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Primate of the Week: The Crowned Sifaka (Propithecus coronatus)

Bronagh Doughty


Crowned sifakas are members of the Strepsirrhine suborder, along with lorises and all other lemurs. Strepsirrhines can be identified through their wet noses, great senses of smell, and procumbent incisors (also known as tooth combs!).

They are also classified under the Indriidae family, with Indriis and other sifakas! The Indriidae are the largest of the lemurs and are diurnal, social, and folivorous.

Fun fact! Why are they called sifakas?

“Sifaka” is an onomatopoeia! When alarmed, all sifakas make a sneeze-like sound that almost sounds like “shi-fauk!” – giving them their common name.

Where does P. coronatus live?

Like all lemurs in the wild, the Crowned Sifaka is endemic to Madagascar. The exact territory of P. coronatus is not well known and has been expanded over time as researchers have spotted the sifaka outside of its recorded range (Salamona et al. 2014).

Being vertical clingers and leapers, Crowned Sifakas live in forested environments and spend most of their time in drier forests and bigger trees (IUCN 2020).

What does P. coronatus eat?

Like other sifakas, the Crowned Sifaka is mostly herbivorous. When available (usually in the rainy seasons), they prefer young leaves and flowers. In drier periods, they have large chewing muscles and the high, shearing molar cusps required to eat rougher, mature leaves and bark.

Look at those molar cusps!

What does Propithecus coronatus look like?

Crowned Sifakas are distinguished by their dark brown or black heads, white bodies, and bright orange patches around their shoulders and chests.

Like other sifakas, Crowned Sifakas have very long legs, very long toes, and very long tails. Together, these help sifakas propel themselves through the air, leaping up 30 feet between trees, in a method of locomotion called vertical clinging and leaping.

Fun fact! Sifakas can move bipedally too!

Sifakas can move bipedally on the ground, and it looks very cool (but is much less efficient).

Is there any scientific beef surrounding P. coronatus?

Why of course! Propithecus coronatus used to be considered a subspecies of Verreaux’s sifaka (Propithecus verreauxi).

P. coronatus was promoted to its own species in 2007, after an analysis of its skull and dentition (Groves and Helgen 2007). Along with P. coronatus, 3 other subspecies of Verreaux’s sifaka (P. coquereli, P. deckenii, and P. tattersalli) were also elevated to species status in 2007.

There is still some debate about whether the 5 species are different enough morphologically to be considered distinct. This is further complicated by the overlap in territory and appearance between P. coronatus and other species of sifaka, specifically P. deckenii and P. coquereli.

More pictures (because they’re so darn cool)

Conservation Status

Right now, the Crowned Sifaka has been assessed as Critically Endangered by the IUCN Red List. This means that the species is “suspected to have undergone a population decline of ≥80% over a period of 30 years” (IUCN 2020).

Sources/Works Cited/References/To Learn More

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