattersali], a large diurnal species that itself had just been described in 1988,” Mittermeier said during the announcement. “I was surprised to see a fork-marked lemur there, since this animal had not yet been recorded from the region. I immediately knew that it was likely a new species to science, but didn’t have the time to follow up until now.”
Recently, Mittermeier returned to the site with his team where they again spotted the distinctively marked lemur after first hearing the species which becomes quite vocal just after sunset. After tracking the lemur through the forest by torchlight they managed to catch the adult male with a clean shot of a tranquilliser gun.
Upon examination the next day, scientists declared what they had found was indeed a “new species”. Microchipping the squirrel-sized lemur they released him back into the forest.
“This is yet another remarkable discovery from the island of Madagascar, the world’s highest priority biodiversity hotspot and one of the most extraordinary places in our planet,” Mittermeier said. “It is particularly remarkable that we continue to find new species of lemurs and many other plants and animals in this heavily impacted country, which has already lost 90 percent or more of its original vegetation.”
He added that the lemur is probably endangered, or even critically endangered, due to its very restricted range.
“Protection of Madagascar’s remaining natural forests should be considered one of the world’s highest conservation priorities,” Mittermeier concluded. “These forests are home to an incredible array of species that are a true global heritage, and also provide an incalculable array of benefits to local communities in the form of clean water, foods and fibers, and other ecosystem services.”
Keep an eye out for the BBC program Decade of Discovery in which the new lemur makes its television debut.
Source: Discovery

Inga Yandell
Explorer and media producer, passionate about nature, culture and travel. Combining science and conservation with investigative journalism to provide resources and opportunities for creative exploration.