Meet Microcebus murinus, the Grey Mouse Lemur

The grey mouse lemur has many of the same characteristics that make the mouse a good model.

  • Size: Mouse lemurs are just 5 inches long, with another 5 inches of tail, and weigh less than 2 ounces, on average—slightly larger than a mouse but smaller than a rat. Sarah Zohdy, a doctoral student at the University of Helsinki, calls them “snack sized” for Madagascar’s snakes, raptors, and other lemur predators.
  • Relation to humans: Mouse lemurs’ DNA has diverged from humans only half as much as that of mice, making them a much more likely match.
  • Reproduction rate: They develop in two months, reach sexual maturity in 6–8 months, and have litters of two or three babies.
  • Captivity: They thrive in captivity, as shown by several successful mouse lemur colonies in Europe and the United States.
  • Cost: Mouse lemurs cost 10 times less to raise than some other primates, around $1,200 compared with almost $15,000 for the common marmoset.
  • Promising model: Aging, behavior, and neuroscience appear to be promising areas of study; mouse lemurs get an Alzheimer’s-like disease characterized by plaques in the brain similar to those seen in human patients.

-- Andrea Widener
HHMI Bulletin, November 2011

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