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Ring-tailed Lemur (Lemur catta) Fact Sheet: Reproduction & Development


Mating Behavior

  • Males compete with one another for females (from Mittermeier et al. 2010)
    • Chase one another and perform stink and jump battles
      • Stink fights are ritualized behaviors
        • Males waive wrist and shoulder glands at one another
      • Males leap into the air; each opponent attempts to slash the other with its upper canines
        • Often inflicts significant wounds
    • Guard females after copulating
  • Not monogamous
    • Females seen to mate with as many as three males in succession
    • Social rank does not preclude securing a mate
      • Subordinate males may be successful candidates for mating
    • Females may mate with males of neighboring troops as well as males from their own


  • Female receptivity
    • Receptive for less than 36 hours
      • All sexual approaches and matings occur in this time
  • Commonly interrupted by rival males
    • Several mountings usually necessary
    • Pair moves further away from the troop with each interruption


Seasonal reproduction

  • Breeding season in April
    • Lasts 1-3 weeks

Female reproductive characteristics

  • Indicators of reproductive onset
    • Genitalia swell to nearly double normal length
      • From 1.5 cm to c. 3.0 cm
    • Vaginal opening becomes bright pink
  • Do not menstruate


  • Average fecundity c. 75-84%

Gestation and Birth


  • 134-144 days


  • Birth season short, in August
  • Infant characteristics
    • Coat colored as adults, though more brownish
    • Head very large
    • Arms scrawny
    • Eyes open and blue
    • Head-body length c. 10 cm (4 in)
    • Able to cling to mother

Interbirth Interval (Mittermeier et al. 2010)

  • c. 1 year
    • Females typically reproduce each year

Litter Size

  • Single offspring most common
    • Twins occur
    • Triplets rare
      • Though mother has 4 mammae, only 2 are functional

Life Stages


  • Up to 1 year of age
  • Care
    • Carried by mother
      • Infant clings in a position which parallels body line axis
      • Position unlike that of other lemurs which cling across the body
    • Young are raised by entire troop and may be exchanged between mothers
  • Development
    • Actively move around mother's body by 3 days
    • Carried on mother's back and grasp branches by 2 weeks
    • Climb by 3 weeks of age
    • Ingest solid food c. 6 weeks of age
    • Weaning
      • 4-6 months
      • Continue to nurse as late as March (one study)
      • Maternal care ceases upon weaning
    • Nearly size of adult before 1st birthday
  • Mortality
    • c. 30-52% during a non-drought year
      • Much higher with drought and limited resource availability


  • Reach full adult size c. 1.5 years of age
    • Mature later
  • Females
    • Sexually mature c. 2 years
      • Begin to breed at 2-3 years of age, and continue yearly until old age


In captivity

  • Up to 37 year of age or more (ZIMS 2015)

In the wild

  • Estimated to be 18-20 years

Infants Carried on Mother's Back

Ring-tailed Lemur and young

An infant is carried on its mother's back by 2 weeks of age.

Image credit: © San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance.
All rights reserved.

Page Citations

Evans and Goy (1968)
Martin et al. (1974)
Mittermeier et al. (2010)
Petter-Rousseaux (1964)
Sussman (1999)
Tatersall (1982)
ZIMS (2015)

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