Hairy-eared Dwarf Lemur

Allocebus trichotis



Body length of 5 to 6 inches, tail length of 5 to 7 inches, and weight of 2 to 3 ounces

Data is limited, but up to 15 years




Gestation: about 2 months
Young: 1

Habitat Loss


For more than 20 years, these tiny lemurs were presumed extinct, but they were rediscovered in 1989 near the Mananara River in Northeast Madagascar.

As many as six hairy-eared dwarf lemurs will cuddle up together in a tree hollow to sleep.

Researchers have collected recordings of hair-eared dwarf lemurs using a short whistling call, similar to that of a mouse lemur.


The hairy-eared dwarf lemur is a nocturnal lemur native to the rainforests of eastern Madagascar. It is a rare and unique species, the only one in its genus Allocebus. It gets its name from the fluffy tufts of hair that adorn its ears, which are thought to help with sensory perception as it moves through the trees in the darkness. These lemurs are tiny—an adult could easily fit in the palm of your hand! They have pink hands and feet with long fingers that they use to grip tree branches. They are rarely seen and little studied, so there is more to learn about these fuzzy fellows.

©EE Louis Jr

Foods and Feeding

Hairy-eared dwarf lemurs eat nectar, young leaves, fruit, gums, and insects. They have large upper incisors and hard nails for scraping tree bark to release plant gums, and they have a long tongue well suited to gathering nectar. They also hunt insects like locusts and grasshoppers, jumping on them to capture them.

Some researchers have found that in order to last through the austral winter (from June through September) when there is less food available, hairy-eared dwarf lemurs pack on fat—up to 140 percent more in body weight—before going into a state of torpor, reducing body temperature and metabolic rate. They then use up these reserves while sleeping. More research is needed however—it may be that only some follow this pattern, depending on location and resources.


It’s only recently that researchers have been able to gather information about the behavior and ecology of this elusive species. The lemurs are often found in pairs (presumably male and female) with their offspring, although sometimes groups of up to three adult pairs will live together. They nest and sleep in tree hollows, and they line the nest with dry plant material, sometimes using it to cover themselves. Males and females groom one another before going to sleep, a type of social bonding.

Individuals are often seen in tangles of brush or lianas, and they tend to forage in the lower levels of the forest. They leap easily and lightly from branch to branch. Their small size serves them well when they need to get away from potential predators, scooting out to thin twigs that would not hold another animal.

Habitat Use

This is generally one of the most difficult lemurs to find in the wild. Indeed, many experts who have worked for decades in Madagascar have yet to see one! However, it appears to be more widely distributed in the eastern rainforests than previously thought, and it’s possible that other populations will be found. They have been found mostly in tropical lowland and mid-altitude forest up to 1,000 m (3,280 feet), but some have been seen in montane forests up to 1,600 m (5,429 feet). Hairy-eared dwarf lemurs play various ecological roles. Since nectar is a big part of their diet, they assist with plant pollination, and they can also be prey for carnivores like owls.

Reproduction and Life Cycle

Although more study is needed, it appears that hairy-eared dwarf lemurs may be monogamous, with a bonded pair staying together unless one of them dies. Mating takes place during the wet season, in November and December, and gestation averages two months. Mothers nurse and care for their young until they reach independence. Research suggests that males may play a role by grooming, protecting, and carrying their offspring.

Conservation and Threats

Hairy-eared dwarf lemurs are scarce, and the declining population faces several threats. Deforestation, logging, and agriculture have diminished their habitat range, and they are sometimes trapped and hunted by humans for food. The effects of climate change are also a growing concern. Fortunately, this species is found in at least six protected national parks. Range-wide surveys are needed to assess population densities and the conservation status of these special little primates.