Exploring the Extinct Koala Lemur of Madagascar

Adult Koala and Adult Lemur
Koala or Lemur?

We’ve talked about koalas before, and we’ve touched on lemurs a bit before, too. Today, we are going to talk about an extinct animal who shares both of these names, the informally called Koala Lemur, Megaladapis.  What traits of each animal did the koala lemur exhibit for it to be so named?

Koala lemurs are known to have lived in Madagascar, the only natural habitat of lemurs today. However, unlike the small lemurs you may be thinking of, Megaladapis was between 4 and 5 feet tall, and they weighed about 100 pounds. this is where the koala part of his name comes in to play. These unique early primates were large and heavy, but koala lemurs were still arboreal (living in trees), to protect themselves from predators on the ground and to eat from the leaves of the canopy. Staying in the trees might have been handy with their hands, which resemble those of koalas, and their arms and legs were short, suggesting they clung close to the tree trunk and branches, as koalas do today.

Artwork of Giant Lemur


Unlike modern primates, who have forward-facing eyes, Megaladapis had eyes on the side of their face. This is a trait of herbivores, or particularly prey animals, and so it is unlikely that they could be omnivores, as many primates are today. They also would have lacked the sharp sense of depth perception that is required to leap and swing through the branches like playful lemurs do today, and so their life would probably be slower and more laid-back.  So, was Megaladapis a koala or was it a lemur? Well, it was actually an ancestor of present-day lemurs.



Assembled Giant Lemar FossilsMegaladapis first emerges in the fossil record from 2 million years ago, and they go extinct about 10,000 years ago. The first fossils were discovered in the 19th century and the species was given its scientific name in 1894. Megaladapis means “giant lemur”. There are three known subspecies to have existed, all on Madagascar.

During the lifetime of Megaladapis, human settlers may have come to Madagascar. Human is used in this context to mean members of the genus Homo and not Homo sapiens, which wouldn’t emerge until after Megaladapis was extinct. And this human migration may have also been the cause of their demise. Do you remember that we talked about human hunting of the Woolly mammoths? Scientists think the same thing may have happened here. Humans could have either hunted them for their unique appearance or for food and fur. Also, humans change their environment wherever they go, which could have been a cause for extinction. Either way, it is commonly seen that the meeting of those species is the cause of the extinction of Megaladapis.

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Some also think that humans meeting Megaladapis could have been the genesis of Bigfoot legends, and then the story was somehow passed down through generations and generations and generations and generations (a lot of generations), until it’s become its form today. I think that’s a little far-fetched, but what do you guys believe? Let me know any thoughts you’ve had while reading this in the comments below, and if you have any questions or requests, leave those down there, too. Thank you for reading and, until next time, goodbye!

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4 thoughts on “Exploring the Extinct Koala Lemur of Madagascar”

  1. I think Bigfoot is a scary enough deal when he’s on the ground. You put him up in the trees, stalking from above like mountain lions are known to do? That makes him absolutely terrifying to me. I get chills just thinking about it. Please, give me King Julien of Madagascar movie fame instead! As always, thanks for an informative and fun, engaging blog post!

    1. Thanks for your comment! Fortunately, I don’t think Bigfoot eats people, so he might just be watching you from the trees.

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