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Last Updated: Wednesday August 10 2005 09:55 GMT

New lemur species found in Africa

Photo: Robert Zingg
Microcebus lehilahytsara is little bigger than a mouse. (Photo: Robert Zingg)
Two new species of lemur have been discovered on the island of Madagascar.

The first new breed is a giant mouse lemur the size of a grey squirrel with a bushy tale, called a Mirza zaza.

The second is a giant mouse lemur called Microcebus lehilahytsara. It's small enough to fit in your hand, with round ears and a stripe on its nose.

Lemurs are only found in the wild on Madagascar. The island broke off from mainland Africa 165 million years ago and is home to many rare animals.

Separate species

The ringtailed maki Lemur
Lemurs are the closest living relation to our ancient primate ancestors who lived about 55 million years ago
They are primates, which means they have hands and feet
A third of lemurs are extinct
They are threatened from hunting and habitat destruction
Experts used to think only one type of giant mouse lemur existed, living in different areas on the north and west of island.

But scientific evidence found by German and Malagasy scientists now proves they evolved into separate species two million years ago.

The findings, by scientists at the German Primate Centre and the University of Göttingen, mean there are now 49 known Lemur species in the world.

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