Vervet Monkey Mysteries
Caption: Vervet monkey close-up, showing the bright brown eyes and bushy forehead fringed with white, Kruger National Park, South Africa.
Camera: Canon EOS 450D (Canon Rebel XSi 12.2MP); Lens: Canon EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6 IS USM; Focal length: 220mm; Shutter speed: 1/80; Aperture: f/5.6; ISO: 100.
Vervet monkeys are the most common monkey of the African savanna, found from Senegal to South Africa. They’re plentiful, diurnal, used for research purposes, kept as “pets” and, in my home city, seen by many as pests that are likely to trash your kitchen if you leave a window open.
Surprisingly though, there’s a lot of contradictory data and information about vervets, as I discovered in assembling a concise Vervet Monkey Information page.
You’d think the gestation period would be fairly uniform, but according to various African mammal field guides and authority websites, this figure varies from 150 days to 210 days, with 165 days the most common.
Life extectancy? Take your pick from 11 to 30 years, with further variations depending on life expectancy in the wild or in captivity.
Scientific name? This is a minefield and makes me happy I’m not a scientist or animal behaviorist. The most common for vervet monkey is Cercopithecus aethiops, with Cercopithecus pygerythrus and Chlorocebus pygerythrus also used.
According to Primate Info Net (National Primate Research Center, University of Wisconsin – Madison), “The classification of vervet monkeys was recently updated, moving all of the species from the genus Cercopithecus to a new genus, Chlorocebus (Rowe 1996; Groves 2001). There are now at least six species of vervets recognized …. .
“Groves (2001) recommends further revision of this genus and in the future, there will likely be more species and subspecies identified (Grubb et al. 2003).”
This page was last modified in January, 2006, so by now there may well have been further identifications or classification changes.
In any event, I’ve added to my knowledge of vervets, and now know they use at least 36 distinct calls; also that “an adult male’s bright red penis and blue scrotum are unmissable signs of his sexual maturity and social status as he walks with a swagger that flashes his colorful genitals”.
This had me worried that maybe we humans have got it wrong, but was relieved to find that we’re separated evolutionarily from vervets by more than 50 million years.
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