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|Early biologists coined the term as the calls of some species (probably from the family Lemuridae) were reminiscent of the cries of Roman lemures, or "spirits of the dead".
Subsequently, this has become widely accepted as an encompassing vernacular for all Madagascar's primates.
The earliest primates perhaps evolved around 50 millions years ago and may have been similar in a number of ways to some present-day small nocturnal lemurs.
Later more advanced forms evolved that were better able to exploit their environment.
This lineage eventually became monkeys and apes, and was able to outcompete and oust the more primitive forms.
Critically, some of the early lemur-like primates became isolated on Madagascar prior to this.
Their cousins elsewhere were driven to extinction by the new arrivals, but on Madagascar they found refuge. |