Primate of the Week: Diademed sifaka

Propithecus diadema


  • Taxonomy
    Suborder: Strepsirrhini
    Infraorder: Lemuriformes
    Superfamily: Lemuroidea
    Family: Indriidae


Diademed sifaka like most sifakas have long legs and tail that use for vertical clinging and leaping (Demes et al., 1996; Mittermeier et al., 2006). Diademed sifakas has shorter tail than head and body together. They are the largest sifaka and characterized by their orange and gray fur. Their back and shoulders are grey, their face are grey to black with fine white fur on their cheeks, forehead and throat. Their head is mostly white with a black cap on the top of their head. The legs and arms are golden orange and their hands and feet are black. Their chest and stomach are white (Garbutt, 1999; Groves, 2001; Mittermeier et al., 2006). Males and females are similar in weight, females weigh approximately 6.70 kilograms while males weigh approximately 6.59 kilograms (Garbutt, 1999; Mittermeier et al., 2006).

ARKive image GES005037 - Diademed sifaka

Diademed sifaka can be found throughout eastern rainforests of Madagascar (Tattersall, 1986).

ARKive image GES001095 - Diademed sifaka

Like other sifakas, Diademed sifaka are folivorous seed predators (Lehman and Mayor, 2004; Irwin, 2006). Due to their specialized diet, all sifakas have an enlarged cecum, long gastrointestinal tract, long gut passage time and shearing crested molars (Richard, 2003; Irwin, 2006).

ARKive image GES111644 - Diademed sifaka

Irwin (2007) found Diademed sifaka likely use olfaction during foraging. They were found to smell leaves on the forest floors in order to locate flowers of the plants Langsdorffia and Cytinous. They also appear to learn this behavior from their conspecifics (Irwin et al., 2007).

ARKive image GES001767 - Diademed sifaka

Diademed sifakas are female dominant. Their group structure is multimale/multifemale and they generally have approximately 8 individuals (Powzyk, 1997; Powzyk, 2001).

ARKive image GES112253 - Diademed sifaka

The data on their mating system and sexual reproduction is limited. However they may be close to the mating system of Propithecus edwardsi. Copulation occurs in December to January and babies are often born in May, June, and July. Gestation is approximately 180 days. They will often have one or two offspring. Babies will nurse until 2 years of age. Females generally reach sexual maturity at four years of age while males will reach sexual maturity at five years of age (Wright, 1995; Garbutt, 1999). When females reach sexual maturity they will either disperse or remain in their natal group. Aggression is often observed between the dominant female and other females before they disperse. Males will disperse when they reach sexual maturity and appear to commit infanticide when they enter a new group (Wright, 1988, 1995; Garbutt, 1999; Mittermeier, 1994).

ARKive image GES111643 - Diademed sifaka

Demes B, Jungers WL, Fleagle JG, Wunderlich RE, Richmond BG, Lemelin P. 1996. Body size and leaping kinematics in Malagasy vertical clingers and leapers. J Hum Evol 31(4): 367-88.

Garbutt, N. 1999. Mammals of Madagascar. New Haven and London: Yale University Press.

Groves C. 2001. Primate taxonomy. Washington DC: Smithsonian Inst Pr. 350 p

Irwin MT, Smith TM, Wright PC. 2000. Census of three eastern rainforest sites north of Ranomafana national park: preliminary results and implications for lemur conservation. Lemur News 5:20-2.

Irwin MT, Raharison FJ-L, Rakotoarimanana H, Razanadrakoto E, Ranaivoson E, Rakotofanala J, Randrianarimanana C. 2007. Diademed sifakas (Propithecus diadema) use olfaction to forage for the inflorescences of subterranean parasitic plants (Balanophoraceae: Langsdorffia sp., and Cytinaceae: Cytinus sp.). Am J Primatol 69(4):471-6.

Irwin MT. 2006a. Ecological impacts of forest fragmentation on diademed sifakas (Propithecus diadema) at Tsinjoarivo, eastern Madagascar: implications for conservation in fragmented landscapes. PhD dissertation, Stony Brook University, Stony Brook, NY.

Irwin MT. 2006b. Ecologically enigmatic lemurs: the sifakas of the eastern forests (Propithecus candidus, P. diadema, P. edwardsi, P. perrieri, and P. tattersalli). In: Gould L, Sauther ML, editors. Lemurs: ecology and adaptation. New York: Springer Pr. p 305-26.

Irwin MT. 2004. Illegal rum production threatens health of lemur populations at Tsinjoarivo, eastern central Madagascar: brief report and request for information. Lemur News 9:16-7.

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.

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.

Mittermeier, R., I. Tattersall, W. Konstant, D. Meyers, R. Mast. 1994. Lemurs of Madagascar. Washington D.C.: Conservation International.

Nowak, R. 1999. Walker’s Mammals of the World, Sixth Edition. Baltimore and London: The Johns Hopkins University Press.

Powzyk JA, Mowry CB. 2003. Dietary and feeding differences between sympatric Propithecus diadema diadema and Indri indri. Int J Primatol 24(6): 1143-62.

Powzyk JA. 2001. Social organisation and food partitioning in two large bodied indrids: Propithecus diadema diadema and Indri indri [abstract]. The XVIIIth congress of the International Primatological Society. Primates in the new millennium. Adelaide (Australia): Int Primatol Soc. p 322.

Powzyk JA. 1997. The socio-ecology of two sympatric indriids: Propithecus diadema diadema and Indri indri, a comparison of feeding strategies and their possible repercussions on species-specific behavior. PhD dissertation, Duke University, Durham, NC. 307 p.

Richard AF. 2003. Propithecus: sifakas. In: Goodman SM, Benstead JP, editors. The natural history of Madagascar. Chicago: U Chicago Pr. p 1344-8.

Wright PC. 1995. Demography and life history of free-ranging Propithecus diadema edwardsi in Ranomafana national park, Madagascar. Intl J Primatol 16(5):835-54.

Wright PC. 1987. Diet and ranging patterns of Propithecus diadema edwardsi in Madagascar [abstract]. Am J Phys Anth 72:271.

Wright PC. 1998. Impact of predation risk on the behaviour of Propithecus diadema edwardsi in the rain forest of Madagascar. Behaviour 135(4): 483-512.

Wright PC. 1992. Primate ecology, rainforest conservation, and economic development: building a national park in Madagascar. Evol Anth 1(1):25-33.

Wright PC, Heckscher SK, Dunham AE. 1997. Predation on Milne-Edward’s sifaka (Propithecus diadema edwardsi) by the fossa (Cryptoprocta ferox) in the rain forest of southeastern Madagascar. Folia Primatol 68(1): 34-43.


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