Scent sense

Lemurs do not look much like monkeys. They have bushy ringed tails that look like a cat's and a long snouts with moist bare skin around the nostrils that are reminiscent of a dog.

But their hands give them away, as no dog or cat has grasping hands like a lemur.

Lemurs are true primates and among the most primitive ones. Lemurs are descended from shrew-like mammals that scampered along the ground at the end of the age of the dinosaurs.

Ring-tailed lemurs, for instance, are as much at home on the ground as in the trees and they still retain a lot of old-fashioned habits more suited to ground-dwellers, such as scent marking.

The males have horny spurs on their wrists surrounded by scent glands. They click these against saplings to smear the scratches with musk.

The females also smear musk but from glands under their tail. The males are very interested in the female scents and will mark on top of them. Frequent marking enables a troop to leave a scent record of its movements and so establish rights of way on the forest floor.

Males also use scent glands from their wrists and chest to perfume their tails in the battle for dominance. By thrashing his tail about in the air, a male can waft the scent at his rivals to intimidate them.

While baby squirrels and tree shrews only have straightforward paws so must be deposited in nests, baby lemurs can close their fists on their parents' fur and so accompany them wherever they go.

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