Wednesday, 22 July 2009

Photo of the Day #37: Blue-eyed Lemurs

Male blue-eyed lemur
Eulemur flavifrons Gray, 1867
Lemuridae; Primates; Mammalia; Chordata
Linton Zoo
July 2009

I mentioned in the last post about lemurs that most of the genus Eulemur are sexually dimorphic. The black lemur (E. macaco) and this species are the most obvious examples of this phenomenon. The male of both species has pure black fur. Although the eyes look greenish in this photo, they appear more blue in reality.

Female blue-eyed lemur

The female, however, looks extremely different. She has the same blue eyes, but her coat is tawny, with paler areas on the face and underside (hence the specific name, flavifrons, meaning 'yellow forehead'). Since most organisms were described using skins and stuffed specimens, the most obvious feature of the female to distinguish it from other lemurs would probably have seemed to be the face, and not the eyes.

Male blue-eyed lemur
Colchester Zoo
June 2009

Also known as Sclater's lemur, the blue-eyed lemur has been considered until recently to be a subspecies of the black lemur - Eulemur macaco flavifrons. I can tell you that both sexes make an endearing, quiet grunting sound. An interesting fact about the blue-eyed lemur is that it is the only non-human primate to consistently have blue eyes (the odd leucistic animal with white hair and blue eyes - thus not a true albino - pops up from time to time in zoos). Apart from the eyes, the male blue-eyed lemur can be told from a black lemur (whose eyes are orange) by the lack of ear tufts. Females also lack the telltale tufts, but look altogether more distinctive. Interestingly, the offspring of any black/blue-eyed lemur matings will always have orange eyes - this occurs naturally in the wild where both species overlap. They are, alas, considered Endangered by the IUCN, but are becoming more plentiful in zoos.

1 comment:

Raptor Lewis said... "Blue-eyed" you Actually MEANT "Blue-eyed!" Blue eyeballs! That brings up another interesting point on eye "coloration" in humans. Ever think about that? Thanks for the inspiration, Moe!