Grooming patterns in Verreaux's sifaka


  • Rebecca J. Lewis

    Corresponding author
    1. Department of Anthropology, University of Texas, Austin, Texas
    2. Department of Veterinary Sciences, Michale E. Keeling Center for Comparative Medicine and Research, University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center, Texas
    • Department of Anthropology, University of Texas, 1 University Station C3200, Austin, TX 78712
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Lemur grooming has received very little attention in the literature. Nevertheless, allogrooming in lemurs has been suggested to be fundamentally different from the grooming of anthropoids. One reason is that lemurs generally rely on oral rather than manual grooming. Lemur allogrooming has also been suggested to serve less of a social function than has been attributed to anthropoid grooming. I analyzed the allogrooming behaviors of 29 Verreaux's sifaka (Propithecus verreauxi) living in five social groups in the Kirindy Forest of Madagascar. Based upon 1,586 observation hours, I found that sifaka, like anthropoids, spend very little time mutual grooming (2±3%). Half of all allogrooming involved parts of the body that could have been easily groomed by the recipient, such as the limbs. Even though ectoparasite loads are expected to be greater during the rainy season, allogrooming did not increase during the rainy season. Allogrooming rates were influenced by both rank and sex, and increased by 50–100% during the mating season. The results of this study suggest that allogrooming in Verreaux's sifaka plays an important social function, even though it is performed with a toothcomb. Am. J. Primatol. 72:254–261, 2010. © 2009 Wiley-Liss, Inc.