Cranium and mandible of a giant lemur

Cranium and mandible of a giant lemur

An extinct giant

What kind of animal do you think this large, rare fossil skull belonged to? Megaladapis edwardsi was actually a species of lemur. But whereas today lemurs range from the size of a mouse to that of a human toddler, Megaladapis edwardsi – the giant lemur – was the size of a gorilla.

At least 17 species of lemur have gone extinct in Madagascar, off the east coast of Africa, since humans arrived in their habitat 2000 years ago. Conservationists are working to protect the 50 remaining species against hunting and habitat destruction.

Today thousands of species are at risk of extinction worldwide. These range from large mammals, such as the African elephant and the giant panda, to more than a fifth of the world’s plant population. In Britain alone 72 species are on the endangered species list.

Threats to species include habitat loss, changes in land use and climate change. Scientists predict that if average global temperature rises by just 2 °C then 18% of all species could become extinct. A rise of 4 °C would increase that figure to 40%.

Find out more about climate change in atmosphere... exploring climate science.

What do the other museums have to say?

Science Museum: 18 April - 30 May
Natural History Museum: 20 Jan – 6 March
Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew: 7 March – 17 April
Wellcome Collection: 31 May – 10 July
Horniman Museum: 11 July -21 August

Source: Natural History Museum, London. Inv. Nos: M13898 (cranium) and M13899 (mandible) of Megaladapis edwardsi, BM(NH) 1939.1223 (skull of the ring-tailed lemur). 

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