One of the world’s smallest living primates has a surprisingly strong grip. The gray mouse lemur may be tiny—adults can weigh as little as 1.5 ounces—but according to new research, they can pull an order of magnitude greater than their body weight. The study, published in the Journal of Zoology by researchers at ENS de Lyon in France, finds that the petite Microcebus murinus can withstand immense pulling force, allowing them to better cling to tree branches.
The study examined 62 captive lemurs of both sexes. The lemurs latched onto a metal bar attached to a measurement system that recorded the force with which they pulled as the researchers gently pulled them away from the bar.
The average lemur could pull 10 times its body weight. Lemurs that weighed more, were younger, or had longer forearm bones were the strongest. There’s not a lot of data on how other animals’ pull strength compares to that of lemurs, though chimps can pull about the same weight as an adult man, despite the size difference (adult male chimps weigh 100 pounds on average). However, the researchers postulate that gray mouse lemurs might be especially strong grippers compared to other animals because they are adapted to live in and walk along the thinnest branches of trees. Their intense hand strength helps them to keep a firm grip on narrow limbs so they don't topple sideways and fall.