Grey Mouse Lemur

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Grey Mouse Lemur

Microcebus murinus

Last updated: May 13, 2021
Verified by: IMP
Image Credit Gabriella Skollar / Creative Commons

The largest species of mouse lemur!

Grey Mouse Lemur Scientific Classification

Scientific Name
Microcebus murinus

Read our Complete Guide to Classification of Animals.

Grey Mouse Lemur Conservation Status

Grey Mouse Lemur Locations

Grey Mouse Lemur Locations

Grey Mouse Lemur Facts

Main Prey
Insects, Fruits, Flowers
Distinctive Feature
Small body size and large eyes
Tropical Woodland
Owls, Snakes, Fossa
Average Litter Size
  • Solitary
Favorite Food
The largest species of mouse lemur!

Grey Mouse Lemur Physical Characteristics

  • Brown
  • Grey
  • Black
  • White
Skin Type
Top Speed
20 mph
3 – 8 years
58g – 67g (2oz – 2.4oz)
25cm – 28cm (9.8in – 11in)

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View all of the Grey Mouse Lemur images!

“The Grey Mouse Lemur is a mouse-like primate with a powerful nose and big jump.”

Grey mouse lemurs, also called lesser mouse lemurs, are among the smallest primate species in the entire world. Even though their size, color and body shape is reminiscent of a common mouse, they are very different than rodents in physiology and genetics. As primates, they actually have promising applications for non-invasive research into conditions that also impact humans.

While they are not considered endangered, this species is only found in select habitats around the western side of the African island of Madagascar. They are industrious nocturnal foragers who exhibit plenty of interesting dynamics and characteristics, including a prolonged state of torpor hibernation and female-dominant group structure.

3 Incredible Grey Mouse Lemur Facts!

  • Grooming Claw: While almost all of their digits are equipped with a flat nail, these lemurs have one long claw on their hind-foot to aid in grooming.
  • Long Jumpers: Even though they are small enough to fit into the palm of a human hand, these little primates can leap up to 3 meters in a single bound.
  • Community Sleeping: Adult females routinely congregate for their day-time sleeping with related females and their offspring.

Grey Mouse Lemur Scientific Name

Grey mouse lemur, alternatively spelled gray, are also known as lesser mouse lemurs due to their small stature. Their scientific name is Microcebus murinus. The genus name comes from the Greek words “micro” and “cebus,” which mean “small” and “long-tailed monkey” respectively. The species name murinus is a derivative of the Latin word for mouse. This species is part of the Cheirogaleidae family in the Mammalia class of animals.

Grey Mouse Lemur Appearance

These animals have an extremely small stature and are one of the smallest primate species in the world. They are generally mouse-like in appearance and size with tails that are often longer than the rest of their body. Adult body length ranges from 4.7 to 5.5 inches and tail length is 5.1 to 5.9 inches. Total weight is usually only around 1.5 to 2.5 ounces or 40 to 70 grams. There is little difference in size or body type between males and females.

Grey mouse lemurs have gray to brown fur that can have red overtones. They have short limbs and pronounced, rounded ears protruding from the top of their head. They have flexible hands and feet that are capable of grasping firmly onto branches and limbs of trees. Their facial features are similar to other lemurs, including a long snout-like nose that also gives them a keen sense of smell.

These lemurs also have large, round eyes that provide strong night vision to aid them in their nocturnal foraging habits. They have a specialized layer of tissue, called the tapetum, behind the retinas of their eyes as do many other animals. This helps them capture as much light as possible to improve night vision and also makes their eyes very reflective when exposed to a bright light source, like a flashlight.

Grey Mouse Lemur sitting in a tree
Grey Mouse Lemur sitting in a tree

Arjan Haverkamp / Creative Commons

Grey Mouse Lemur Behavior

Even though they are generally solitary foragers, grey mouse lemurs do have strong community dynamics and frequently communicate with one another. Adults can emit a sharp whistling sound to alert nearby lemurs of a threat, but the duration is quite short to prevent predators from pinpointing their location. They also use several other types of whistling sounds to ensure there is an acceptable distance between individuals or in displays of aggression between two adults.

Like many of its close taxonomic relatives, this lemur can enter a state of torpor where their metabolism slows considerably. This state is comparable to hibernation in other animal species and allows them to conserve energy. Grey mouse lemurs typically engage in long-term torpor during the colder months of May through August. They can also reduce the metabolic rate on a short-term basis when they sleep during the daylight hours.

Grey Mouse Lemur Habitat

Like other lemurs, this species is only found on the African island of Madagascar. It is considered the most prolific and numerous lemur, even though it’s only found in dry, deciduous forest habitats along the western side of the island. They are found in all kinds of dry wooded areas throughout their range, including scrublands, gallery forests, moister lowland forests, and degraded forests around plantations. They can thrive at elevations of up to 2600 feet above sea level.

The grey mouse lemur spends most of its time foraging, sleeping, and traversing the branches and limbs of trees. It tends to move around on all fours and are adept climbers and jumpers. Despite their extremely small stature, they can leap distances of almost 10 feet in order to capture insects or cross the gap to another tree. While they do prefer to stay up on the trees, they can occasionally be seen on or near the ground in their search for food.

Grey Mouse Lemur Diet

These lemurs are omnivores that target various insect species and all kinds of plant material. They are nocturnal foragers that wander around a designated home range that usually ranges from 2.5 to 5 acres in size. They are known to increase their consumption in the weeks leading up to their long-term dormant state and accumulate significant fat reserves along with their hindquarters in preparation for torpor.

What do grey mouse lemurs eat?

Insects are often the main course of a grey mouse lemur’s diet. Local beetle species are a favored target. They are also known to consume frogs, chameleons, and other small reptiles. These tiny primates also get plenty of plant matter in their diets, including fruit, leaves, and flowers from local trees or shrubs. They may also consume nectar, which makes them a potential pollinator as well.

Grey Mouse Lemur Predators and Threats

The grey mouse lemur is currently considered a species of least concern in terms of conservation, although this is based on limited data regarding population numbers and trends. Predatory birds are among the chief predators of this species, particularly the Madagascan owl, barn owl, and Henst’s goshawk. These small mammals may also fall prey to snakes, fossa, and several local mongoose species. Lemurs frequently release alarm calls to warn others about impending threats and occasionally mob potential predators to chase them away.

Aside from the many natural dangers found in the forests of Madagascar, they also face threats from human activity. Poaching and trapping as a commodity on the pet market is an ongoing concern. Logging and expansion of human development around the island have also degraded or destroyed parts of their native range. Harsh agricultural techniques and the expansion of cattle farming are among the chief threats to habitat quality.

Grey Mouse Lemur Reproduction, Babies, and Lifespan

Grey mouse lemurs have a complex and unusual social structure for primates. Females tend to congregate in central locations with their young and exert influence over males in terms of breeding selection and food availability. This indicates a female-dominant hierarchy. Individual adults have home ranges and males tend to be more spread out with larger turfs than individual females. Females and their offspring typically sleep alongside related adult females during the day, but may also spend the day alone if they don’t have any relatives nearby.

Reproduction occurs from September to March and there is no strict male-female pairing during this period. An adult female is usually able to breed for a period of 1 to 2 months during this season. Gestation can last anywhere from 54 to 68 days before the female gives birth to 2 or 3 pups. Babies remain in the nest for about 3 weeks, then the mother starts bringing them with her during foraging expeditions.

Lemurs are generally able to forage independently by the time they are 2 months old and are sexually mature in 1 to 2 years. Females generally have a limited reproductive span of about 5 years but can live for a long time after that. Individuals in captivity have been reported to reach over 15 years of age.

Grey Mouse Lemur Population

Despite their small geographical range and declining population, the gray mouse lemur is not considered at imminent risk of extinction. They do have some flexibility and durability when it comes to ecological change. This gives it an edge over other small lemur species when it comes to immediate threat from habitat loss. Numerous individuals live in Madagascar’s numerous reserves and protected areas, which gives them some stability and reprieve.

Grey Mouse Lemur In the Zoo

These lemurs aren’t generally considered a zoo animal, but they are used in non-invasive and non-lethal research due to genetic similarities with humans. The Duke Lemur Center is home to one of the only breeding populations of gray mouse lemurs in the world. As of 2020, their colony included dozens of mature individuals with a balanced population of males and females.

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Grey Mouse Lemur FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) 

Are grey mouse lemurs carnivores, herbivores, or omnivores?

These lemurs are technically omnivores and consume a mixture of animal and plant tissue. However, they could also be considered insectivores due to their strong preference for bugs.

Are grey mouse lemurs endangered?

While the species is not currently considered threatened or endangered, they do have a declining population and face numerous ecological threats. Continued habitat loss from human development, agricultural practices and climate change could all accelerate population loss in the years ahead.

What do grey mouse lemurs eat?

Aside from beetles and other insects, they also eat various kinds of fruit, leaves, flowers, and nectar. The grey mouse lemur is also known to eat frogs, chameleons, and other small reptiles that it encounters during its nocturnal foraging expeditions.

Can you get a mouse lemur as a pet?

Due to their protected status and declining population, these animals are not a legal pet option for most potential owners. Uncontrolled capture for unregulated exotic pet markets is actually one of the biggest current threats to the species.

Where do gray mouse lemurs live?

These tiny mammals are only native to forested regions along the western side of Madagascar. They have a strong preference for trees and spend most of their time foraging or sleeping among the branches.

What Kingdom do Grey Mouse Lemurs belong to?

Grey Mouse Lemurs belong to the Kingdom Animalia.

What phylum do Grey Mouse Lemurs belong to?

Grey Mouse Lemurs belong to the phylum Chordata.

What class do Grey Mouse Lemurs belong to?

Grey Mouse Lemurs belong to the class Mammalia.

What family do Grey Mouse Lemurs belong to?

Grey Mouse Lemurs belong to the family Cheirogaleidae.

What order do Grey Mouse Lemurs belong to?

Grey Mouse Lemurs belong to the order Primates.

What genus do Grey Mouse Lemurs belong to?

Grey Mouse Lemurs belong to the genus Microcebus.

What type of covering do Grey Mouse Lemurs have?

Grey Mouse Lemurs are covered in Fur.

What are some predators of Grey Mouse Lemurs?

Predators of Grey Mouse Lemurs include owls, snakes, and fossas.

What are some distinguishing features of Grey Mouse Lemurs?

Grey Mouse Lemurs have small bodies and large eyes.

How many babies do Grey Mouse Lemurs have?

The average number of babies a Grey Mouse Lemur has is 2.

What is an interesting fact about Grey Mouse Lemurs?

The Grey Mouse Lemur is the largest species of mouse lemur!

What is the scientific name for the Grey Mouse Lemur?

The scientific name for the Grey Mouse Lemur is Microcebus murinus.

What is the lifespan of a Grey Mouse Lemur?

Grey Mouse Lemurs can live for 3 to 8 years.

How fast is a Grey Mouse Lemur?

A Grey Mouse Lemur can travel at speeds of up to 20 miles per hour.

  1. Duke Lemur Center, Available here:
  2. New England Primate Conservancy, Available here:
  3. AnAge: The Animal Ageing and Longevity Database, Available here:
  4. Wikipedia, Available here:

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