Bimorphism in Male Verreaux’s Sifaka in the Kirindy Forest of Madagascar


Male primates in species with pronounced secondary sexual adornments can exhibit reversible or irreversible bimorphism, i.e., striking variation in the degree to which males express the adornments. Verreaux’s sifaka (Propithecus verreauxi verreauxi) use scent marking as a form of communication and exhibit sex differences in scent glands. Some males exhibit a pronounced brown staining around their sternal gland, whereas others do not. We studied morphological and behavioral characteristics of males in 6 social groups in Kirindy Forest, Madagascar, from November 2000 to March 2002 to evaluate the hypotheses that the bimorphism in male sifaka chest status represents alternative mating tactics and is a badge of status. Males are clearly divided into 2 categories: clean and stained chests, with rare, but informative, intermediate males. The chest staining probably results from the males scent marking with their sternal glands, because stained-chested males scent marked significantly more often than clean-chested males. Though sample sizes are small, chest status did not appear to depend on body size. Chest status is reversible and related to dominance rank. In each group, only 1 male, the dominant, was stained-chested, whereas all other (subordinate) males were clean-chested. These findings suggest that stained chests are visual and olfactory signals of dominance rank and that clean chests signal lack of competitive intent. Thus, this bimorphism may reflect alternative mating tactics used by males to maximize their reproductive success based upon their social environment.

DOI: 10.1007/s10764-006-9107-3

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@article{Lewis2006BimorphismIM, title={Bimorphism in Male Verreaux’s Sifaka in the Kirindy Forest of Madagascar}, author={Rebecca J. Lewis and Carel P. van Schaik}, journal={International Journal of Primatology}, year={2006}, volume={28}, pages={159-182} }