Megaladapis edwardsi was one of the largest lemur species in Madagascar’s history, probably reaching around 5 feet in length (although still smaller than its hefty gorilla-sized cousin Archaeoindris). It was likely a vertical climber but a quadruped on the ground, where it probably spent more time than many of its smaller relatives.
M. edwardsi had a strange-looking skull, long, narrow and with very large molars. Unusually for a primate, its eyes were on the sides of its skull, rather than the front. It probably had some kind of tapir-like proboscis.
In 1658, the former French governor of Madagascar, Etienne de Flacourt, described in his Histoire de le Grande Île de Madagascar the legend of a forest-dwelling animal known as the ‘tretretretre’ or ‘tratratratra’. It was said to be the size of a two-year-old calf, with curly hair, a short tail, and a human-like face, and to be a solitary animal afraid of humans, who in turn were afraid of it. There are competing theories as to what the tretretretre was – if indeed it was just a description of a now-extinct animal – and Megaladapis is one of the suggestions, along with another giant lemur named Palaeopropithecus. Both probably survived long enough to co-exist on Madagascar with humans after the island was first settled, but it would be surprising if there were still any left by 1658.
M. edwardsi became extinct around 700 years ago, probably primarily due to deforestation and hunting by humans.