Verreaux’s sifaka (Propithecus verreauxi) and ring-tailed lemur (Lemur catta) endoparasitism at the Bezà Mahafaly Special Reserve


  • James E. Loudon Department of Anthropology East Carolina University Greenville, NC 27858 & Department of Anthropology University of Colorado-Boulder Boulder, CO 80309-0233
  • Michelle L. Sauther Department of Anthropology University of Colorado-Boulder Boulder, CO 80309-0233


endoparasites, Verreaux’s sifaka, ring-tailed lemur, socioecology, anthropogenic effects, Beza Mahafaly, socio-écologie, Lemur catta, Propithecus verreauxi, effets anthropologiques


As hosts, primate behavior is responsible for parasite avoidance and elimination as well as parasite acquisition and transmission among conspecifics. Thus, host behavior is largely responsible for the distribution of parasites in free-ranging populations. We examined the importance of host behavior in acquiring and avoiding parasites that use oral routes by comparing the behavior of sympatric Verreaux’s sifaka (Propithecus verreauxi) and ring-tailed lemurs (Lemur catta) inhabiting the Bezà Mahafaly Special Reserve (BMSR) in Madagascar. For each species, two groups lived in a protected parcel and two groups lived in anthropogenically-disturbed forests. Analysis of 585 fecal samples revealed that the BMSR ring-tailed lemurs harbored six species of nematode worms and three species of protistan parasites. The sifaka harbored only two nematodes. Differences in richness and prevalence appear to be linked to host behavior and the ecological distribution of their parasites. To understand the interplay between behavioral mechanisms to avoid or transmit parasites, we analyzed 683 hours of behavioral observations. BMSR ring-tailed lemurs were observed on the ground significantly more than sifaka and this terrestrial substrate use provides greater opportunities for soil-transmitted parasites to acquire a host. Ring-tailed lemurs using the anthropogenically-disturbed forests harbored parasites not found in the groups inhabiting the protected parcel which they may be acquiring via coprophagy or contact with feces. The arboreality of sifaka allows them to evade most soil-transmitted endoparasites and the patterns of parasitism exhibited by sifaka living in the anthropogenically-disturbed forests did not deviate from the patterns observed among the sifaka living in the protected parcel.



En tant qu’hôtes, les lémuriens interviennent dans l’acquisition et la transmission de parasites entre les individus d’une population, mais aussi sur la prévention et l’élimination de ces parasites. Leur comportement est donc largement responsable de la distribution des parasites au sein d’une population non contrôlée. Dans notre étude, nous avons examiné l’importance des facteurs comportementaux lors de l’acquisition et l’évitement des parasites transmis par voie orale en comparant le comportement des Propithèques de Verreaux (Propithecus verreauxi) et des Makis (Lemur catta) se trouvant dans la Réserve Spéciale du Bezà Mahafaly (RSBM) à Madagascar. Deux groupes de chacune de ces espèces étaient distribués dans une parcelle protégée et deux autres dans des forêts dégradées par l’activité humaine. L’analyse de 585 échantillons fécaux a révélé que les makis de la RSBM étaient infestés par six espèces de nématodes et trois espèces de parasites protistes tandis que les Propithèques de Verreaux ne l’étaient que par deux espèces de nématodes. Les différences de densité et de fréquence auxquelles étaient trouvés les parasites semblaient être liées au comportement des hôtes et à la distribution écologique de leurs parasites. Pour comprendre la relation entre les mécanismes comportementaux et la transmission des parasites, nous avons analysé le comportement des Propithèques et des Makis lors de 683 heures d’observations. Les Makis de la RSBM ont été observés à terre beaucoup plus souvent que les Propithèques. Cette utilisation du substrat terrestre augmente les possibilités des parasites du sol de trouver un hôte. Les Makis se trouvant dans les forêts perturbées étaient infestés de parasites absents des excréments des lémuriens distribués dans la parcelle protégée. Il est possible que les parasites aient été transmis par coprophagie ou par contact avec des matières fécales. La tendance des Propithèques à vivre dans les arbres leur permet d’éviter la contagion par la plupart des parasites liés au sol et le comportement des Propithèques distribués dans les forêts perturbées ne diffère guère de celui des Propithèques distribués dans la parcelle protégée.

Author Biography

James E. Loudon, Department of Anthropology East Carolina University Greenville, NC 27858 & Department of Anthropology University of Colorado-Boulder Boulder, CO 80309-0233

Instructor of Anthropology


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Verreaux’s sifaka (Propithecus verreauxi) and ring-tailed lemur (Lemur catta) endoparasitism at the Bezà Mahafaly Special Reserve; Journal Madagascar Conservation & Development