Diademed sifaka

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This sheet covers all eastern sifakas, or the P. diadema group, including P. candidus, P. diadema, P. edwardsi, P. perrieri and P. tattersalli

TAXONOMY

Suborder: Strepsirrhini
Infraorder: Lemuriformes
Superfamily: Lemuroidea
Family: Indriidae
Genus: Propithecus
Species: P. candidus, P. diadema, P. edwardsi, P. perrieri, P. tattersalli

Other names: P. candidus: P. diadema candidus; silky sifaka or silky simpona; propithèque soyeux (French); P. diadema: P. diadema diadema; diademed sifaka or diademed simpona; propithèque à diademè (French); diademsifaka (German); sadabe, simpona, or simpoon (Malagasy); indris sifaca or sifaka diademado (Spanish); diademedsifaka (Swedish); P. edwardsi: Milne-Edwards’ sifaka or Milne-Edwards’ simpona; propithèque de Milne-Edwards’ (French); Edwards’ diademsifaka (German); P. perrieri: Perrier’s sifaka, black sifaka, Perrier’s simpona; propithèque de Perrier (French); schwarzer sifaka (German); ankomba joby or radjako (Malagasy); P. tattersalli: golden-crowned sifaka or Tattersall’s sifaka; propithèque de Tattersall (French); Tattersall-sifaka (German); ankomba malandy (Malagasy); guldkronad sifaka (Swedish)

Conservation status:    multiple…

Life span: 27 years (P. edwardsi)
Total population: varies
Regions: Eastern and northeastern Madagascar
Gestation: 6 months
Height: 37.2 to 50.8 cm (M), 37.2 to 53.5 cm (F)
Weight: 3.04 to 6.5 kg (M), 3.1 to 6.7 kg (F)

The name sifaka is a reference to a common call given by western dry forest sifakas in which they give an explosive, hiss-like “shee-faak” call several times in succession. On the east coast, local residents refer to the larger bodied diademed sifakas as “simpona”, a name which resembles their sneeze-like “Zzuss!” vocalizations (Wright 1998; Patel et al. 2006).
Diademed sifaka
Propithecus diadema

According to Groves (2001), there are seven species of sifaka in the genus Propithecus. While the taxonomy of sifakas is disputed and the number of species ranges from two to nine, they are commonly grouped according to size and geographic distribution. The Propithecus diadema group includes P. edwardsi, P. perrieri, P. tattersalli, P. diadema, and P. candidus. Members of the group are all diurnal large-bodied species that live in the eastern and northeastern rainforests of Madagascar (Mayor et al. 2004; Mittermeier et al. 2006a). The P. diadema group is also sometimes merely referred to as the eastern sifakas. The other group of sifakas includes P. verreauxi, P. coquereli, P. deckenii deckenii and P. deckenii coronatus and are referred to as the Propithecus verreauxi group. These sifakas are smaller than members of the P. diadema group and are found in the forests of western and southwestern Madagascar (Mittermeier et al. 2006a).

MORPHOLOGY

Generally speaking, all sifakas share a similar body shape with long tails and legs relative to their torso and arms. Their long, strong legs are used in the characteristic method of locomotion, clinging to vertical supports such as tree trunks and leaping between them. At rest, sifakas cling vertically to a support with their knees pulled tightly to their chest (Demes et al. 1996; Mittermeier et al. 2006a).

Diademed sifaka
Propithecus diadema

Species of the P. diadema group of sifakas can be differentiated from other members of the genus and from each other based on both size and coat coloration. They all have long, silky fur and tails which are shorter than their head and body together (Groves 2001). Diademed sifakas (P. diadema) are the largest species of the genus Propithecus and have long, silky fur that is grey on their back and shoulders. Their faces are dark grey to black and appear bare but are covered with very fine fur. They have reddish-brown eyes and their cheeks, forehead, and throat are covered in white fur. Their heads are mostly white, but black fur covers the top of their head to the nape of their neck while their back and shoulders are grey-silver. The legs and arms are a golden-orange hue but the hands are feet are black and the chest and stomach are white (Garbutt 1999; Mittermeier et al. 2006a). Male and female P. diadema are similar in size, with males weighing an average of 6.50 kg (14.3 lb) and females having an average weight of 6.70 kg (14.8 lb). Males measure 50.1 cm (19.7 in) and females measure 50.9 cm (20.0 in), on average (Lehman et al. 2005).

The other subspecies, P. candidus, is covered in long, silky white fur with silvery shoulders or back and limbs. The face is mottled pink and grey-black, with individual variation. The ears are black and without fur and are noticeable as they protrude on the sides of the white head (Groves 2001; Mittermeier et al. 2006a). Adult males and females are easily distinguished based on chest coloration; males have a large patch of brown fur on their chest, stained as a result of rubbing their chest scent gland on surfaces such as tree limbs (Mittermeier et al. 2006a). The average size of male silky sifakas is 5.03 kg (11.1 lb) and 50.8 cm (20.0 in) while females weigh 6.00 kg (13.2 lb) and measure 53.5 cm (21.1 in). This subspecies is critically endangered and average measurements are taken from an exceptionally small sample size of only four individuals (Lehman et al. 2005).

Milne-Edward’s sifakas (P. edwardsi) have dark brown to black fur covering their bodies. They have bare, black faces and orange-red eyes. There is some individual variation in coloration around the flanks and lower back which can vary from light brown to cream (Groves 2001; Mittermeier et al. 2006a). This species is sturdily built, being smaller in size but around the same weight as other species. The average weight of males is 5.90 kg (13.0 lb) and for females it is 6.30 kg (13.9 lb). Males measure 47.6 cm (18.7 in) and females measure 47.7 cm (18.8 in) (Lehman et al. 2005).

Propithecus perrieri is distinguished from other members of the group by its dense black coat. The long fur covering their bodies is entirely black, but some individuals may have a lighter brown fur on their abdomen. They have naked faces and ears and orange-brown eyes and are of small build compared to other sifakas (Mittermeier et al. 2006a). Males weigh 4.22 kg (9.30 lb) and measure 47.4 cm (18.7 in), on average while females weigh 4.44 kg (9.79 lb) and measure 50.4 cm (19.8 in) (Lehman et al. 2005).

The golden-crowned sifaka (P. tattersalli) has short, cream-colored fur covering its dorsal surfaces excepting slightly darker fur on the chest. Its name comes from the golden fur on the top of its head and its arms and legs can also be a pale orange color. The face is black and mainly bare and the ears are prominent, with white tufts. It has orange eyes (Garbutt 1999; Groves 2001; Mittermeier et al. 2006a). Data from captive golden-crowned sifakas show that males have an average weight of 3.04 kg (6.70 lb) while females weigh, on average, 3.10 kg (6.83 lb) (Kappeler 1990). The average height of golden-crowned sifakas, both male and female is 37.2 cm (14.6 in) (Mayor et al. 2004).

RANGE

CURRENT RANGE MAPS (IUCN REDLIST):
Propithecus candidus | Propithecus diadema | Propithecus edwardsi | Propithecus perrieri | Propithecus tattersalli

Sifakas are endemic to Madagascar and members of the P. diadema group are found in the eastern forests of the island from the far northern coast to the southeastern part of the country (Tattersall 1986). The northernmost occurring species, P. perrieri, is found in the dry forests from the coast to the northeastern edge of the Andrafiamena mountain chain between the Lokia River to the south and the Irodo River to the north in the Analamera Special Reserve (Tattersall 1982; Garbutt 1999; Lehman et al. 2005). Most of the remaining population of Perrier’s sifaka is found at the Analamera Special Reserve (Mayor & Lehman 1999). Just south of the range occupied by P. perrieri and separated by the Andreva and Lokia Rivers and the Andrafiamena ridge, P. tattersalli inhabits a range a mere 25 km (15.5 mi) in diameter from the coast to the inland boundary (Groves 2001). At the center of the range, which is restricted by the Loky River in the north and west and the Manambato River in the south, is the town of Daraina (Garbutt 1999). Moving south along the coast about 125 km (77.7 mi), the next species encountered is P. candidus, from the Marojejy National Park on the Marojejy Massif in the north to the forests of Makira and the Antainambalana River in the south, including the Anjaharibe-Sud Special Reserve (Garbutt 1999; Kelley & Mayor 2002; Mittermeier et al. 2006a). Small populations have also been documented throughout the Betaolana Corridor and north-west through the Tsaratanana Corridor until the Androranga River (Mittermeier et al. 2006a; Patel et al. 2007). There may be some overlap of the range of P. candidus and P. diadema as diademed sifakas are among the most widespread members of the genus Propithecus (Mittermeier et al. 2006a). It is found in the region of the Antainambalana River in the north southward to the Mangoro River (Garbutt 1999). The southernmost occurring member of the Propithecus diadema group is P. edwardsi. The northern part of its range is restricted by the Mangoro and Onive Rivers and it ranges south to Andringitra National Park and the Rienana River (Mittermeier et al. 2006a).

The total population estimate for the golden-crowned sifaka (P. tattersalli) is between 6100 and 10,000 animals in the wild and the captive population consists of two individuals housed at the Duke University Primate Center (Vargas et al. 2002; http://isis.org). P. diadema probably numbers between 1000 and 10,000 individuals in the wild (Mittermeier et al. 1992). Estimates place P. edwardsi numbers at around 40,000 individuals in the wild (Irwin et al. 2005). P. candidus is perhaps the rarest of the sifakas with only several hundred to several thousand individuals. They are the only sifaka species that is listed as one of the World’s Top 25 Most Endangered Primates (Mittermeier et al. 2006a; Patel et al. 2007). However, less available habitat remains for P. perrieri than for P. candidus. Wild P. perrieri estimates place their total population at around 915 individuals (Banks et al. 2007).

HABITAT

Diademed sifaka
Propithecus diadema

Propithecus perrieri are found in both dry and riparian forests bordering rivers. In the Analamera Special Reserve, which encompasses most of their range and the only area where they have been studied, the altitude varies from 10 to 600 m (32.8 to 1969 ft), but Perrier’s sifakas are usually found at elevations below 500 m (1640 ft) (Lehman et al 2005). Rainfall is concentrated between November to April, and the annual precipitation is 125.0 cm (49.2 in) (Lehman et al. 2005).

The golden-crowned sifaka (P. tattersalli) is found in dry deciduous and gallery forests as well as in semi-evergreen forests at altitudes below 700 m (2297 ft) (Vargas et al. 2002). Annual rainfall within their range averages 200.0 cm (78.7 in), with the majority falling between December and March. The rest of the year is dry (Garbutt 1999).

Just south of the ranges of P. perrieri and P. tattersalli are the moist forests in which the silky sifaka (P. candidus) ranges. At Anjanaharibe-Sud and the Marojejy National Park where they have been studied, silky sifakas live in montane forests at elevations between 700 and 1875 m (4101 and 6152 ft) (Schmid & Smolker 1998; Sterling & McFadden 2000; Kelley & Mayor 2002). Recently, one group has been found inhabiting low elevations from 300 to 600m (984 to 1969 ft) within the Makira Conservation Site (ER Patel, pers. comm.). There are two distinct rainy seasons lasting from November to April and from June to August (Sterling & McFadden 2000). The diademed sifaka (P. diadema), is also found in moist rainforests but at slightly lower elevations than P. candidus. They are found in montane rainforests at altitudes ranging from 200 to 1600 m (656 to 5249 ft), but prefer elevations above 800 m (1312 ft) (Garbutt 1999; Mittermeier et al. 2006a). Long term research has been conducted at Tsinjoarivo where long-term research camps are now established and previously at Mantadia National Park (Powzyk & Mowry 2003; Irwin 2006a; 2007).

Milne-Edwards’ sifaka (P. edwardsi) is found in primary and secondary rainforests between 600 and 1600 m (1969 and 5249 ft) (Mittermeier et al. 2006a). At Ranomafana National Park, where long-term research has been conducted, annual rainfall ranges between 230.0 and 430.0 cm (90.6 and 169.3 in) and is concentrated during the rainy season lasting from December to March. The months of lowest precipitation are between May and September, but they are not characterized as dry because they receive more than 10.0 cm (3.9 in) of rain per month (Hemingway 1998). Temperature is warmer during the rainy season, with highs between 36° and 40° C (96.8° and 104° F) and is lowest during the drier months of June through September, ranging from 4° to 12° C (39.2° to 53.6° F) (Wright 1998).

ECOLOGY

Diademed sifaka
Propithecus diadema

The northern species of sifakas, P. perrieri and P. tattersalli live in dry forests compared with the southern species, P. candidus, P. diadema and P. edwardsi, which live in moist forests, but ecological patterns, when they have been studied, are similar (Lehman et al. 2005). Sifakas are primarily folivorous seed-predators, and while resource availability varies between forest-type and study site, similar types of foods are consumed by all species (Lehman & Mayor 2004; Irwin 2006b). All sifakas have gastrointestinal and dental specializations for folivory such as an enlarged cecum, long gastrointestinal tract, long gut passage time, and shearing crests on their molars. Although all sifakas rely primarily on foliage, particularly during the dry season, their diet is actually surprisingly diverse including substantial amounts of fruit, seeds, flowers, and (occasionally) dirt. Eastern sifakas are considered seed-predators since, unlike seed-dispersers, they chew the seeds they eat and their feces seldom contain plant parts (Richard 2003; Irwin 2006b). Perrier’s sifakas consume leaves, flowers, fruit, buds, petioles, and seeds (Lehman & Mayor 2004). At Daraina, the site where P. tattersalli has been studied, food availability varies throughout the year based on seasonal patterns of rainfall, but the diet is mostly composed of leaves, both mature and immature, flowers, and fruit. During the rainy season, which lasts from December to March, the availability of ripe fruit, flowers, and immature leaves peaks (Meyers & Wright 1993). While ripe fruit is only seasonally available, golden crowned sifakas consume even unripe fruit year-round (Meyers & Wright 1993).

Adult silky sifakas spend most of their day resting (44.4%) and foraging (21.9%), while also devoting a substantial amount of time to social behavior (16.8%) (Kelly & Mayor 2002; Patel 2006a). The first silky sifaka dietary study was recently completed over three months at Marojejy National Park. The diet consisted of 76 species from 42 families. 52% of feeding time was spent consuming leaves, 34% fruit, and 11% seeds. Flowers and soil were occasionally consumed. These four most preferred foods accounted for 37% of total feeding time: fruit from Pachytrophe dimepate (16%), seeds from Senna sp. (8%), young leaves from Plectaneia thouarsii (7%), and fruit from Eugenia sp. (6%) (ER Patel pers. comm.). Similarly, P. diadema studied at Mantadia National Park have a diet consisting of young leaves (42.1%), fruits and seeds (39.2%), and flowers (15.5%). The rest of the feeding time is spent eating other items such as soil (Powzyk & Mowry 2003).

One of the best-studied of the genus Propithecus is Milne-Edwards’ sifaka (P. edwardsi). They range in moist rainforests in the southeastern part of Madagascar and consume both mature and immature leaves, flowers, fruit, and seeds as well as soil and subterranean fungus (Meyers & Wright 1993; Hemingway 1996; 1998). Starting at the end of the dry season and throughout the rainy season, new leaves and fruits are widespread but Milne-Edwards’ sifakas consume these products on a consistent basis throughout the year, varying the plant species from which they come (Hemingway 1998).

It is likely that wild P. diadema uses olfaction in foraging for hidden resources. Individuals will smell large areas of leaves on the forest floor in order to locate hidden flowers of the subterranean parasitic plants Langsdorffia and Cytinous. In addition, this behavior may be learned from conspecifics by observing them (Irwin et al. 2007).

Diademed sifaka
Propithecus diadema

One study found the home range size of Perrier’s sifaka (P. perrieri), one of the most geographically restricted and least-studied members of the Genus Propithecus, to be around .01 km² (.004 mi²). This measurement is based on two groups which utilized neighboring but non-overlapping home ranges (Lehman & Mayor 2004). Another estimate of home range size from a previous study was .28 km² (.108 mi²) (Mayor & Lehman 1999). At Analamera Special Reserve there are between three and four Perrier’s sifakas per square kilometer (1.86 to 2.49 per mi²) but in certain areas, such as near a water source, densities can range as high as 18 individuals per km² (11.2 per mi²) (Meyers & Ratsirarson 1989; Mayor & Lehman 1999). Golden-crowned sifakas (P. tattersalli) live in densities varying between 17 and 28 individuals per square kilometer (6.56 and 10.8 per mi²). Home range size in this species ranges from .09 to .12 km² (.035 to .046 mi²) (Vargas et al. 2002). Home range in P. candidus is .44 km² (.17 mi²) with day ranges averaging 712 m (2336 ft) for the species. Travel in P. candidus occurs for an average of just under one hour per day (Patel 2006a). Mean daily path for P. edwardsi averages 670 m (2198.2 ft) while that of P. tattersalli ranges between 461.7 to1077m (1514.8-3533.5 ft) (Wright 1987; Meyers 1993b). Finally, P. diadema daily path averages from 987 to 1629 m (3238.2 to 5344.5 ft) (Powzyk 1997; Irwin 2006a cited in Irwin 2006b).

Potential predators of sifakas include raptors, such as eagles and hawks, and the fossa (Cryptoprocta ferox), a weasel-like carnivore endemic to Madagascar (Meyers & Ratsirarson 1989; Wright 1998). The threat of bird predators on sifakas is probably small, as these raptors focus on capturing nocturnal primates during the day (while they are sleeping) and prey smaller than one kilogram (2.2 lb). Infant or juvenile sifakas are likely more impacted by avian predators than are adults. The more pertinent threat to sifakas is the fossa, and evidence of predation has been documented in P. tattersalli, P. perrieri, P. edwardsi, and P. candidus (Meyers & Ratsirarson 1989; Wright et al. 1997; Wright 1998; Mayor & Lehman 1999; Patel 2005). Sifakas exhibit anti-predator behavior that includes vigilance, alarm calling, resting in sheltered areas, and selection of sleeping sites (Wright 1998).

Sifakas are often sympatric with a number of other primate species. A superlative example of such a primate community is Ranomafana National Park in southeast Madagascar. In the park, Milne-Edwards’ sifaka (P. edwardsi) lives in sympatry with the eastern avahi (Avahi laniger), greater dwarf lemur (Cheirogaleus major), aye-aye (Daubentonia madagascariensis), brown lemur (Eulemur fulvus), red-bellied lemur (Eulemur rubriventer), golden bamboo lemur (Hapalemur aureus), grey gentle lemur (Hapalemur griseus), small-toothed sportive lemur (Lepilemur microdon), brown mouse lemur (Microcebus rufus), greater bamboo lemur (Prolemur simus), and black-and-white ruffed lemur (Varecia variegata) (Wright 1992).

Content last modified: February 4, 2008

Written by Kurt Gron. Reviewed by Erik Patel.

Cite this page as:
Gron KJ. 2008 February 4. Primate Factsheets: Diademed sifaka (Propithecus diadema) Taxonomy, Morphology, & Ecology . <http://pin.primate.wisc.edu/factsheets/entry/diademed_sifaka/taxon>. Accessed 2020 July 30.

 

This sheet covers all eastern sifakas, or the P. diadema group, including P. candidus, P. diadema, P. edwardsi, P. perrieri and P. tattersalli

SOCIAL ORGANIZATION AND BEHAVIOR

Diademed sifaka
Propithecus diadema

Long-term research on and information about social organization and behavioral patterns in the diademed group of sifakas is limited to studies conducted on Milne-Edwards’ sifakas (P. edwardsi) at Ranomafana National Park. Milne-Edwards’ sifakas have average group size of 4.8 but can have between three and nine individuals (Wright 1995; 1998). The social structure of these groups varies based on size and can be polygynandrous, polyandrous, polygynous, or monogamous. Because group size is so small, variations in composition, such as an increase in the number of adult females or adult males, necessitate a shift in the type of social organization or mating system (Pochron & Wright 2003; Pochron et al. 2004). This flexibility may be related to environmental factors such as increased feeding competition for seasonal resources and the presence of predators. One explanation for group living in primates is increased vigilance and detection of predators; it is safer for animals to travel in groups than as single individuals. Where there are predators and highly seasonal resources, though, group size may be limited because of increased feeding competition between group members. Sifakas may balance the need for predator protection with minimal feeding competition by keeping group size small and shifting the organization throughout the year to enhance mating opportunities (Pochron & Wright 2003; Pochron et al. 2004).

Brief field studies and rapid censuses provide some information about the social structure and group composition of silky sifaka (P. candidus) groups. At Marojejy National Park and Anjanaharibe-Sud Special Reserve, silky sifakas live in multi-male/multi-female groups and in male-female pairs of 2 to 9 individuals. Average group size is 4 (Schmid & Smolker 1998; Sterling & McFadden 2000; Patel 2006a). Adult male immigration and emigration have been observed one time each since 2001 within the one long-term study group at Marojejy. No adult females have yet been seen to change groups (ER Patel, pers. comm.). Similarly, the little-studied Perrier’s sifaka (P. perrieri) lives in small groups ranging in size from one to six individuals and includes adult males and females as well as their offspring (Mayor & Lehman 1999). Propithecus tattersalli lives in small groups ranging in size from three to six individuals, but average group size is five individuals (Vargas et al. 2002). While these species have not been studied as extensively as other members of the genus Propithecus, estimates of group size are similar for better studied species such as P. edwardsi and P. diadema (Meyers & Ratsirarson 1989). Diademed sifakas (P. diadema) live in female dominated, multi-male/multi-female groups of up to eight individuals of all ages (Powzyk 1997; Powzyk 2001). About half of P. edwardsi individuals of both sexes migrate from their natal group with females leaving before maturity and males both before and after maturity (Wright 1995; Pochron et al. 2004). Given the similarities in ecological patterns and group size among sifakas of the diadema group, future research may reveal similar patterns of social behavior such as group transfer and dominance patterns.

Daily, the silky sifaka (P. candidus) spends 44.4% of its time resting, 21.9% foraging, 16.8% engaged in social behavior, and spends the rest of the day sleeping, moving or engaging in other activities (Patel 2006a). P. diadema spends its time somewhat differently, with 37.8% of its time spent feeding, 49.4% resting, 2.4% in social behavior, 5.1% moving, and the rest in other activities (Powzyk 1997).

REPRODUCTION

Diademed sifaka
Propithecus diadema

Most reproductive data for the eastern sifakas are limited to the Milne-Edwards’ sifaka (P. edwardsi) and the golden-crowned sifaka (P. tattersalli). Sifakas have numerous types of mating system, often at once and in the same population. P. edwardsi populations can have polygynous, polygynandrous, polyandrous, and monogamous mating systems at once during mating season in surprisingly even proportions relative to one another (Pochron & Wright 2003). As in other Malagasy lemurs, sifakas reproduce seasonally. Milne-Edwards’ and golden-crowned sifakas (P. tattersalli) mate during the austral summer, in December and January. As would be expected following seasonal mating, they also show a strong seasonality of births, usually giving birth during the winter between May and July, with the majority of births in June (Meyers & Wright 1993; Hemingway 1999; Pochron et al. 2004). P. tattersalli normally mates almost two months earlier than P. edwardsi during the summer (Meyers & Wright 1993). Copulations only occur over a 24-hour period when the female is in estrous and fertile. However, females within a group are fertile on different days (Wright 1995; Pochron & Wright 2003). Fertility is signaled by an approximately 10-hour long, externally visible pink genital swelling in females (Pochron & Wright 2003). As the breeding season nears, males also exhibit a testicular volume increase over any other time of the year (Pochron et al. 2002).

Copulation is short in duration, often between only 30 and 90 seconds and consists of a single mount (Wright 1995; Pochron & Wright 2002).

Gestation for P. edwardsi averages 179 days (6 months) and gestation for P. tattersalli is just under six months (Meyers & Wright 1993; Wright 1995). Age at first birth for P. edwardsi females is around 4 years of age with an increase in fertility at 6 (Meyers & Wright 1993; Wright 1995; Pochron et al. 2004). Males reach reproductive maturity at 5 years old (Wright 1995). Interbirth interval for P. edwardsi averages 1.56 years, but due to strict reproductive seasonality, the interval is one year around half of the time and two years the rest of the time resulting in the intermediate average (Pochron et al. 2004). Similarly, the interbirth interval of P. candidus averages 1.67 years (Patel 2006a). The true value of the inter-birth interval is affected by whether or not the infant survives its first year (Pochron et al. 2004). In the same vein, infanticide is recorded in P. edwardsi, possibly as a male strategy to shorten the inter-birth interval from the two years typical of mothers with surviving infants to one year (Wright 1995; Erhart & Overdorff 1998).

PARENTAL CARE

Diademed sifaka
Propithecus diadema

Information about infant development and parental care in the eastern sifakas is scarce and comes almost exclusively from the Milne-Edwards’ sifaka (P. edwardsi) in the wild. At birth, the species averages 156 g (5.5 oz) (Glander et al. 1992). Births are synchronous within the group, with 6 of 8 births in one study occurring during a one week window (Pochron & Wright 2003). The infant spends more time on its mother than on other group members and the mother is the main care provider (Grieser 1992). Although mothers are the primary caregivers in other sifakas as well, Propithecus non-mothers are known to engage in substantial infant care on occasion that can include allonursing and carrying. Amongst sifakas, allonursing has only been observed in P. edwardsi and P. candidus. Less extreme forms of allocare such as grooming and playing are often seen in both eastern and western sifakas (Jolly 1966; Grieser 1992; Patel et al. 2003a; reviewed in Patel 2007b).

From birth in P. edwardsi, the infant is carried ventrally, only moving to a dorsal riding position starting in the third week of life and is increasingly seen in that position thereafter. Also around this time, the infant starts to feed and is seen alone and not in physical contact with any other individuals for the first time. Allogrooming and self-grooming commence in the fourth week of life. Play starts by week 6 of life but rarely occurs between the infant and the mother and most often occurs between the infant and a juvenile. Either way, play with other group sifakas is uncommon (Grieser 1992). By one year old, juveniles weigh 2500 g (88.2 oz) (Glander et al. 1992). Infant mortality is high in P. edwardsi, with over half of female infants dying in their first year of life and only a quarter making it to reproductive age at four years old (Pochron et al. 2004). At night, mothers will still sleep with their offspring until the young are two years old (Wright 1995). P. tattersalli mothers will wean their infants 5 months after birth and P. edwardsi will wean their offspring 6 months after birth both of which correspond to just slightly before the subsequent breeding season (Meyers & Wright 1993).

COMMUNICATION

Adult eastern sifakas have a moderately sized vocal repertoire of about 7 call types (Patel et al. 2005b). Infants have several specialized vocalizations as well. Despite the relatively small size of their vocal repertoire, some eastern sifakas are highly vocal with high call rates averaging 7 calls per hour per individual in silky sifakas (ER Patel pers. comm.). The most frequently emitted vocalizations are low amplitude, low frequency, tonal “hum” and “mum” vocalizations. These contact calls are used in a variety of circumstances including group movement, affiliation, foraging, and while resting. The loudest vocalizations produced are their alarm calls which are often emitted in a contagious or antiphonal fashion by all group members. Broad-band noisy “aerial disturbance roars” are emitted with open mouths to overhead raptors and other aerial disturbances such as falling trees and small birds. Sometimes they stare skyward and drop vertically in the trees while producing these loud aerial roars (Wright 1998; Patel et al. 2003b). Eastern sifakas also emit a general disturbance alarm call, the sneeze-like “Zzuss!” vocalization, that is produced with closed mouths in response to lost calls or “howls” by other group members, terrestrial disturbances, terrestrial predators, and other high arousal contexts (Wright 1998; Patel et al. 2003b). Acoustic analyses have revealed sex and individual differences in the acoustic structure of “Zzuss” vocalizations (Patel et al. 2005c; 2006). In all sifakas, greater context specificity is apparent for aerial disturbance alarm calls than terrestrial disturbance alarm calls (Fichtel & Kappeler 2002; Patel et al. 2003b); a pattern also seen in anthropoid alarm call systems such as vervet monkeys (Chlorocebus sp.) and capuchin monkeys (Cebus sp.) (Seyfarth et al. 1980; Digweed et al. 2005).

LISTEN TO VOCALIZATIONS

As in other prosimians, olfactory communication is well developed in sifakas. Eastern sifakas possess several specialized scent-marking glands that include a sebaceous chest gland only found in males and mixed apocrine-sebaceous ano-genital glands in both sexes (Schilling 1979). Sifakas do not allomark, as in Eulemur, by directly scent-marking conspecifics. Females scent-mark trees by rubbing their anogenital glands against trees in a rhythmic vertical motion. Males scent-mark trees in several ways, by rubbing them with their chest gland, ano-genital glands, or a combination of the two (Pochron et al. 2005b). Males routinely gouge trees with their toothcombs just prior to chest marking which leaves long lasting visible marks. Eastern sifakas do not eat bark or gum, so such non-nutritive male tree gouging is likely communicative in function (ER Patel pers. comm.). Both sexes often urinate while scent-marking. In P. edwardsi, dominant individuals of both sexes mark more than subordinate individuals. Female scent-marking rates are not highest during the mating season, but peak just before during the lactation/dispersal season. Similarly, male rates also peak during the dispersal season (Pochron et al. 2005a; 2005b). The chemical composition of P. edwardsi ano-genital gland secretions differs between the birth and mating seasons, and could be due to seasonal differences in diet or hormone levels (Hayes et al. 2006). Males scent-mark twice as often as females (Pochron et al. 2005b). However, female scent-marks are responded to far more often and more quickly than male marks. In P. candidus, for example, only 17% of male marks are responded to by other group members but 71% of female marks received a response on average within 61 seconds (Patel 2006b). In both P. edwardsi and P. candidus, male overmarking of a female’s mark is the most common response, followed by males overmarking the scent-marks of other males. Male eastern sifakas preferentially use one type of scent-marking, combined chest-ano-genital marking, when depositing an overmark (Andrianandrasana et al. 2007). The high rates of overmarking practiced by male eastern sifakas lead to totem-tree marking in which certain trees are covered with male gouge marks which probably reflects competition for females. Totem-trees may occur along territorial borders, but are generally observed throughout the home range in P. candidus and P. edwardsi (Powzyk 1997; Ritchie & Patel 2006; ER Patel pers. comm.).

Content last modified: February 4, 2008

Written by Kurt Gron. Reviewed by Erik Patel.

Cite this page as:
Gron KJ. 2008 February 4. Primate Factsheets: Diademed sifaka (Propithecus diadema) Behavior . <http://pin.primate.wisc.edu/factsheets/entry/diademed_sifaka/behav>. Accessed 2020 July 30.

This sheet covers all eastern sifakas, or the P. diadema group, including P. candidus, P. diadema, P. edwardsi, P. perrieri and P. tattersalli

INTERNATIONAL STATUS

CITES: Appendix I (What is CITES?)
IUCN Red List: P. candidus, P. perrieri: CR; P. diadema, P. edwardsi, P. tattersalli: EN (What is Red List?)
Key: CR = Critically endangered, CR = Critically endangered, EN = Endangered, EN = Endangered, EN = Endangered
(Click on species name to see IUCN Red List entry, including detailed status assessment information.)

Diademed sifaka
Propithecus diadema

Between 2004 and 2006, the IUCN/SSC Primate Specialist Group included both P. candidus and P. perrieri on their list of the world’s 25 most endangered primates (Mittermeier et al. 2006b).

CONSERVATION THREATS

Threat: Human-Induced Habitat Loss and Degradation

As is the case with most Malagasy primate species, habitat loss and hunting pose the greatest threats to the P. diadema group. It is important to note however, that there can be extreme variation in threats to the eastern sifakas by region, such that a threat that is non-existent in one region may be quite severe in another (Irwin 2006b).

Sifaka habitat can be lost or degraded in a number of ways including clearing for swidden agriculture, gold mining, uncontrolled grass fires, pasture for livestock, and tree cutting for construction materials, charcoal and firewood (Mayor & Lehman 1999; Vargas et al. 2002; Mittermeier et al. 2006a; Schwitzer et al. 2006). Slash-and-burn agriculture is more productive when the forest being cleared is primary forest and the resulting fields are only productive for several years, after which new forest must be cleared. The result is a very destructive domino effect of deforestation (Vargas et al. 2002). In addition, yearly brushfires are set to maintain deforested areas, significantly impeding forest re-growth (Meyers & Ratsirarson 1989). While some species of sifaka, such as P. diadema are able to survive in fragmented forest, social group cohesion suffers (Irwin 2007).

The illegal local production of rum also presents a unique threat to sifaka populations. This manufacturing process threatens sifakas in three ways. First, the growing of sugarcane on fields cleared from forest for rum production contributes to habitat destruction. Second, rum distillation requires large amounts of firewood is cut from forests. Finally, the use of tree bark from sifaka food trees in the manufacturing process destroys species that are ecologically important to sifakas. Increasing production of rum for a commercial market will only further threaten the forest ecosystems of the sifaka (Irwin 2004).

Rahiaka trees (Chrysophyllum bonivianum), important food trees for sifakas, are often utilized as sources of latex. Unfortunately, while it is possible to tap the latex without felling the tree, they are often cut down because it is easier and more expedient to access the latex in such fashion. Other trees important to sifakas are also cut selectively for other purposes, such as for making bee boxes (Irwin et al. 2000).

Illegal logging of precious wood, such as rosewood and ebony, has emerged as one of the most severe threats to Madagascar’s northeastern rainforests. Thousands of logs, worth millions of dollars, have recently been confiscated at ports of Vohémar, Antalaha, and Toamasina. Most of these logs were harvested from the two largest protected areas in the region, Masoala National Park and Marojejy National Park. Harvesting these extremely heavy hardwoods is a labor intensive activity requiring coordination between local residents who manually cut the trees, but receive little profit, and a criminal network of exporters, domestic transporters, and corrupt officials who initiate the process and reap most of the profits. The impacts of such selective logging include violating local taboos as well as ecological consequences such as increased likelihood of fire, invasive species, impaired habitat, and loss in genetic diversity (Patel 2007a).

Threat: Harvesting (hunting/gathering)

In some regions of its range, the consumption of sifakas is “fady” (taboo) (Meyers & Ratsirarson 1989; Meyers 1993a; Mayor & Lehman 1999). This serves to at least partially prevent hunting of the species as it reduces the demand for their meat. However, even if consumption is fady, hunting of them is not necessarily so. In addition, outsiders not native to areas where sifaka consumption is fady often do not observe such taboos. As a result, because of the immigration of outsiders from other regions into those with fady against sifaka consumption, hunting is increasing in areas where it formerly was not a threat (Meyers & Ratsirarson 1989). In addition, there is no fady against the hunting or eating of P. candidus in its range (Mittermeier et al. 2006a). Hunting of sifakas by gold miners who have immigrated to areas of fady has been reported, and lemurs are sometimes eaten daily by some groups of miners (Meyers 1996; Mittermeier et al. 2006a). Lemur hunting is undertaken in several ways, using blowguns, firearms, slingshots, snares, and box traps (Mayor & Lehman 1999; Irwin et al. 2000; Wright pers. comm. cited in Mittermeier et al. 2006a). There is variability in regional consumption in sifakas, and in some regions, such as near Betampona, they are a favored food (Welch & Katz 1992).

Per hunt, the lemur take ranges quite a bit, from only a couple of lemurs killed up to as many as around 70 individuals. Dead lemurs are often sold for around $4. Middle-class Malagasy in some regions consider lemur a delicacy and may hire and equip poverty-stricken hunters to procure the food for them even though plenty of other meats are available (Patel et al. 2005).

Threat: Pollution

There is evidence that climate change may be affecting sifakas by reducing rainfall and subsequently reducing the availability of food leaves which older mothers with degraded teeth are able to chew. Because female sifakas rely on leaves as food to produce milk for offspring, any reduction in rainfall affects their ability to produce milk, reducing the chances of survival of their offspring (Gross 2006).

Threat: Intrinsic Factors

Eastern sifakas are susceptible to a number of naturally occurring threats to their health. These include parasitic tapeworms (Cesetodes) in addition to a number of potentially infectious bacteria including E. coli, Enterobacter, and Streptococcus (Junge & Sauther 2006). Also, in one study population of P. tattersalli, 60% of individuals had a larval parasite which has the potential to be detrimental to their health (Meyers 1993a).

LINKS TO MORE ABOUT CONSERVATION

CONSERVATION INFORMATION

CONSERVATION NEWS

ORGANIZATIONS INVOLVED IN Propithecus diadema CONSERVATION

Content last modified: February 4, 2008

Written by Kurt Gron. Reviewed by Erik Patel.

Cite this page as:
Gron KJ. 2008 February 4. Primate Factsheets: Diademed sifaka (Propithecus diadema) Conservation . <http://pin.primate.wisc.edu/factsheets/entry/diademed_sifaka/cons>. Accessed 2020 July 30.

This sheet covers all eastern sifakas, or the P. diadema group, including P. candidus, P. diadema, P. edwardsi, P. perrieri and P. tattersalli

The following references were used in the writing of this factsheet. To find current references for Propithecus, search PrimateLit.

REFERENCES

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Banks MA, Ellis ER, Antonio, Wright PC. 2007. Global population size of a critically endangered lemur, Perrier’s sifaka. Anim Conserv 10(2):254-62.

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Fichtel C, Kappeler PM. 2002. Anti-predator behavior of group-living Malagasy primates: mixed evidence for a referential alarm call system. Behav Ecol Sociobiol 51(3):262-75.

Garbutt N. 1999. Mammals of Madagascar. Sussex (UK): Pica Pr. 320 p.

Diademed sifaka
Propithecus diadema

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Gross M. 2006. Leaves clue to lemur peril. Curr Biol 16(21):R900.

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Hemingway CA. 1998. Selectivity and variability in the diet of Milne-Edwards’ sifakas (Propithecus diadema edwardsi): implications for folivory and seed-eating. Int J Primatol 19(2): 355-77.

Hemingway CA. 1999. Time budgets and foraging in a Malagasy primate: do sex differences reflect reproductive condition and female dominance? Behav Ecol Sociobiol 45:311-22.

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Irwin MT. 2007. Living in forest fragments reduces group cohesion in diademed sifakas (Propithecus diadema) in eastern Madagascar by reducing food patch size. Am J Primatol 69(4):434-47.

Irwin MT, Johnson SE, Wright PC. 2005. The state of lemur conservation in south-eastern Madagascar: population and habitat assessments for diurnal and cathemeral lemurs using surveys, satellite imagery and GIS. Oryx 39(2):204-18.

Jolly A. 1966. Lemur behavior: a Madagascar field study. Chicago:U Chicago Pr.

Junge RE, Sauther ML. 2006. Overview on the health and disease ecology of wild lemurs: conservation implications. In: Gould L, Sauther ML, editors. Lemurs: ecology and adaptation. New York: Springer Pr. p 423-40.

Kappeler PM. 1990. The evolution of sexual size dimorphism in prosimian primates. Am J Primatol 21(3): 201-14.

Kelley E, Mayor MI. 2002. Preliminary study of the silky sifaka (Propithecus diadema candidus) in northeast Madagascar. Lemur News 7: 16-8.

Lehman SM, Mayor M. 2004. Dietary patterns in Perrier’s sifakas (Propithecus diadema perrieri): a preliminary study. Am J Primatol 62(2): 115-22.

Lehman SM, Mayor M, Wright PC. 2005. Ecogeographic size variations in sifakas: a test of the resource seasonality and resource quality hypotheses. Am J Phys Anthro 126(3): 318-28.

Mayor MI, Lehman SM. 1999. Conservation of Perrier’s sifaka (Propithecus diadema perrieri) in Analamera Special Reserve, Madagascar. Lemur News 4:21-3.

Mayor MI, Sommer JA, Houck ML, Zaonarivelo JR, Wright PC, Ingram C, Engel SR, Louis Jr. EE. 2004. Specific status of Propithecus spp. Int J Primatol 25(4): 875-900.

Meyers DM. 1993a. Conservation status of the golden-crowned sifaka, Propithecus tattersalli. Lemur News 1(1):6-8.

Meyers DM. 1993b. The effects of resource seasonality on behavior and reproduction in the golden-crowned sifaka (Propithecus tattersalli, Simons, 1988) in three Malagasy forests. PhD dissertation, Duke Univeristy, Durham, N.C. 231 p.

Meyers DM, Ratsirarson J. 1989. Distribution and conservation of two endangered sifakas in northern Madagascar. Prim Cons 10: 81-6.

Meyers DM, Wright PC. 1993. Resource tracking: food availability and Propithecus seasonal reproduction. In: Kappeler PM, Ganzhorn JU, editors. Lemur social systems and their ecological basis. New York: Plenum Pr. p 179-92.

Meyers DM. 1996. Update on the endangered sifaka of the north. Lemur News 2:13-4.

Mittermeier RA, Konstant WR, Nicoll ME, Langrand O. 1992. Lemurs of Madagascar: an action plan for their conservation 1993-1999. Gland (CH):IUCN. 58 p.

Mittermeier RA, Konstant WR, Hawkins F, Louis EE, Langrand O, Ratsimbazafy J, Rasoloarison R, Ganzhorn JU, Rajaobelina S, Tattersall I. 2006a. Lemurs of Madagascar, second edition. Washington DC: Cons Int. 520 p.

Mittermeier RA, Valladares-Pádua, Rylands AB, Eudey AA, Butynski TM, Ganzhorn JU, Kormos R, Aguiar JM, Walker S. 2006b. Primates in peril: the world’s 25 most endangered primates, 2004-2006. Prim Conserv 20:1-28.

Patel ER. 2006a. Activity budget, ranging, and group size in silky sifakas (Propithecus candidus). Lemur News 11:42-5.

Patel ER, Coke CS, Ritchie A, Santorelli C. 2003a. Alloparental care (including allonursing) in free-ranging silky sifakas (Propithecus diadema candidus) in a primary northeastern montane rainforest in Madagascar [abstract]. Am J Primatol 60(Suppl 1):71.

Patel ER, Coke CS, Ritchie A, Santorelli C. 2003b. Assessing production specificity of free ranging silky sifaka (Propithecus diadema candidus) “antipredator” vocalizations: weak evidence for “aerial predator” but not “terrestrial predator” calls. Am J Primatol 60(Suppl 1):71-2.

Patel ER, Anderson JD, Owren MJ. 2006. Exploring the function of “Zzuss” alarm vocalizations in wild silky sifakas (Propithecus candidus): moderate evidence for individual distinctiveness [abstract]. Intl J Primatol 27(suppl 1):504.

Patel ER. 2007a. Logging of rare rosewood and palisandre (Dalbergia spp.) within Marojejy National Park, Madagascar. Madag Conserv Develop 2:11-6.

Patel ER. 2007b. Non-maternal infant care in wild silky sifakas (Propithecus candidus). Lemur News 12:39-42.

Patel ER, Anderson JD, Irwin MT, Owren MJ. 2005b. Quantifying the vocal repertoire of wild adult diademed sifakas (Propithecus diadema diadema) in Madagascar. Am J PRimatol 66(suppl 1):48.

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Content last modified: February 4, 2008

This sheet covers all eastern sifakas, or the P. diadema group, including P. candidus, P. diadema, P. edwardsi, P. perrieri and P. tattersalli

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IMAGES

Propithecus candidus
Photo: Erik Patel
Propithecus candidus
Photo: Erik Patel
Propithecus candidus
Photo: Erik Patel
Propithecus candidus
Photo: Erik Patel
Propithecus candidus
Photo: Erik Patel
Propithecus candidus
Photo: Erik Patel
Propithecus candidus
Photo: Erik Patel
Propithecus candidus
Photo: Erik Patel
Propithecus candidus
Photo: Erik Patel

Propithecus diadema
Photo: Tomas Junek
Propithecus diadema
Photo: Tomas Junek
Propithecus diadema
Photo: Tomas Junek
Propithecus diadema
Photo: Tomas Junek
Propithecus diadema
Photo: Tomas Junek

Propithecus edwardsi
Photo: Michael Putnam
Propithecus edwardsi
Photo: Michael Putnam
Propithecus edwardsi
Photo: Michael Putnam
Propithecus edwardsi
Photo: Tomas Junek

Propithecus perrieri
Photo: Matthew Banks
Propithecus perrieri
Photo: Matthew Banks

Propithecus tattersalli
Photo: David Haring
Propithecus tattersalli
Photo: David Haring
Propithecus tattersalli
Photo: David Haring
Propithecus tattersalli
Photo: David Haring

 

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