Common black lemurs are medium-sized lemurs found in the northwestern tip of Madagascar. They are extremely sexually dichromatic with males exhibiting jet black pelage on the whole body and females exhibiting grey-brown coloration across the back and sides, a white-brown belly, an often grey face with bright white tufts around the ears. E. macaco is easily distinguishable from the closely related blue-eyed black lemur by their brown eyes, ear tufts (which blue-eyed black lemurs lack) and female coloration (blue-eyed black lemur females are bright orange).
Adult Size: 5 – 5.5 lbs.
Social Structure: Sociable, multi-male and multi-female groups of 7-10 with a home range of approx. 13 acres (5.3 hectares).
Habitat: Primary and secondary humid forest of the northwestern tip of Madagascar; cashew, timber, and coffee plantations- sometimes killed as agriculture pests
Diet: Fruit, leaves, seeds, nectar, mushrooms, millipedes.
Reproduction: mating occurs from April through May with a 125 day gestation period; give birth to one offspring, occasionally two; offspring reach sexual maturity in 24 months.
IUCN Conservation Status: Vulnerable due to habitat loss and various levels of exploitation
– Sexually Dichromatic – males are solid black while females are more brown-gray throughout with white tufts of fur around the ears. Males are born the same color as the female and turn black within 5-6 weeks. This helps camouflage babies while they are young and clinging to mom’s fur. Females can vary in color (sometimes more like the color of the blue-eyed black, but with white faces and white ear tufts).
– Common Black Lemurs are mainly found north of the Sambirano River in northwest Madagascar, while Blue-Eyed Black Lemurs (Eulemur macaco flavifrons) are mainly found south of the Sambirano River. There also exists a small area where the two species hybridize. However, the blue-eyed trait is recessive and hybrids will have brown eyes.
– Common Black Lemurs will also forage at night and have been identified as important pollinators for Parkia trees by drinking nectar from flowers which bloom at night (Burkinshaw and Colquhoun, 1998). This allows black lemurs to avoid predators like the Harrier-Hawk which is active during the day.
– They are the sole seed dispersers for many tree species in their range, also pollinators for the traveler’s palm.
– Common Black Lemurs are found on the Malagasy island Nosy Komba where they are considered sacred by indigenous population.
– There is no captive breeding program for this species worldwide because the entire captive population is inbred now. The original wild-caught population was not very large to begin with, and in the past captive breeding was not always managed very well. The DLC houses 1 males and 2 females, all non-breeding.