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Fun Facts about Vervet Monkeys
The vervet monkey is a great example of a primate that mirrors some human genetics and communal aspects in their lives. They suffer from high blood pressure and uneasiness from stress.
Female hierarchy is dependent on mothering and producing offspring. Newborns are highly regarded in the troop, with all members acknowledging them in a supportive manner. Females that rear a greater number of infants gain respect and sit at the top of the female hierarchy. Younger females look to interact and help with managing newborns more often if the mother has a high rank. Male hierarchy is dependent on a number of factors. Fighting ability, allies, and age are the most important elements in determining their status in the group. Scientists studying the vervet monkeys’ social structure have observed that members that are closely ranked have the most interactions, as well as family members. Monkeys that are lower in rank are more likely to be set upon by upper echelon members. Families tend to stick together and will help out if one is attacked. The lower members have less access to resources such as food, which might lead to aggression. The opposite is true for lower females who often help with raising the upper ranks’ infants. They seek to better themselves and cultivate relationships with the higher-level monkeys. This may allow them more access to resources and helps teach them about raising an infant.
One of the more studied areas of vervet monkey society is their alarm calls. They have a number of predators, including crocodiles, baboons, large cats, predatory birds, and snakes. For each predator, the monkeys have a specific alarm, which includes shrieking, whistling, screeching and other warning signals. There have been as many as 36 distinct danger calls identified.
Research has further found that members of one troop can distinguish between calls from members of other groups. In other words, they are able to tell who the caller is even if they are outside of their troop. The vervet monkeys can also distinguish whose baby is making noise, and which one. The mothers respond to their newborn calling out, and others in the troop instinctively look toward the mother when an infant cries. A mother will often go to her infant or child when it is in distress by protecting or helping it, but not with another’s offspring. Siblings exhibit similar patterns of behaviour.
Males change groups when they become sexually mature.
Vervet monkeys have many local/common names: Vervet monkey [English], blouaap [Afrikaans], inkawu [isiZulu and isiNdebele], kgabo [Setswana and Sesotho], ngobiyana [siSwati], nkawa [Xitsonga] and thoho [Tshivenda].
Facial expressions (eye lid display) and body postures are used to communicate threats or aggressive behaviour.
Getting around: The vervet monkey moves on all four limbs both on the ground and in the trees. It only occasionally leaps from tree to tree. It descends trees in a head first manner. The fastest gait, or mode of locomotion, is a bounding gallop on all of its limbs. Vervet monkeys are also capable of swimming.
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