List of mammals of Madagascar

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This is a list of the native wild mammal species recorded in Madagascar. As of June 2014 (following the IUCN reassessment of the lemurs) there are 241 extant mammal species recognized in Madagascar, of which 22 are critically endangered, 62 are endangered, 32 are vulnerable, 9 are near threatened, 72 are of least concern and 44 are either data deficient or not evaluated. All of the critically endangered species are lemurs.[note 1]

The mammalian fauna of Madagascar is highly distinctive and largely endemic. The extant nonmarine, nonchiropteran taxa constitute (as of June 2014) 168 species, 40 genera and 9 families; of these, besides a probably introduced shrew,[note 2] endemic taxa make up all the species,[note 3] all the genera, and all but one of the families.[note 4] This endemic terrestrial fauna, consisting of lemurs, tenrecs, nesomyine rodents and euplerid carnivorans, is thought to have colonized the island from Africa via four (or five, if aye-ayes arrived separately) rafting events. The other historic terrestrial or semiterrestrial mammal group, the extinct hippopotamuses, is thought to have colonized the island possibly several times, perhaps via swimming.

Earlier in the Holocene, Madagascar had a number of megafaunal mammals: giant lemurs such as Archaeoindris which at over 200 kg was comparable in mass to the largest gorillas, as well as the hippopotamuses. The island also hosted flightless elephant birds weighing up to 700 kg, the largest known birds of all time.[note 5] All of these went extinct following the first appearance of humans about 2000 years ago.[8][9][note 6] Today, the largest surviving native mammals of the island, such as the indri[11] and fossa,[12] have weights only approaching 10 kg. Most if not all of the 29 listed extinct species are believed to have died out in prehistoric times; none of these are known to have survived into the post-European contact period.

The following tags are used to highlight each species' conservation status as assessed by the International Union for Conservation of Nature; those on the left are used here, those in the second column in some other articles:

EX EX Extinct No reasonable doubt that the last individual has died.
EW EW Extinct in the wild Known only to survive in captivity or as a naturalized population well outside its historic range.
CR CR Critically endangered The species is in imminent danger of extinction in the wild.
EN EN Endangered The species is facing a very high risk of extinction in the wild.
VU VU Vulnerable The species is facing a high risk of extinction in the wild.
NT NT Near threatened The species does not qualify as being at high risk of extinction but is likely to do so in the future.
LC LC Least concern The species is not currently at risk of extinction in the wild.
DD DD Data deficient There is inadequate information to assess the risk of extinction for this species.
NE NE Not evaluated The conservation status of the species has not been studied.

Order: Afrosoricida (tenrecs, otter shrews and golden moles)[edit]

The afrotherian order Afrosoricida contains the golden moles and otter shrews of sub-Saharan Africa and the tenrecs of Madagascar, families of small mammals that were traditionally part of the order Insectivora. All native tenrecs of Madagascar are believed to descend from a common ancestor that lived 29–37 million years (Ma) ago[13][14][15] after rafting from Africa,[16][17] with the split from their closest relatives, the otter shrews of equatorial Africa, dated to about 47–53 Ma ago.[13][14][15]

Afrosoricida also contains the enigmatic extinct genus Plesiorycteropus, represented by two extinct species of dog-sized, probably insectivorous mammals restricted to Madagascar. Morphological analyses have tended to place them within Afrotheria close to aardvarks (order Tubulidentata),[18] perhaps due to convergent specializations for digging.[19] Analysis of preserved collagen sequences, however, places them in Afrosoricida closest to (and possibly within) tenrecs.[20] The two species differ in size and aspects of morphology.[19] They survived until as recently as 2150 BP.[9]

Order: Sirenia (manatees and dugongs)[edit]

Sirenia is an order of fully aquatic, herbivorous mammals that inhabit rivers, estuaries, coastal marine waters, swamps, and marine wetlands. All four species are endangered. The dugong ranges widely along coastlines from east Africa to Australasia. It and the tenrecs are Madagascar's only extant afrotherians.

Order: Primates[edit]

The order Primates contains all the species commonly related to the lemurs, monkeys, and apes, with the latter category including humans. It is divided into four main groupings: strepsirrhines, tarsiers, monkeys of the New World, and monkeys and apes of the Old World. Strepsirrhines make up all of Madagascar's native primates species, but comprise only a quarter of those of Africa, the rest being simians. Madagascar's strepsirrhines occupy both diurnal and nocturnal niches, while all those of Asia and mainland Africa are nocturnal[21] and nearly all simians are diurnal (the only exception being neotropical Aotus, which lives where strepsirrhines are absent).[22] Madagascar's 15 genera of extant nonhuman primates compares with 6 in Central America, 20 in South America, 23 in Africa and 19 in Asia. A number of lemur species larger than any now alive, ranging in size up to that of a gorilla, are believed to have become extinct shortly after the recent arrival of humans.

The endemic primates of Madagascar, the lemurs, constitute a single clade and are the largest branch of strepsirrhines. It has been proposed that a common ancestor of all Madagascar's lemurs rafted across the Mozambique Channel from Africa[23][24][note 7] between 50 and 60 million years ago.[16][17] However, findings of similarities in dentition between several African primate fossils and aye-ayes, the most basal of lemurs, have led to the alternate proposal that the ancestors of aye-ayes colonized Madagascar separately from other lemurs.[25]

Between 2000 and 2008, 39 new lemur species were described, bringing the total number of recognized species and subspecies to 99;[26] by 2014, the number of extant species and subspecies recognized had increased to 105. Of these, the IUCN classified 24 as critically endangered, 49 as endangered, 20 as vulnerable, three as near threatened, three as of least concern and four as data deficient; two were yet to be evaluated.

Order: Rodentia (rodents)[edit]

Eliurus species

Rodents make up the largest order of mammals, with over 40% of mammalian species. They have two incisors in the upper and lower jaw which grow continually and must be kept short by gnawing. Most rodents are small though the capybara can weigh up to 45 kg (99 lb). All the native nesomyid rodents of Madagascar are believed to descend from a common ancestor that rafted over from Africa 20–24 million years ago.[16][17] There are about 39 nesomyid species in five subfamilies in Africa, compared to 27 in one subfamily extant in Madagascar. While nesomyids make up all of the native rodent species of Madagascar, they constitute less than 10% of those of Africa.

Order: Eulipotyphla (shrews, hedgehogs, moles, and solenodons)[edit]

Eulipotyphlans are insectivorous mammals. Shrews and solenodons closely resemble mice, hedgehogs carry spines, while moles are stout-bodied burrowers. There is one species of shrew on Madagascar, which is often considered to be conspecific with the widely distributed Etruscan shrew, Suncus etruscus, and likely to have been introduced to Madagascar from South or Southeast Asia by humans.[27]

Order: Chiroptera (bats)[edit]

The bats' most distinguishing feature is that their forelimbs are developed as wings, making them the only mammals capable of flight. Bat species account for about 20% of all mammals. Of the 46 species, 22 genera and 8 families of bats present on Madagascar, 36 species but only Myzopoda and Myzopodidae are endemic (the family was formerly present, however, on the African mainland). Paratriaenops is endemic to Madagascar plus the Seychelles.

Order: Carnivora (carnivorans)[edit]

There are over 260 species of carnivorans, the majority of which feed primarily on meat. They have a characteristic skull shape and dentition. The native terrestrial carnivorans of Madagascar are all euplerids, which are believed to descend from a common ancestor that rafted over from Africa 19–26 million years ago.[17] Their closest relatives are the herpestids, the African and Eurasian mongooses. Malagasy mongooses are not "true" mongooses but rather are thought to represent an example of convergent or parallel evolution. About 30% of African terrestrial carnivoran species are herpestids.

Order: Artiodactyla (even-toed ungulates and cetaceans)[edit]

H. madagascariensis skeleton with H. amphibius skull

The even-toed ungulates are ungulates whose weight is borne about equally by the third and fourth toes, rather than mostly or entirely by the third as in perissodactyls. There are about 220 noncetacean artiodactyl species, including many that are of great economic importance to humans. Madagascar's only native artiodactyls are the extinct Malagasy hippos, which are believed to have descended from ancestors that managed to cross the Mozambique Channel from Africa in the late Quaternary, perhaps by swimming.[17] Two or three hippo colonization events may have occurred. H. lemerlei is thought to be a dwarfed form of Africa's H. amphibius, while H. laloumena was larger. H. madagascariensis may be more closely related to the African pygmy hippopotamus, C. liberiensis (the generic assignment of both pygmy forms has been in flux). Skeletal features indicate that Malagasy hippos were better adapted for running than African hippos. H. lemerlei remains have been found in the rivers and lakes of western Madagascar, suggesting a semiaquatic lifestyle similar to that of H. amphibius, while many H. madagascariensis remains have found in Madagascar's forested highlands, indicating a more terrestrial lifestyle.

Order: Cetacea (whales, dolphins and porpoises)[edit]

Southern right whale, Île Sainte-Marie

The infraorder Cetacea includes whales, dolphins and porpoises. They are the mammals most fully adapted to aquatic life with a spindle-shaped nearly hairless body, protected by a thick layer of blubber, and forelimbs and tail modified to provide propulsion underwater. Their closest extant relatives are the hippos, which are artiodactyls, from which cetaceans descended; cetaceans are thus also artiodactyls.

Malagasy mammal names[edit]

Extinct megafauna[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ This list is derived from the IUCN Red List, which includes extant mammal species as well as four recently extinct species known from subfossil remains. To these have been added other species believed to have died out following the arrival of humans, as well as a few species known from Holocene remains whose extinction dates are poorly constrained. The taxonomy and naming of the individual species is based on those used in existing Wikipedia articles, supplemented by the common names and taxonomy from the IUCN, Smithsonian Institution, or University of Michigan where no Wikipedia article was available.
  2. ^ The Madagascan pygmy shrew is also present on the Comoros[1] where it is thought to have been introduced.[2] It may also be present on Socotra.[3] Some authorities view it as conspecific with the widespread Etruscan shrew.[3]
  3. ^ The tailless tenrec[4] and the common brown and mongoose lemurs[5][6] are also present on the Comoros; all are thought to have been introduced there.[2]
  4. ^ The rodent family Nesomyidae is also present in Africa. Madagascar has nearly as many nesomyid species as Africa.
  5. ^ It was long suspected that, like the native mammals, ratites reached Madagascar from Africa (possibly before the splitting of the two land masses), so that the closest relatives of elephant birds would have been ostriches. A stunning finding from ancient DNA analysis, however, is that the closest extant relatives of elephant birds are actually the diminutive kiwi of New Zealand.[7]
  6. ^ This depletion of the megafauna is consistent with what has happened everywhere else in the world first colonized by humans in the last 100,000 years.[10]
  7. ^ Mittermeier et al. 2006, pp. 23–26[6]


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External links[edit]