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-mər) are a clade of strepsirrhine primates endemic to the island of Madagascar.The word lemur derives from the word lemures (ghosts or spirits) from Roman mythology and was first used to describe a slender loris due to its nocturnal habits and slow pace, but was later applied to the primates on Madagascar.Since ancestral lemurs are thought to have originated in Africa around 62 to 65 mya, they must have crossed the Mozambique Channel, a deep channel between Africa and Madagascar with a minimum width of about 560 km (350 mi).In 1915, paleontologist William Diller Matthew noted that the mammalian biodiversity on Madagascar (including lemurs) can only be accounted for by random rafting events, where very small populations rafted from nearby Africa on tangled mats of vegetation, which get flushed out to sea from major rivers., a report demonstrated that around 60 mya both Madagascar and Africa were 1,650 km (1,030 mi) south of their present-day positions, placing them in a different ocean gyre, producing currents that ran counter to what they are today.In this regard, lemurs are popularly confused with ancestral primates; however, lemurs did not give rise to monkeys and apes (simians).Instead, they evolved independently in isolation on Madagascar.A more recent hypothesis is that lemurs descended from lorisoids (loris-like) primates.This is supported by comparative studies of the cytochrome b gene and the presence of the strepsirrhine toothcomb in both groups.
The intelligence, aggression, and deceptiveness of monkeys gave them an advantage over other primates in exploiting the environment.
Research facilities like the Duke Lemur Center have provided research opportunities under more controlled settings.
Lemurs are important for research because their mix of ancestral characteristics and traits shared with anthropoid primates can yield insights on primate and human evolution.
Lemurs have relatively low basal metabolic rates and may exhibit seasonal breeding, dormancy (such as hibernation or torpor), or female social dominance.
Most eat a wide variety of fruits and leaves, while some are specialists.