Two new species of lemurs have been discovered, raising the number of known species of the endangered primates to 49.
The animals live in the wild in Madagascar, one of the world's conservation hotspots. As primates, lemurs are considered important to understanding the origin, evolution and ecology of humans.
Microcebus lehilahytsara was discovered in the rainforest of eastern Madagascar. (Courtesy: Robert Zingg)
A giant mouse lemur called Mirza zaza is the first species. "Zaza" is the Malagasy word for "child" or "children." The name reflects the animal's small size and honours the island's future generations.
The nocturnal critter is about the size of a grey squirrel, with a long bushy tail.
Until now, it was thought that the island was home to one type of giant mouse lemur.
Morphological, genetic and behavioral data showed the species have been separated for about two million years, the German and Malagasy researchers said.
The newly discovered Microcebus lehilahytsara lives in Andasibe, a protected rainforest area in eastern Madagascar.
A nocturnal tree dweller, M. lehilahytsara is slightly bigger than a large mouse, with short, rounded ears, and a white stripe on its nose. It sports short, dense maroon-coloured fur with orange and white highlights.
The term "lehilahytsara" means "good man" in Malagasy. It honours Steve Goodman, a scientist with the Field Museum in Chicago and WWF who conducts field research in remote parts of Madagascar.
The findings were presented on Aug. 10 at the Congress of the European Federation for Primatology in Göttingen, Germany, and appear in the current issue of the journal Primate Report.