- Microcebina Gray, 1870[a]
- Cheirogalina Gray, 1872
Cheirogaleidae is the family of strepsirrhine primates that contains the various dwarf and mouse lemurs. Like all other lemurs, cheirogaleids live exclusively on the island of Madagascar.
Cheirogaleids are smaller than the other lemurs and, in fact, they are the smallest primates. They have a soft, long fur colored grey-brown to reddish on top with a generally brighter underbelly. Typically they have small ears, large, close set eyes, and long hind legs. Like all strepsirrhines they have fine claws at the second toe of the hind legs. They grow to a size of only 13 to 28 cm, with a tail that is very long, sometimes up to one and a half times as long as the body. They weigh no more than 500 grams, with some species weighing as little as 60 grams.
Dwarf and mouse lemurs are nocturnal and arboreal. They are excellent climbers and can also jump far, using their long tail for balance. When on the ground (a rare occurrence) they move by hopping on their hind legs. They spend the day in tree hollows or leaf nests. Cheirogaleids are typically solitary but sometimes live together in pairs.
Their eyes possess a tapetum lucidum, a light-reflecting layer that improves their night vision. Some species, such as the Lesser Dwarf Lemur, store fat at the hind legs and the base of the tail and hibernate. Unlike lemurids, they have long upper incisors, although they do have the comb-like teeth typical of all strepsirhines. They have the dental formula:
Cheirogaleids are omnivores, eating fruits, flowers and leaves (and sometimes nectar) as well as insects, spiders and small vertebrates.
The females usually have three pairs of nipples. After a meager 60 day gestation, they will bear two to four (usually two or three) young. After five to six weeks these are weaned and become fully mature near the end of their first year or sometime in their second year, depending on the species. In human care, they can live for up to 15 years, although their life expectancy in the wild is probably significantly shorter.
The five genera of cheirogaleids contain 32 species.
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