Intergroup Relations

Despite the maintenance of stable territories (e.g., Wright, 1995), eastern sifakas interact directly with neighboring groups only rarely (e.g., three encounters observed among two groups over more than 1 year at Mantadia: Powzyk, 1997; two encounters among two continuous forest groups over 1 year at Tsinjoarivo: Irwin, 2006). P. tattersalli has a higher encounter rate (a few encounters per month; Meyers, 1993), consistent with their smaller home ranges. In general, these low encounter rates may be at least partly due to their low population density. When groups do encounter one another, the interactions are generally agonistic, particularly between same-sexed animals, but they usually involve chasing and vocalizing, without much serious fighting. The primary means of territorial "defense" appears to be scent-marking (Pochron et al., 2005), females using an anogenital gland and males using anogenital and chest glands. Scent-marking is a complex social activity and more research is required to fully understand its causes and consequences, as it likely serves a number of functions (which may differ between males and females; Lewis, 2005). However, indirect evidence for sifakas (e.g., Powzyk, 1997:225; Pochron et al., 2005) indicates that scent marks can serve as "signposts" to conspecifics, marking territorial boundaries.

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