Indriidae Propithecus diadema

Sifaka Lemur

Physical Description:

Sifaka Lemurs have a height of around 40 to 55 cm, and a weight of about 3 to 6 kg, with males being very similar in size to females, depending on species.  Their bodies are covered in soft fur that ranges in a variety of colors, including brown, black, white and grey.  Their face is always hairless and black, and is completely surrounded by fur.  They have very strong hind legs.  They have a small brain-to-body size ratio.  Their dental formula is 2.1.2.3/2.0.2.3.  In trees, they leap from tree to tree to move around.  On the ground, however, they have a unique way of locomotion: they jump across the ground on their hind legs.

Geographic location and range:

Sifaka Lemurs are found in western Madagascar mainly, ranging all the way from the north to the south along the western side.  They are generally found in forests or areas with a lot of trees.  They live in small troops that have territories of around 10 to 22 acres.

Diet:

Sifakas are herbivores, eating seeds, unripe fruit, and young and mature leaves and flowers.  They are foragers, and usually forage for about 30-40% of the day.

Social Organization:

Sifakas like in troops of around 3 t o10 members, consisting of mainly females and their young.  Males mainly travel from group to group.  The eldest female is the alpha female and leader of the troop.  She gets the best food and comfiest places to sleep.  Most fights occur between alpha females within the troop.  They have a home territory of around 4-9 hectares and a core territory of 2-3 hectares, which is occupied about 60% of the time.  The Sifaka’s call is where its name is derived from (it sound like “sheef-awk”), and it has different calls for different messages.

Reproduction:

Sifakas have a sexual maturity of 2-3 years.  Related mature males are kicked out of the group to prevent inbreeding.  They have an estrus of 40 hours.  Their breeding season lasts late summer to early fall, and their young are born from late winter to early spring.  They have a gestation period of approximately 165 days, and birth 1 offspring per year.

Communication:

Sifaka Monkeys communicate with one another in many different ways including visual cues, scents, and noises.  Sifaka Monkeys use visual cues for reproduction.  When female Sifaka monkeys are ovulating they undergo estrus swelling.  Estrus swelling is when the female genitals become pink and inflamed, visually signaling males that they are ready for reproduction.  Scents are also used as a form of communication.  Chemicals are secreted from male chest glands and female anal glands.  Female Sifakas rub their scents on vertical standing trees; males generally mark their scents over female scents or urinate on the female scents.  Scent markings from both genders help to establish territory and indicate reproductive condition, sex, or dominance rank.  Sifakas also communicate vocally with dog-like barking, sneezing, and honking.  These monkeys use over seven different types of calls, including warming calls and location calls.  Some ways Sifakas vocally communicate is through vocal calls that give away their position.  A lost individual will give out long whistle sounds, which are generally answered by group members.  Other times Sifakas give out quieter sounding calls amongst each other, stating their location and group movement.  Warning calls even have distinct differences.  For aerial predators, males of the group give out loud rourous barking sounds, warning the rest of the troop of the predator.  In response females and infants drop to the ground to hide from the predators.  For terrestrial predators, Sifakas let out short staccato calls warning of the approaching predator’s proximity.  A group of Sifakas will also make loud intimidating barking calls when another group of lemurs is entering their territory.

Parenting:

Sifaka monkeys generally are cared for by their mothers.  When babies are born mothers carry them around on their bellies for the first 4 weeks.  Once the 4 week mark arrives the babies ride on the back of their mothers for up to 5 months.  However, at about 3 -4 months of age, mothers begin to nip at the babies, trying to get them to walk on their own.  Males transport older Sifakas about 10% of the time, but it is primarily the mother’s job.  Weaning occurs at 6 months of age.  This species suffers a high mortality rate with over 50% of infants dying.  In certain types of Sifakas infanticide is present within the species.

Fun Facts:

The Sifaka monkey gets its name from the sound it makes while jumping through trees, “shif-auk”

A Sifaka monkey is one of the main characters in the children’s TV show Zoboomafoo

Sources:

Duke Lemur Center. Duke University, 2011. Web. 5 Feb. 2011. http://lemur.duke.edu/category/diurnal-lemurs/coquerels-sifaka/

Ellis, Eric J. . N.p., n.d. Web. 7 Feb. 2011. <http://www.pensee-chretienne.org/madagascar_ravo_ftrav/sifaka_e.htm>.

Gron KJ. 2008 February 4. Primate Factsheets: Diademed sifaka (Propithecus diadema) Taxonomy, Morphology, & Ecology . <http://pin.primate.wisc.edu/factsheets/entry/diademed_sifaka/>. Accessed 2011 February 7.

Littlefield, B. “Infanticide following male takeover event in Verreaux’s sifaka (Propithecus verreauxi verreauxi). ” Primates  51.1 (2010): 83. Sciences Module, ProQuest. Web.  8 Feb. 2011.

National Geographic. N.p., n.d. Web. 6 Feb. 2011. <http://animals.nationalgeographic.com/animals/mammals/sifaka/>.

“Propithecus.” Grizmek’s Anmial Life Encyclopedia. 2nd ed. 2004.

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