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Featured article/1[edit]

Tropical Cyclone Elita 2004.jpg

Cyclone Elita was an unusual tropical cyclone that made landfall on Madagascar three times. The fifth named storm of the 2003–04 South-West Indian Ocean cyclone season, Elita developed on January 24 in the Mozambique Channel. It strengthened to become a tropical cyclone before striking northwestern Madagascar on January 28. Elita weakened to tropical depression status while crossing the island, and after exiting into the southwest Indian Ocean it turned to the west and moved ashore for a second time on January 31 in eastern Madagascar. After crossing the island, the cyclone intensified again after reaching the Mozambique Channel, and Elita turned to the southeast to make its final landfall on February 3 along southwestern Madagascar. By February 5 it underwent extratropical transition, and the remnants of Elita moved erratically before dissipating on February 13.

Elita dropped heavy rainfall of over 200 mm (8 inches), which damaged or destroyed thousands of houses in Madagascar. Over 50,000 people were left homeless, primarily in Mahajanga and Toliara provinces. Flooding from the storm damaged or destroyed more than 450 km² (170 sq mi) of agricultural land, including important crops for food. Across the island, the cyclone caused at least 33 deaths, with its impact further compounded by Cyclone Gafilo about two months later. Elsewhere, the cyclone brought rainfall and damage to Mozambique and Malawi, while its outer circulation produced rough seas and strong winds in Seychelles, Mauritius, and Réunion. (Read more...)
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Featured article/2[edit]

Babakotia radofilai.jpg

Babakotia is a medium-sized, extinct genus of lemur, or strepsirrhine primate, from Madagascar that contains a single species, Babakotia radofilai. Together with Palaeopropithecus, Archaeoindris, and Mesopropithecus, it forms the family Palaeopropithecidae, commonly known as the sloth lemurs. The name Babakotia comes from the Malagasy name for the Indri, babakoto, to which it and all other sloth lemurs are closely related. Due to its mix of morphological traits that show intermediate stages between the living indriids and the large sloth lemurs, it has helped determine the relationship between both groups and the closely related and extinct monkey lemurs.

Babakotia radofilai and all other sloth lemurs share many traits with living sloths, demonstrating convergent evolution. It had long forearms, curved digits, and highly mobile hip and ankle joints. Its skull was more heavily built than that of indriids, but not as much as in the larger sloth lemurs. Its dentition is similar to that of all other indriids and sloth lemurs. It lived in the northern part of Madagascar and shared its range with at least two other sloth lemur species, Palaeopropithecus ingens and Mesopropithecus dolichobrachion. Babakotia radofilai was primarily a leaf-eater (folivore), though it also ate fruit and hard seeds. It is known only from subfossil remains and may have died out prior to the arrival of humans on the island, but not enough radiocarbon dating has been done with this species to know for certain. (Read more...)
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Featured article/3[edit]

Hadropithecus.jpg

Hadropithecus is a medium-sized, extinct genus of lemur, or strepsirrhine primate, from Madagascar that includes a single species, Hadropithecus stenognathus. Due to its rarity and lack of sufficient skeletal remains, it is one of the least understood of the extinct lemurs. Both it and Archaeolemur are collectively known as "monkey lemurs" or "baboon lemurs" due to body plans and dentition that suggest a terrestrial lifestyle and a diet similar to that of modern baboons. Hadropithecus had extended molars and a short, powerful jaw, suggesting that it was both a grazer and a seed predator.

The monkey lemurs are considered to be most closely related to the living indriids and the recently extinct sloth lemurs, although recent finds had caused some dispute over a possible closer relation to living lemurids. Genetic tests, however, have reaffirmed the previously presumed relationship. Hadropithecus lived in open habitat in the Central Plateau, South, and Southwest regions of Madagascar. It is known only from subfossil or recent remains and is considered to be a modern form of Malagasy lemur. It died out around 444–772 CE, shortly after the arrival of humans on the island. (Read more...)
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Featured article/4[edit]

Hippopotamus lemerlei.jpg

Several species of Malagasy Hippopotamus (also known as Malagasy Dwarf Hippopotamus or Malagasy Pygmy Hippopotamus or Madagascan instead of Malagasy) lived on the island of Madagascar but are now believed to be extinct. The animals were very similar to the extant Hippopotamus and Pygmy Hippopotamus. The fossil record suggests that at least one species of hippopotamus lived until about 1,000 years ago, and other evidence suggests that the species may have survived until much more recently. The taxonomy of these animals is not resolved and not widely studied. The various species are believed to have survived into the Holocene era. (Read more...)
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Featured article/5[edit]

Lemur catta 001.jpg

The Ring-tailed Lemur (Lemur catta) is a large Strepsirhine primate and the most recognized lemur due to its long, black and white ringed tail. It belongs to Lemuridae, one of four lemur families. It is the only member of the Lemur genus. Like all lemurs it is endemic to the island of Madagascar. Known locally as Hira (Malagasy), Maky (Malagasy), or Maki (French), it inhabits gallery forests to spiny scrub in the southern regions of the island. It is omnivorous and the most terrestrial of lemurs. The animal is diurnal, being active exclusively in daylight hours.

The Ring-tailed Lemur is highly social, living in groups of up to 30 individuals. It is also female dominant, a trait common among lemurs. To keep warm and reaffirm social bonds, groups will huddle together forming a lemur ball. The Ring-tailed Lemur will also sunbathe, sitting upright facing its underside, with its thinner white fur towards the sun. Like other lemurs, this species relies strongly on its sense of smell and marks its territory with scent glands. The males perform a unique scent marking behavior called spur marking and will participate in stink fights by impregnating their tail with their scent and wafting it at opponents. (Read more...)
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Featured article/6[edit]

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The Madagascan sunset moth or simply sunset moth, Chrysiridia rhipheus, is a day-flying moth of the Uraniidae family. It is considered to be one of the most impressive and beautiful Lepidoptera. Famous worldwide, it is featured in most coffee table books on the Lepidoptera and is much sought after by collectors. It is very colourful, though the iridescent parts of the wings do not have pigment; rather the colours originate from optical interference. Adult moths have a wingspan of 7–9 centimetres (3–3½ in).

The moth was considered to be a butterfly by Dru Drury, who described it in 1773 and placed it in the genus Papilio. Jacob Hübner placed it in the moth genus Chrysiridia in 1823. Later redescriptions led to junior synonyms such as Chrysiridia madagascariensis (Lesson, 1831).

At first the moth was thought to be from China or Bengal, but was later found to be endemic to Madagascar. It is found throughout the year in most parts of the island, with peak populations between March and August, and smallest numbers between October and December. Females lay about 80 eggs under the leaves of Omphalea spp. (Read more...)
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Featured article/7[edit]

Gray Mouse Lemur 1.JPG

The Gray Mouse Lemur (Microcebus murinus) is a small lemur, a type of strepsirrhine primate, found only on the island of Madagascar. Weighing 58 to 67 grams (2.0 to 2.4 oz), it is the largest of the mouse lemurs (genus Microcebus), a group which include the smallest primates in the world. The species is named for its mouse-like size and coloration and is known locally (in Malagasy) as Tsidy, Koitsiky, Titilivaha, Pondiky, and Vakiandry. Nearly indistinguishable from each other by appearance, the Gray Mouse Lemur and all other mouse lemurs are considered cryptic species. For this reason, the Gray Mouse Lemur was considered the only mouse lemur species for decades until more recent studies began to distinguish between the species.

Like all mouse lemurs, this species is nocturnal and arboreal. It is very active, and although it forages alone, groups of males and females will form sleeping groups and share tree holes during the day. It exhibits a form of dormancy called torpor during the cool, dry winter months, and in some cases undergoes seasonal torpor (or hibernation), which is unusual for primates. The Gray Mouse Lemur can be found in several types of forest throughout western and southern Madagascar. (Read more...)
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Featured article/8[edit]

Varecia variegata full body curled up.jpg

The ruffed lemurs of the genus Varecia are strepsirrhine primates and the largest extant lemurs within the family Lemuridae. Like all living lemurs, they are found only on the island of Madagascar. Formerly considered to be a monotypic genus, two species are now recognized: the Black-and-white Ruffed Lemur, with its three subspecies, and the Red Ruffed Lemur.

Ruffed lemurs are diurnal and arboreal quadrupeds, often observed leaping through the upper canopy of the seasonal tropical rainforests in eastern Madagascar. They are also the most frugivorous of the Malagasy lemurs, and they are very sensitive to habitat disturbance. Ruffed lemurs live in groups and have a complex and flexible social structure, described as fission-fusion. They are highly vocal, with loud, raucous calls.

Ruffed lemurs are seasonal breeders and highly unusual in their reproductive strategy. They are considered an "evolutionary enigma" in that they are the largest of the extant species in Lemuridae, yet exhibit reproductive traits more common in small, nocturnal lemurs, such as short gestation periods (~102 days) and relatively large average litter sizes (~2–3). Ruffed lemurs also build nests for their newborns (the only primates that do so), carry them by mouth, and exhibit an absentee parental system by stashing them while they forage. (Read more...)
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