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Thursday, September 13, 2012

Creature Feature: Silky Simpona.

Y'know what this blog needs? More lemurs. They're primates, but so weird that it's hard to tell. Insular isolation has made them rather unique by primate standards. They still have muzzles, for instance...not that it makes them any less cute. Fuzzy is still fuzzy.
From Cactus Juice.



Is there anything weirder than a white lemur? Yes: a whole species of white lemurs. This particular lemur, the silky sifaka/simpona (Propithecus candidus), is almost entirely white. Like all lemurs, it can only be found on the African island of Madagascar, which is like Australia's little cousin in terms of how weird wildlife can get. It is wholly herbivorous.

Simponas have several different vocalizations. Their weirdest one by far is a "zzuss" sneeze. The "zzuss" is a general alarm call. It can also be used to locate other simponas that have strayed from the large group. Simponas also "roar," chatter, squeal, and hum. They are social to the point where most mature simponas take care of the babies, so of course they have a lot to chat about.

Dr. Erik Patel with a silky. Lucky guy!


This lemur is rare. It is considered one of the rarest mammals in the entire world and is definitely in the top 25 most endangered primates. This is largely because it is the primate that gets laid the least; unlike most animals which have a mating season, female simponas only mate one day a year, usually in December or January.  They give birth only once every year, if not once every two years. Oh, and deforestation doesn't help. There is also nothing stopping people from eating these lemurs. This is one of those species that will probably go extinct within the next ten years, so enjoy it while you can.

Insular species are always more vulnerable to extinction, but the simpona is an extreme example. A low breeding rate combined with habitat destruction and human predation make it one of the rarest mammals on Earth. They are already called "ghosts of the forest" because of their scarcity and white coloration. There may be fewer than 1,000 left. All animals are important; it helps that this one is cute.

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