Mandrills according to MammalMAP
Mandrills (Mandrillus sphinx) are the largest - and probably most conspicuous - of all monkeys. Male mandrills are far more colourful than females, and they use this colour as an advert of their virility as they try to win over the ladies. These social primates live in large, noisy troops headed up by a dominant male (‘drill sergeant?) who reigns over the lower ranking individuals. They are known to occur only in West Africa in Cameroon, Gabon, Equatorial Guinea and Congo.
Mandrill population are buckling under the strain of habitat loss as their natural forests give way to crops and villages. They are also targeted as bushmeat and consequently under IUCN species classifications they are considered ‘Vulnerable’.
Equatorial West Africa
Mandrills are found in southwestern Cameroon, western Gabon, Equatorial Guinea, and southwestern Congo.
Biogeographic Regions: ethiopian (Native )
Mandrills reach a height of about 80 cm. The species is characterized by a large head, a compact body with long, powerful limbs, and a stubby tail, which is held upright. The wide rotating range of the clavicles enables climbing trees, the quadrupedal walk, and the functioning of the arms. Opposable thumbs allow these monkeys to grasp tree branches. Both sexes have paired mammary glands in the chest region.
The pelage is an olive green with paler underparts. It has a brilliantly colored blue to purple naked rump. A mandrill's face has a red stripe down the middle of the muzzle and aroung the nostrils, while the sides of the muzzle are ridged lengthwise and colored blue. This helps to distinguish this species from drills which have jet black faces. Mandrills have red fur patches above the eyes and a yellow beard. These colorings are duller in females and juveniles than in adult males.
These animals are reported to have average weights of 11.5 for females, and 25 kg for males. Males are significantly larger than females and may weigh up to 54 kg.
The head and body measurements range between 610 and 764 mm.
Range mass: 54 (high) kg.
Average mass: 11.5-25 kg.
Range length: 610 to 764 mm.
Other Physical Features: endothermic ; homoiothermic; bilateral symmetry
Sexual Dimorphism: male larger; male more colorful; ornamentation
Habitat and Ecology
Mandrill home ranges may be 30-50 sq km.
Mandrills are found in tropical rain forest habitats, montane and thick secondary forests, and thick bush. Although they are adapted to live in the ground, mandrills seek shelter in the trees during the night.
Habitat Regions: tropical ; terrestrial
Terrestrial Biomes: forest ; rainforest
Mandrills have a highly varied diet including fruit, seeds, fungi, roots, insects, snails, worms, frogs, lizards, and sometimes snakes and even small vertebrates. Generally, mandrill males scrounge for food on the ground while females and their young sit in midlevel trees.
Animal Foods: amphibians; reptiles; insects; mollusks; terrestrial worms
Plant Foods: roots and tubers; seeds, grains, and nuts; fruit
Other Foods: fungus
Primary Diet: omnivore
These monkeys are likely to play some role in seed dispersal. To the extent that they serve as predators or as prey, they may have some effect on local food webs.
Ecosystem Impact: disperses seeds
Predators of this species have not been reported, but are likely to include large carnivores, such as leopards.
Life History and Behavior
Communication and Perception
As described above in the section for behavior, communication is varied and complex in this species. It involves a variety of components, including visual and accoustic signals, scents, and tactile information.
Communication Channels: visual ; tactile ; acoustic ; chemical
Other Communication Modes: scent marks
Perception Channels: visual ; acoustic
The maximum lifespan reported for this genus is 46 years.
Status: captivity: 31.7 years.
Status: captivity: 46.0 years.
Lifespan, longevity, and ageing
Mandrills live in groups, mostly in a harem structure, where a dominant male defends a group of females to whom he has exclusive mating rights.
Mating System: polygynous
Breeding is not seasonal but rather occurs about every two years, depending on the available food supply. Mating is believed to occur between July and October, while birthing occurs between December and April. Females give birth to their first young anywhere between 4 and 8 years of age. Gestation lasts for about 6 months after which females give birth to a single young. Twin young have only been observed in capivity. Infants are born with a black natal coat and pink skin, both of which endure for the first two months of life. (Macdonald, 1987)
Breeding interval: Mandrills breed every two years.
Breeding season: Mating is believed to occur between July and October.
Average number of offspring: 1.
Average gestation period: 6 months.
Range age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female): 4 to 8 years.
Key Reproductive Features: iteroparous ; year-round breeding ; gonochoric/gonochoristic/dioecious (sexes separate); viviparous
Average birth mass: 613 g.
Average gestation period: 173 days.
Average number of offspring: 1.
Parental investment has not been extensively characterized in this species. However, it is likely that these animals are similar to other primates in which breeding occurs in a harem polygyny situation.
The bulk of the care for infants in such species is provided by the mother. Mothers give their young protection, grooming, and nourishment (milk). However, aunts, sisters, cousins, and other offspring of the mother may provide some care for young, including carrying, playing with, and grooming the young.
In species where one male mates with females, males also provide parental care. This may be direct, in the form of carrying, playing with, and grooming young, or it may be indirect, in that the father protects all the members of his harem group from potentially dangerous rival males.
Parental Investment: altricial ; pre-fertilization (Provisioning, Protecting: Female); pre-hatching/birth (Provisioning: Female, Protecting: Male, Female); pre-weaning/fledging (Provisioning: Female, Protecting: Male, Female); pre-independence (Provisioning: Female, Protecting: Female); extended period of juvenile learning
Molecular Biology and Genetics
Barcode data: Mandrillus sphinx
There are 3 barcode sequences available from BOLD and GenBank. Below is a sequence of the barcode region Cytochrome oxidase subunit 1 (COI or COX1) from a member of the species. See the BOLD taxonomy browser for more complete information about this specimen and other sequences.
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Download FASTA File
Statistics of barcoding coverage: Mandrillus sphinx
Public Records: 3
Specimens with Barcodes: 3
Species With Barcodes: 1
IUCN Red List Assessment
Red List Category
Red List Criteria
- 1996Lower Risk/near threatened(Baillie and Groombridge 1996)
- 1994Vulnerable(Groombridge 1994)
- 1990Vulnerable(IUCN 1990)
- 1988Vulnerable(IUCN Conservation Monitoring Centre 1988)
- 1986Vulnerable(IUCN Conservation Monitoring Centre 1986)
Date Listed: 10/19/1976
Lead Region: Foreign (Region 10)
Where Listed: Entire
Population location: Entire
Listing status: E
For most current information and documents related to the conservation status and management of Mandrillus sphinx, see its USFWS Species Profile
There has been a drastic decline in the mandrill population during recent years due to habitat destruction. They are especially vulnerable to hunters because of their loud calls. Mandrills are hunted as a local food source in several areas. Currently, mandrills occupy forests at a very low density and are poorly protectd if at all. As a result, they may be threatened with complete extinction in the wild. (Gale, 146)
US Federal List: endangered
CITES: appendix i
IUCN Red List of Threatened Species: vulnerable
In the mid-1970s, numbers in the Wonga-Wongue National Park were said to be "fair-sized". Mandrills live at relatively low densities.
Relevance to Humans and Ecosystems
Economic Importance for Humans: Positive
Mandrills are commonly found in zoos. Becuse of their long life spans, they are valuable, longtime residents. The are also hunted for their meat in some areas.
Positive Impacts: food ; research and education
The mandrill (Mandrillus sphinx) is a primate of the Old World monkey (Cercopithecidae) family, closely related to the baboons and even more closely to the drill. It is found in southern Cameroon, Gabon, Equatorial Guinea, and Congo. Mandrills mostly live in tropical rainforests and forest-savanna mosaics. They live in groups called hordes. Mandrills have an omnivorous diet consisting mostly of fruits and insects. Their mating season takes place from June to October.
Both the mandrill and the drill were once classified as baboons in genus Papio, but recent research has determined they should be separated into their own genus, Mandrillus. Mandrills are the world's largest monkeys. Charles Darwin wrote in The Descent of Man that "no other member in the whole class of mammals is coloured in so extraordinary a manner as the adult male mandrills." The mandrill is classified as vulnerable by IUCN.
The mandrill is the most colorful primate. It has an olive green or dark grey pelage with yellow and black bands and a white belly. Its hairless face has an elongated muzzle with distinctive characteristics such as a red stripe down the middle and protruding blue ridges on the sides. It also has red nostrils and lips, a yellow beard and white tuffs. The areas around the genitals and the anus are multi-colored, being colored red, pink, blue, scarlet, and purple. They also have pale pink ischial callosities. The coloration of the animal is more pronounced in dominant adult males. Both sexes have chest glands which are used in olfactory communication. These, too, are more prominent in dominant adult males. Males also have longer canines than females, with an average of 4.5 cm (1.8 in) and 1.0 cm, respectively.
The mandrill has one of the greatest sexual dimorphisms among the primates. Males typically weigh 19–37 kg (42–82 lb), with an average mass of 32.3 kg (71 lb). Females weigh roughly half as much as the male, at 10–15 kg (22–33 lb) and an average of 12.4 kg (27 lb). Exceptionally large males can weigh up to 54 kg (119 lb). The average male is 75 to 95 cm (30 to 37 in) long and the female is 55–66 cm (22–26 in), with the short tail adding another 5–10 cm (2.0–3.9 in). The shoulder height while on all fours can range from 45 to 50 cm (18 to 20 in) in females and 55 to 65 cm (22 to 26 in) in males. The male Mandrill is the heaviest monkey in the world, although its total length is relatively short due to its vestigial tail and, due to its high sexual dimorphism, baboons such as the Chacma and Olive average around the same weight. Compared to the largest baboons, the mandrill is more ape-like in structure, with a muscular and compact build, shorter, thicker limbs that are longer in the front and almost no tail. Mandrills can survive up to 31 years in captivity. Females reach sexual maturity at about 3.5 years.
Ecology and activities
The mandrill is found in Nigeria, southern Cameroon, Gabon, Equatorial Guinea, and Congo. Its distribution is bounded by the Sanaga River to the north and the Ogooué and White Rivers to the east. Recent research suggests mandrill populations north and south of the Ogooué river are so genetically different as to be separate subspecies. Mandrills prefer to live in tropical rainforests and forest-savanna mosaics. They also live in gallery forests adjacent to savannas, as well as rocky forests, riparian forests, cultivated areas and flooded forests and stream beds. Mandrills will cross grass areas within their forest habitats.
The mandrill is an omnivore. It usually consumes plants, of which it eats over a hundred species. It prefers to eat fruits, but will also eat leaves, lianas, bark, stems, and fibers. It also consumes mushrooms and soil. Carnivorously, mandrills mostly eat invertebrates, particularly ants, beetles, termites, crickets, spiders, snails, and scorpions. It will also eat eggs, and even vertebrates such as birds, tortoises, frogs, porcupines, rats, and shrews. Mandrills likely will eat larger vertebrates when they have the opportunity, such as juvenile bay duikers and other small antelope. Large prey are likely killed with a bite to the nape with the mandrill's long canines. In males, the canines can measure over 6 cm (2.4 in) in length. One study found the mandrill's diet was composed of fruit (50.7%), seeds (26.0%), leaves (8.2%), pith (6.8%), flowers (2.7%), and animal foods (4.1%), with other foods making up the remaining (1.4%).
Mandrills are preyed upon mainly by leopards, in addition to crowned eagles and African Rock Pythons. They may be bitten and killed by Gaboon vipers when they accidentally rouse the venomous snake. It is thought that most predators are a threat mainly to young mandrills, with the likelihood of predation decreasing in adult females and especially adult males. In a study where a mandrill troop was exposed to stimuli relating to their natural predators, only the leopard caused the larger part of the group to flee into trees. However, the large, dominant males were observed to remain in response to the images of the natural predators, even the leopard, and pace back and forth whilst baring their teeth, generally indicating aggression and the defensive role they may play in such circumstances.
Mandrills are mostly terrestrial but they are more arboreal than baboons and feed as high as the canopy. When on the ground, mandrills walk by digitigrade quadrupedalism (walking on the toes of all four limbs). When in the trees, they often move by lateral jumps. Mandrills are mostly diurnal, with activities extending from morning to evening. They sleep in trees at a different site each night. Mandrills have been observed using tools; In the wild and in captivity, mandrills have been observed using sticks to clean themselves.
Social behavior and reproduction
Mandrills seem to live in large, stable groups called "hordes". Hordes often number in the hundreds, possibly averaging around 620 individuals and reaching as many as 845. It is difficult to accurately estimate group size in the forest, but filming a group crossing a gap between two forest patches or crossing a road is a reliable way of estimating group size. The largest group verifiably observed in this way contained over 1,300 individuals, in Lopé National Park, Gabon—the largest aggregation of nonhuman primates ever recorded. These groups are made of adult females and their dependent offspring. Males live a solitary lifestyle, and only enter hordes when females are receptive to mating, which lasts three months each year. All-male bachelor groups are not known to exist.
The mating season of the mandrill takes place from June to October, which is when the sexual swellings of the female occur. They breed every two years. When breeding, a male will follow and guard a female in estrus. Adult males exist in two different forms: the brightly colored and "fatted" dominant males, and the paler and "nonfatted" subordinate males. Both males engage in mating, but only the dominant males can sire offspring. Males sometimes fight for breeding rights which results in dominance. Though conflicts are rare, they can be deadly. Gaining dominance, that is becoming the alpha male, results in an "increased testicular volume, reddening of sexual skin on the face and genitalia, and heightened secretion of the sternal cutaneous gland". When a male loses dominance or its alpha status, the reverse happens, although the blue ridges remain brightened. There is also a fall in its reproductive success. This effect is gradual and takes place over a few years. When subordinates mate-guard a female, the competition between them allows the dominant males to have a greater chance of siring offspring, since subordinates outnumber dominants 21 to 1. There is also a dominance hierarchy among females, with reproductive success being displayed in shorter interbirth intervals amongst these alpha figures and the beginning of reproduction at earlier ages.
Mandrill births occur from January to May. Most births in Gabon occur in the wet season, from January to March, and gestation usually lasts 175 days. In captivity, 405 days separate each birth. Young are born with a black natal coat and pink skin. The females do most of the raising of the young. Alloparenting exists in this species, with female relatives providing care for the young. Males leave their natal groups when they are six years old and stay along the boundary of the social group.
Mandrills will make a "silent, bared-teeth face", in which the teeth are bared, the head crest is erect and the head shakes. This may serve as a peaceful form of communication. A mandrill submits by presenting its rump. With aggression, mandrills will stare, bob their heads, and slap the ground. Vocalizations like roars, crowings, and "two-phase grunts" are made for long distances, while "yaks", grunts, "k-alarms", "k-sounds", screams, girneys, and grinds are made at short distances.
Status and conservation
The mandrill is considered vulnerable and is affected by deforestation. However, hunting for bushmeat is the more direct threat. Mandrills are particularly threatened in the Republic of the Congo. Nevertheless, there have been captive-bred individuals that have been successfully reintroduced into the wild.
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