The genus Propithecus includes nine species which are commonly known as sifakas.They are a part of the family Indriidae, which includes the genera Avahi (avahis or woolly lemurs) and Indri (indris). Propithecus was originally divided into two species, Propithecus verreauxi and Propithecus diadema. A third species, Propithecus tattersali, was discovered in 1998. The additional species that are recognized now were originally subspecies under P. verreauxi and P. diadema, but were elevated to species status based on molecular and morphometric evidence. Propithecus species tend to live in social groups that have multiple males and females, whereas species in the genera Avahi (avahis or woolly lemurs) and Indri (indris) live in monogamous pairs. ("ITIS - Report: Propithecus", 2021; Wright, 2004)

Geographic Range

All species of Propithecus are found in the Ethiopian region in Madagascar. Propithecus candidus is found north of the Bay of Antongil which is in north Madagascar. Propithecus coquereli is found in Morondova, Madagascar, which is found on the west coast of Madagascar in the middle of the island. Propithecus coronatus is found in the Boueny province, Madagascar, which is on the northwest coast of Madagascar. Propithecus deckenii is found in Kanatsy, Madagascar, which is found on the west coast of Madagascar. Propithecus diadema is found all over Madagascar. Propithecus edwardsi is found west of Mananjary in Madagascar which is on the east coast of Madagascar. Propithecus perrieri is found in the forest of Analamera, south-east of Diego Suarez on the north coast of Madagascar. Propithecus tattersalli is found in dry forests about 6-7 km north-east of Daraina, Antseranana province on the north coast of Madagascar. Propithecus verreauxi is found in Tsifanihy, Madagascar, which is found north of cap Sainte-Marie. ("Explore the Database - Coquerel Sifaka", 2022; "Explore the Database - Crowned Sifaka", 2022; "Explore the Database - Diademed Sifaka", 2022; "Explore the Database - Golden-Crowned Sifaka", 2022; "Explore the Database - Milne-Edwards Sifaka", 2022; "Explore the Database - Perrier's Sifaka", 2022; "Explore the Database - Silky Sifaka", 2022; "Explore the Database - Van Der Deckens Sifaka", 2022; "Explore the Database - Verreaux's Sifaka", 2022)


A lot of the Propithecus species reside in northwestern Madagascar, which has dry, deciduous forests that allow the Sifaka's to leap from tree to tree. They tend to reside in areas with tropical climates with a wet and dry season which occupies the rain shadow making a relatively long and pronounced dry season. However, Propithecus edwardsi are found on the east coast of Madagascar which includes a narrow strip of humid forests, where there is a slightly drier and cooler season from May to September. The Propithecus genus mostly tends to lie in areas that have tropical climates with a lot of trees which allows them to use their strong back legs to jump from tree to tree and to create their homes. ("Eastern Madagascar", 2022; "Southern Madagascar", 2022)

Systematic and Taxonomic History

The genus Propithecus is included in the family Indriidae which also includes woolly lemurs and indris. Propithecus was originally divided into three species which were then divided into four or five subspecies in two of the species. Now there are nine species recognized under the genus. (Groves and Helgen, 2007; "ITIS - Report: Propithecus", 2021)

  • Synonyms
    • Macromerus typicus
    • Propithecus bicolor
    • Propithecus holomelas
    • Propithecus majori
    • Propithecus candidus
    • Propithecus verreauxoides
    • Indris albus
    • Propithecus damonis
    • Propithecus damanus

Physical Description

Four of the species in Propithecus, Propithecus diadema (generally gray in color), Propithecus candidus (generally white in color), Propithecus perrieri (all black), and Propithecus edwardsi (generally black in color), all share several distinct features, including large average body sizes and mandibles that are specialized for rotational chewing. Their tail also does not reach beyond their heels and have loose fur. The other four species in Propithecus, Propithecus deckenii (all white), Propithecus coquereli (generally chestnut brown), Propithecus coronatus (generally black, white, gray, and red), and Propithecus verreauxi, all share several distinct features, such as being generally smaller, with not loose fur and a tail that projects beyond their heels. Finally, Propithecus tattersalli resembles the first set of species with their karyotypes and the short tail but resembles the second set of species with their vocalizations. (Groves and Helgen, 2007)


Females have been seen mating with multiple males. Males compete for the female's attention in chasing matches, and those who outlast the other males. Females also mate with males that win in fighting competitions and even with males that are bystanders. (Richard, 1992)

The mothers tend to give birth in a tamarind tree about eight to nine meters above the ground during the hours of 2:30 p.m. and 4:00 p.m. while the other members lay down for the night. The mothers only show discomfort for about 20-30 minutes before the birth when they clean the newborns and let them nurse. They then consume the placenta and umbilical cord. (Chen-Krause and Raharinoro, 2019)

The mother is the primary caretaker and carrier for the young. In regards to Propithecus verreauxi, the father carries the infants significantly more than any other animal than the mother in regards to Propithecus diadema. Overall, Propithecus verreauxi showed more non-maternal care than Propithecus diadema. (Grieser, 1992)


Not much is known about the longevity of Propithecus, but they can live up to 21-31 years in the wild. Specifically, with Propithecus diadema, they live up to 21 years and they have no signs of lowered reproduction with age, but they have higher mortality with older individuals. Then, with Propithecus verreauxi, they can live up to 31 in the wild. However, the infant mortality rate increases as the females giving birth get older. It was also found that mortality increases and fertility decrease after the age of 18. (Tacutu, et al., 2018)


Propithecus have been seen committing infanticide among groups. Members of the group would encounter the mother with the infant while the mother vocalized and moved away from the other individual. Then a male will come up to the mother to groom the mother, which is when he grabs the infant and bites it, sometimes consuming parts of the infant. After the infant dies, the mother then gets attacked by the rest of the group and she flees. This happens more often when there are higher densities of Propethicus with low resources, so the explanation is thought to be that the other individuals are allowing themselves more resources by killing the infants.

It has also been noticed that when the diurnal Propithecus is sleep-deprived, there was recorded a great number of significant deviations from normal sleep conditions and they were shown to have recovery periods of less overall activity.

Further, Propithecus activity time follows how much daylight they have, and their activity remains stable and constant to the changing solar times throughout the year. During the cold and dry months, they shorten their activity time to the shortened day length. Energy input is also low during these months where they only eat mature leaves. Also, their nocturnal resting level is at its lowest during these months, which is an indicator of thermoregulatory adaptation. (Erkert and Kappeler, 2004; Ramsay, et al., 2020; Samson, et al., 2019)

Communication and Perception

Propithecus tend to scent-mark to communicate to other individuals. Females scent-mark more in their home range where it overlapped with that of other groups and would place them on food trees to defend their resources. Stained males tend to scent-mark more than females and the vast majority of their marks are overmarks, which is scent-marking over other scent-marks. They also tend to distribute their scent-marks randomly in their home ranges, and there is an increased amount of scent-marks from stained males during the mating season. On the other hand, clean-chested males scent-mark at significantly lower rates and do not mark in their home ranges. They also overmark after intergroup encounters after all of the other individuals had left. These scent-marks left by clean-chested males convey important information about their identity and status and they advertise their presence. (Lewis, 2005)

Food Habits

Propithecus are vegetarians that primarily feed on young and mature leaves of trees. However, they also tend to feed on lianas, parasites, hemiparasites, herbs, and ferns. Seeds are also an important food staple for them and they eat five times more of them than their cousins' indri indri. Other food items propithecus feeds on are flowers and soil, often red clay. (Wright, 2004)


Populations of both Propithecus verreauxi and Propithecus coquereli are known to use alarm calls to warn other individuals of their populations about predators. Specifically, they both were seen to produce roaring barks to respond to predators in the air and responded to these calls in similar ways, by climbing down their trees, looking to the sky, and emitting roaring barks back. In populations of P. verreauxi, emitting growls caused different populations to either look down vs. up and to both climb up and down their trees. Further, some populations would growl in response to stray dogs whereas others produce tchi-faks in response to smaller predators. However, with P. coquereli, they would produce growls after roaring barks as an indicator of arousal. Overall, both species associate growls with the presence of a predator and act accordingly. Further, P. verreauxi only produces tchi-faks when they are being directly attacked and chased. (Fichtel and Kappeler, 2011)

  • Known Predators
    • stray dogs
    • fossas
    • snakes
    • hawks
    • foxes
    • fanaloka

Ecosystem Roles

Since Propithecus are frugivorious, they are probably primary seed dispersed by allowing seeds to pass through their digestive system, or they allow the leaves on their fur from living in trees. They also play an important role in the food chain for avian predators such as hawks and also for fossas. (Fichtel and Kappeler, 2011; Wright, 2004)

  • Ecosystem Impact
  • disperses seeds

Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

Propithecus have been known to be hunted for food. They are also important to the ecosystem and allow it to grow with their seed dispersal methods creating a need for ecotourism. Some species, such as, Propithecus verreauxi and Propithecus coquereli have been the subject of studies to provide information and insight for future scientists. (Grieser, 1992; Mittermeier, et al., 2012)

Economic Importance for Humans: Negative

Propithecus has no negative impacts on humans.

Conservation Status

Propithecus edwardsi is the only species within the genus that is endangered, but it still has a decreasing population. The other species within Propithecus are critically endangered with their populations also decreasing. There is not much information on the number of individuals of some of the species, but Propithecus candidus is rapidly declining with only 249 individuals and Propithecus perrieri with only 125 individuals in the wild. As far as conservation efforts go, all of Propithecus is a part of a conservation site and that they are all part of international legislation, letting people know of their declining populations. (Heriniaina, et al., 2020; Patel, 2020; Wright, et al., 2020)

  • IUCN Red List [Link]
    Not Evaluated


Hannah Noel (author), Colorado State University, Audrey Bowman (editor), Colorado State University.



living in sub-Saharan Africa (south of 30 degrees north) and Madagascar.

World Map


uses sound to communicate


having coloration that serves a protective function for the animal, usually used to refer to animals with colors that warn predators of their toxicity. For example: animals with bright red or yellow coloration are often toxic or distasteful.


Referring to an animal that lives in trees; tree-climbing.

bilateral symmetry

having body symmetry such that the animal can be divided in one plane into two mirror-image halves. Animals with bilateral symmetry have dorsal and ventral sides, as well as anterior and posterior ends. Synapomorphy of the Bilateria.


uses smells or other chemicals to communicate

  1. active during the day, 2. lasting for one day.

humans benefit economically by promoting tourism that focuses on the appreciation of natural areas or animals. Ecotourism implies that there are existing programs that profit from the appreciation of natural areas or animals.


animals that use metabolically generated heat to regulate body temperature independently of ambient temperature. Endothermy is a synapomorphy of the Mammalia, although it may have arisen in a (now extinct) synapsid ancestor; the fossil record does not distinguish these possibilities. Convergent in birds.

female parental care

parental care is carried out by females


an animal that mainly eats leaves.


A substance that provides both nutrients and energy to a living thing.


forest biomes are dominated by trees, otherwise forest biomes can vary widely in amount of precipitation and seasonality.


an animal that mainly eats seeds


An animal that eats mainly plants or parts of plants.

island endemic

animals that live only on an island or set of islands.


offspring are produced in more than one group (litters, clutches, etc.) and across multiple seasons (or other periods hospitable to reproduction). Iteroparous animals must, by definition, survive over multiple seasons (or periodic condition changes).

male parental care

parental care is carried out by males


having the capacity to move from one place to another.

native range

the area in which the animal is naturally found, the region in which it is endemic.


Referring to a mating system in which a female mates with several males during one breeding season (compare polygynous).

scent marks

communicates by producing scents from special gland(s) and placing them on a surface whether others can smell or taste them

seasonal breeding

breeding is confined to a particular season


remains in the same area


reproduction that includes combining the genetic contribution of two individuals, a male and a female


associates with others of its species; forms social groups.


uses touch to communicate


Living on the ground.


the region of the earth that surrounds the equator, from 23.5 degrees north to 23.5 degrees south.


uses sight to communicate


reproduction in which fertilization and development take place within the female body and the developing embryo derives nourishment from the female.

young precocial

young are relatively well-developed when born


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