Are lemurs aggressive towards humans

Lemurs can smell weakness

"The females are dominant and aggressive," says Christine Drea, an anthropologist at the Duke Lemur Center. The males fight each other, the females fight for control of the group and the females fight the males "because they can," says Drea.

Both in captivity and in the wild, the animals naturally also suffer injuries during these clashes.

As part of the study, the researchers analyzed the genital secretions of 23 lemurs in the center that were injured (mainly during fights). They compared the smells at the time before the injury, during the injury, and after the wounds had healed.

Once the animals were injured, "their entire olfactory signature practically disappeared," says Drea.

The injured lemurs lost up to ten percent of their scent. This resulted in a reduction in all of their hundreds of odor components and in the complete disappearance of some compounds.

In the lemur society, the lack of smell has consequences for the social life of the impaired animals.


The status of a lemur is reflected in the quality and strength of its smell, explains Drea. In order to outsmart the competition, lemurs mark tree trunks and branches with their scent and also spray scent marks that other lemurs have left behind.

If males detect a faint odor mark from an injured lemur, they are more likely to mask it than a strong odor mark from a healthy rival. This suggests that males with a weaker odor are viewed as weaker rivals by healthy males. Injured males may also not be able to easily roam around to make new markings.

A weakened odor in both wild males and captive animals could "have serious consequences for the animal's social status within the group," said Harris. "Injured animals could lose their high status or access to potential partners for mating."