Overview

Brief Summary

Biology

The basic unit of gelada society is the unimale family group, consisting of one male and several females and their young (6). Associated unimale groups cluster into bands that may travel in the same area, although membership is flexible and unimale groups have been known to travel with several different bands at different times or even alone (6) (7). Bands in turn aggregate in large temporary herds that come together usually during the dry season for grazing (6) (7). Outside of these social organisations are all-male bachelor groups, which forage on their own and sleep separately from the unimale groups (6) (7). Males from bachelor groups will challenge males of unimale groups for tenure of their harem, and thereby access to breeding females. Within unimale groups, female bonds are very strong, and the females will try to stay together even if the male of their group dies (6). There is no defined breeding season, but a birth peak has been noted during the rainy season. Females usually give birth to a single infant at a time, after a gestation of five to six months. Females attain sexual maturity at around four or five years of age, whereas it takes five to seven years for males to fully mature (7). The diet of this species depends on seasonal availability, but consists largely of grasses, with the blades, seeds and bulbs all being eaten (6) (7). Grasses are picked by rapid, dextrous hand movements as the gelada sits and shuffles along the ground (8), but the species is also reported to eat fruit, flowers, leaves, insects (6) and even small mammals (2).
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Description

Although often referred to as gelada baboons, these monkeys actually belong to a separate genus and are not true baboons. They are in fact the only member of their genus and the last surviving species of a once widespread group of grass-grazing primates (4) (5). The gelada can be easily recognised by the unusual hairless patches of skin on the chest, which blaze a bright crimson colour when females are in oestrus. Since this species spends long periods sitting whilst foraging for food, the usual sexual cue of red sexual swellings around the genitals would be difficult to see. Thus, by mimicking these sexual swellings, these more conspicuous chest patches serve as a highly visible signal of sexual receptivity (6). The coat is short and brown with a tuft of hair at the tip of the tail, and the adult male's shoulders are cloaked by a large cape-like mantle or mane (6) (7). The muzzle is deeply grooved with longitudinal ridges, and the upper lip can be everted in flash displays of communication (5), just as the contrasting pale eyelids against the dark face are also used for communicative expression (7).
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MammalMAP: Gelada

Geladas (Theropithecus gelada) are big and robust primates from the Old World monkeys, with dark brown fur. Males have long and thick manes and a bright red hairless hourglass-shaped skin patch on their chest, surrounded by white fur. Females also have these bare patches on their chest, but they only brighten when in oestrus. Together with the reddening of the patches when these ladies are ready to mate, they also flaunt a necklace of pearls around their chest patch. These 'pearls' are actually fluid-filled blisters, and are thought to have evolved because unlike the closely related baboon, geladas spend most of their time sitting on their bums, eating and chatting.

The gelada feeds on the ground by shuffling around in the squatting position, moving bipedally, little by little, without changing their posture. Feeding is made even easier because of their sturdy and small fingers, which are adapted for pulling grass and digging. They also have small incisors to make the chewing of leaves easier.


Geladas are only found in Ethiopia, in the deep gorges of the Ethiopian plateau. They are restricted to high grassland escarpments and mostly inhabit altitudes between 2000 and 3000 meters. They prefer to sleep on ledges on the cliff faces, and around sunrise almost immediately move to the top of the plateau and start their socialising and feeding activities.


Many predators threaten the gelada, including leopards, jackals, dogs, foxes and hyenas. To escape these bandits they flee to the cliff faces, but sometimes brave males will show off by confronting the threats, and in some cases even mob the predator. Unfortunately, as in most cases, humans also pose a threat to these chatty primates and their habitat, because of deforestation and soil erosion, due to the ever increasing population of the human race. Some are also shot as pests, while others have also been held as laboratory animals in the past.


Despite the increasing threats to the species, they are listed as Least Concern on the IUCN Red List, as they are still abundant and have a large range.


Speech evolution from geladas??
A recent study suggests that the lip-smacking sounds made by geladas may be a clue as to how human speech evolved. Read the interesting article and listen to their eerily human chattering.


For more information on MammalMAP, visit the MammalMAP virtual museum or blog.

  • Gippoliti, S. & Hunter, C. 2008. Theropithecus gelada. In: IUCN 2012. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2012.2. . Accessed on 22 April 2013.
  • Gron KJ. 2008 September 3. Primate Factsheets: Gelada baboon (Theropithecus gelada) Taxonomy, Morphology, & Ecology . . Accessed on 22 April 2013.
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Distribution

Gelada baboons are found only in the highlands of Ethiopia and Eritrea. A majority of gelada baboon populations live in Gich and Sankaber areas of the Semien Mountains National Park in Ethiopia.

Biogeographic Regions: ethiopian (Native )

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Range Description

This species is restricted to high grassland escarpments in the deep gorges of the central Ethiopian plateau, in the Tigre, Begemdir, Wolle, and Shoa Provinces between 1,800 and 4,400 m asl. The Blue Nile Gorge and the upper Wabe Shebelle valley (east of the Bale massif) mark the western and southeastern boundaries of the range, respectively.

There are possibly three subspecies: T. g. gelada and T. g. obscurus occur in the Begemdir, Tigre, and Wollo and Shoa provinces, west of the Rift Valley, while an undescribed subspecies is found along the Wabi-Shebeli River in the Arussi province, east of the Rift Valley. T. g. gelada is found north of Lake Tana and west of the Takkazzé River, while T. g. obscurus is found south of Lake Tana and east of Takkazzé River.
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Historic Range:
Ethiopia

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Range

The gelada is found only in the highlands of Ethiopia, with the majority of the population in the Semien Mountains National Park (2) (7).
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Physical Description

Morphology

Male gelada baboons weigh an average of 20.25 kg. Their bodies are 69 to 74 cm in lenth while their tails are an extra 45 to 50 cm long. Female geladas are somewhat smaller. They weigh an average of 14.8 kg, are 50 to 65 cm in body length and their tails are 30 to 41 cm long. (van Hooff, 1990: 258)

Members of both sexes have short rostrums and wide nostrils. They have short brown fur and both males and females have a hairless patch on their chests, usually triangular in shape, which is outlined by white hairs. The color and size of this patch in both sexes is dependent on hormonal changes in the females. Both sexes have pale eyelids which are used for expression. Males are marked by the presence of whiskers and a brown hairy mantle. (Stammbach, 1987; van Hooff, 1990)

Range mass: 13 to 21 kg.

Range length: 50 to 74 cm.

Other Physical Features: endothermic ; homoiothermic; bilateral symmetry

Sexual Dimorphism: male larger

  • van Hooff, J. 1990. Macaques and Allies. Pp. 208-286 in S Parker, ed. Grzimek's Encycolpedia of Mammals. New York: McGraw-Hill Publishing Company.
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Ecology

Habitat

Gelada baboons are found inhabiting the high grasslands of Ethiopia and Eritrea, especially in the Semien Mountains National Park. Geladas prefer to sleep on rocky cliffs, from which they descend in the morning to go foraging in the nearby grasslands. Most of the gelada populations are found foraging in grasslands between 2,000 and 5,000 meters (Stammbach, 1987). This is a terrestrial species and is very specialized to this particular habitat.

Range elevation: 2,000 to 5,000 m.

Habitat Regions: tropical ; terrestrial

Terrestrial Biomes: savanna or grassland

  • Stammbach, E. 1987. Desert, Forest, and Montane Baboons: Multilevel-Societies. Pp. 112-120 in B Smuts, D Cheney, R Seyfarth, R Wrangham, T Struhsaker, eds. Primate Societies. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.
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Habitat and Ecology

Habitat and Ecology
This species is associated with rocky gorges, precipices and moorland. Feeds mainly on the flat margins of high grass plateaus, known locally as high Wurch or Puna grassland steppe, with Agrostis and Festuca grasses and giant Lobelia groves. Gelada bands consist of 30-260 animals, making up 2-30 one male groups. Bands keep within 2 km of the escarpment edges, where they retreat at night or if alarmed. As a result, ranges are linear, encompassing as little as 1-3 km² for a band's core area (although their year-long range can cover 70 km²). Steep cliffs provide sleeping roosts. Geladas are poor tree-climbers and are almost entirely terrestrial, spending 99% of their time on the ground. This is partly a consequece of its extreme dietary specialization as a grazer.

Geladas primarily feed on the leaves of grasses. In addition, during dry seasons when there is heavy overgrazing by livestock, or when Gelada bands are very concentrated, subterranean stems and rhizomes are also excavated. Fruits and invertebrates are eaten opportunistically, and cereal crops may be taken where agriculture encroaches onto the geladas' habitat.

Systems
  • Terrestrial
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Geladas sleep at night on rocky cliffs and outcrops, venturing in the morning to forage in nearby grasslands, mostly between 2,000 and 5,000 m above sea level (7).
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Trophic Strategy

Gelada baboons are exclusively herbivorous, but their choice of food changes depending on seasonal availability. During the wet season (July and August), when green grass blades are abundant, they make up 93% of the diet of these baboons. In November, when the grasses have seeded, the seeds make up 70% of their diet. During the dry season (January and February), 67% of their food is grass rhizomes and 25% grass blades (Dunbar, 1977). Geladas are also known to harvest fruits, tubers, and flowers and stems throughout the year. (Dunbar, 1977; Kawai, 1979)

Gelada baboons are highly specialized feeders. The opposability of their first two digits is the highest of all the catarrhine primates and allows them to pick grass blades individually so that they can sort good grass from bad grass during the dry season. It is also notable that their phalanges are short and robust, which allows them to dig efficiently for tubers when desired. These specializations allow gelada baboons to take advantage of grassland environments that other primates could not inhabit as successfully (Dunbar, 1977).

Plant Foods: leaves; roots and tubers; wood, bark, or stems; seeds, grains, and nuts; fruit; flowers

Primary Diet: herbivore (Folivore )

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Associations

As grass feeders, gelada baboons are likely to have significant effects on the plant communities in areas where they feed. By digging for roots, tubers, and grass rhizomes, these animals help to aerate the soil. As possible prey items, these baboons may impact predator populations.

Ecosystem Impact: soil aeration

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Details on predation of gelada baboons are not available in the literature. Possible predators of these animals include large carnivores and raptors.

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Life History and Behavior

Behavior

Primates typically have complex social communication involving visual, tactical and accoustic symbols. Sometimes, chemical cues are also used.

Geladas use visual signals, such as facial expression and body posture, to communicate with one another. There are also visual signals associated with estrus, such as the reddening of the chest patch in females.

Geladas make a number of vocalizations.

In addition, tactile communication, between mates, between grooming partners, as well as between mothers and their young, can be important in maintaining social bonds.

Some chemical communication is apparently also present in this species, as males often smell the reddedned chest patch of estrus females.

Communication Channels: visual ; tactile ; acoustic ; chemical

Perception Channels: visual ; tactile ; acoustic ; chemical

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Life Expectancy

A captive gelada is reported to have lived well over 30 years. Lifespan of these animals in the wild has not been reported, but is presumably less than that seen in captivity.

Range lifespan

Status: captivity:
30+ (high) years.

Average lifespan

Sex: female

Status: captivity:
27.0 years.

Average lifespan

Status: wild:
20.0 years.

Average lifespan

Status: captivity:
20.8 years.

Average lifespan

Sex: female

Status: captivity:
28.0 years.

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Lifespan, longevity, and ageing

Maximum longevity: 36 years (captivity) Observations: One wild born female was likely around 36 years old when she died in captivity (Richard Weigl 2005).
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Reproduction

Copulation is usually initiated by the female and occurs between the estrus females of a group and the group's male leader (Stammbach, 1987; Smuts, 1987).

Mating System: polygynous

Gelada baboons do not have a specific mating season, though it has been noted that the birth rate is higher during the rainy season. When a gelada female comes into estrus a ring of red beading develops in the naked patch on her chest and her ano-genital region swells visibly. The estrus cycles of females within a group are fairly synchronized, as are births. This may be due to social influence (Kawai, 1979).

Gestation length in gelada baboons is estimated at 5 to 6 months. Females generally give birth to one infant at a time and females with infants are anestrus (Smuts, 1987; Kawai, 1979). Lactation lasts for about 12 to 18 months. Females reach sexual maturity at about 4 or 5 years of age, but males do not become sexually mature until 5 or 7 years.

Breeding interval: It is possible for a female to produce young annually under good conditions.

Breeding season: Gelada baboons do not have a specific mating season, though it has been noted that the birth rate is higher during the rainy season.

Average number of offspring: 1.

Range gestation period: 5 to 6 months.

Range weaning age: 12 to 18 months.

Range age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female): 4 to 5 years.

Range age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male): 5 to 7 months.

Key Reproductive Features: iteroparous ; year-round breeding ; gonochoric/gonochoristic/dioecious (sexes separate); sexual ; viviparous

Average birth mass: 464 g.

Average number of offspring: 1.

As in other primates, parental care is primarily the responsibility of females. Females must carry, groom, nurse and protect their offpspring until the young are independent. The role of males in the care of offspring is not well understood.

Parental Investment: pre-hatching/birth (Provisioning: Female, Protecting: Female); pre-weaning/fledging (Provisioning: Female, Protecting: Female); pre-independence (Provisioning: Female, Protecting: Female); extended period of juvenile learning

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Molecular Biology and Genetics

Molecular Biology

Barcode data: Theropithecus gelada

The following is a representative barcode sequence, the centroid of all available sequences for this species.


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.

AATCGTTGACTATTTTCAACAAACCATAAAGATATTGGAACCTTATACCTATTATTCGGCGCATGAGCCGGGGTTATAGGTATAGCCCTA---AGTCTTCTCATTCGGGCTGAACTAGGCCAACCCGGTAATCTGCTAGGTAAT---GACCACATCTACAATGTTATTGTAACGGCCCATGCATTCGTCATAATCTTTTTCATGGTCATACCTATTATGATTGGAGGCTTCGGAAATTGATTAGTACCTCTGATA---ATTGGCGCCCCTGATATAGCATTCCCCCGTTTAAACAACATAAGTTTCTGACTCCTTCCCCCTTCCTTCCTGCTACTAATAGCATCAACCGTAGTAGAAGCCGGCGCCGGGACAGGTTGGACAGTATATCCTCCTCTGTCAGGAAATTTTTCCCACCCCGGAGCCTCTGTGGACCTA---GTCATCTTCTCTCTCCACCTAGCGGGCATTTCCTCCATCCTAGGGGCCATTAACTTCATTACCACTATTATTAACATAAAACCCCCTGCAATATCCCAATATCAAACCCCTTTATTTGTCTGATCGATCCTAATTACAGCAATCCTCCTACTCCTCTCCCTACCAGTCTTAGCCGCC---GGCATCACCATGTTATTAACAGACCGCAACCTCAACACCACTTTCTTTGACCCTGTTGGAGGAGGAGACCCTATCCTATACCAACACCTATTTTGATTCTTCGGCCATCCCGAAGTCTATATCCTCATCCTCCCCGGATTCGGGATAATCTCCCATATTGTAACTCACTATTCTGGAAAAAAA---GAACCGTTTGGATATATAGGAATAGTCTGAGCTATAATGTCAATCGGTTTTCTAGGCTTTATTGTATGAGCCCATCATATGTTTACAGTTGGCATAGACGTGGACACACGGGCCTACTTTACCTCCGCCACTATAATTATTGCAATCCCCACAGGCGTCAAAGTTTTTAGCTGACTT---GCCACACTCCACGGGGGT---AATATTAAATGATCCCCCGCAATACTCTGAGCCCTGGGCTTTATCTTTCTATTCACCGTAGGAGGCCTGACCGGCATTATCTTAGCAAACTCATCCCTAGACATTGTACTACACGACACATATTACGTCGTTGCCCACTTCCATTATGTT---TTATCAATAGGAGCCGTCTTTGCCATCATAGGAGGCTTCATCCACTGATTCCCTTTATTTTCAGGCTATACATTAAACCAAACTTACGCCAAAGCCCACTTCATCGTTACATTCGTAGGTGTAAACCTAACCTTTTTCCCACAACACTTCCTCGGCTTATCTGGAATACCCCGA---CGCTACTCCGACTACCCCGATGCCTATACC---ACATGAAACATCCTGTCATCTGTGGGCTCCTTTATTTCACTAACAGCAACAATTCTAATAATCTATATAATCTGAGAAGCTTTCGCCTCAAAACGTAAAGTA---CTACTAACCGAACAACCCTCCACTAGC
-- end --

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Statistics of barcoding coverage: Theropithecus gelada

Barcode of Life Data Systems (BOLDS) Stats
Public Records: 3
Specimens with Barcodes: 4
Species With Barcodes: 1
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Conservation

Conservation Status

The status of gelada baboons does not appear to be cause for concern at this point, yet because this is such an ecologically specialized species it has been included in the IUCN red Data Book and listed in appendix II of CITES, permitting only monitored trade between countries. Within Africa geladas are "permited to be hunted, killed, or collected only on government authority, but only providing it is in the national interest or for the purpose of science" (Dunbar, 1993: 582). Where geladas have been accused of raiding locally cultivated lands they are shot by farmers (Kawai, 1979). Within the Semien Mountain National Park, which is a conservation area, geladas are completely protected.

US Federal List: no special status

CITES: appendix ii

IUCN Red List of Threatened Species: least concern

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IUCN Red List Assessment


Red List Category
LC
Least Concern

Red List Criteria

Version
3.1

Year Assessed
2008

Assessor/s
Gippoliti, S. & Hunter, C.

Reviewer/s
Mittermeier, R.A. & Rylands, A.B. (Primate Red List Authority)

Contributor/s

Justification
This species has a large range and is still abundant despite increasing threats to the species and is hence listed as Least Concern. There is no reason to believe it has undergone a significant range-wide decline that would warrant listing in a threatened category.

History
  • 1996
    Lower Risk/near threatened
    (Baillie and Groombridge 1996)
  • 1994
    Rare
    (Groombridge 1994)
  • 1990
    Rare
    (IUCN 1990)
  • 1988
    Rare
    (IUCN Conservation Monitoring Centre 1988)
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Current Listing Status Summary

Status: Threatened
Date Listed: 10/19/1976
Lead Region: Foreign (Region 10) 
Where Listed: Entire


Population detail:

Population location: Entire
Listing status: T

For most current information and documents related to the conservation status and management of Theropithecus gelada , see its USFWS Species Profile

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Status

Classified as Least Concern (LC) on the IUCN Red List (1), and listed on Appendix II of CITES (3). Subspecies: the Northern gelada (T. g. gelada) is classified as Vulnerable (VU) on the IUCN Red List (1).
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Population

Population
Geladas are widespread throughout their present range but, partly as a result of the droughts affecting the Horn of Africa in the 1980s, they are not as abundant as in the 1970s when an aerial survey of the central Ethiopian highlands yielded an estimate of 440,000 for the total population. An alternative estimate based on known ground densities and the total area of gorge face on the plateau yielded a figure of 880,000. C. Hunter (pers. comm.) considers that these estimates may now be too high, and that a better guesstimate would be approx. 200,000 animals. Surveys in a number of areas give overall densities varying between 15 and 60 animals/km², although densities of animals within home ranges commonly exceed 70/km².

Population Trend
Decreasing
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Threats

Major Threats
The overall range of the Gelada is being eroded as a result of agricultural expansion due to the increasing human population densities on the central highlands. Deforestation and soil erosion are serious problems throughout the area. Grazing pressure is intense, and competition from domestic livestock has forced the Gelada to remain on the less productive gorge slopes in some areas. Gelada densities are considerably lower in heavily populated areas than in undisturbed habitats. Geladas are also shot as crop pests, and have been trapped as laboratory animals in the past (e.g., 1,200 animals were imported into the USA between 1968-1973). In the past, adult numbers may have been reduced as a result of selective shooting for their capes (to be made into ceremonial costumes used by the Oromo tribe). There are historic records of capes being made into fur hats for tourists, but that certainly no longer occurs, and it is now extremely difficult for any tourist to leave the country with items made from Gelada skins.
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The fossil group to which the gelada belongs was once widespread throughout eastern and southern Africa, but all except this species vanished as the grasslands upon which they relied shrank (2) (4) (5). Although geladas are still relatively abundant, and classified on the IUCN Red List only as Least Concern, their highly specialised ecology deems them dependant upon their unique environment and thereby vulnerable to habitat change (7). Ethiopia's growing human population and expanding farmlands are therefore putting the species at risk, with fields of crops and pastures of horses and cows now encroaching on gelada terrain (4). Furthermore, geladas have been shot as crop pests by farmers where they have been accused of raiding locally cultivated lands (7).
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Management

Conservation Actions

Conservation Actions
Listed as Vulnerable, Class A under the African Convention, and is listed on Appendix II of CITES. A few Gelada bands range in the tiny Simien Mountains National Park (the only area of Gelada habitat which is currently formally protected). In addition there are proposals for a new Blue Nile Gorges National Park and Indeltu (Shebelle) Gorges Reserve that would protect larger numbers. The latter would protect the unnamed subspecies. There is a need for further research on the infra-specific taxonomy, especially the distribution ranges of the subspecies.
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Conservation

The gelada is listed on Appendix II of CITES, permitting only monitored quotas of trade between countries. It is also now illegal to hunt, kill or collect the species unless it is by government authority, which is only granted if it is deemed to be in the national interest or for the purpose of science. Additionally, the largest population of geladas exists within the Semien Mountain National Park, which is fully protected (7). Since the gelada is so highly adapted to its unique environment in the cool heights of the mountain meadows of Ethiopia, it is imperative that the conservation of the species focuses on the protection of this remaining habitat. As the last surviving species in a once great dynasty of grass-grazing primates, the gelada is a precious relic of its fossil relatives that we must preserve (4).
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Relevance to Humans and Ecosystems

Benefits

As human populations in Ethiopia and Eritrea grow, city boundries are expanding. Gelada baboons have been blamed for raids on cultivated lands, but many people believe the blame ill-placed. (Kawai, 1979. Jablonski, 1993).

Negative Impacts: crop pest

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Past records show that gelada baboons were hunted for food by farmers during dry seasons (Jablonski, 1993).

Positive Impacts: food

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Wikipedia

Gelada

"Theropithecus" redirects here. For extinct species of this genus, see Theropithecus brumpti, Theropithecus darti and Theropithecus oswaldi.

The gelada (Theropithecus gelada), sometimes called the gelada baboon and bleeding-heart baboon, is a species of Old World monkey found only in the Ethiopian Highlands, with large populations in the Semien Mountains. Theropithecus is derived from the Greek root words for "beast-ape."[3][4] Like its close relatives the baboons (genus Papio), it is largely terrestrial, spending much of its time foraging in grasslands.

Phylogeny and fossils[edit]

Rüppell's depiction of the species (1835)

Since 1979, it has been customary to place the gelada in its own genus (Theropithecus), though some genetic research suggests this monkey should be grouped with its papionine (baboon) kin;[5] other researchers have classified the species even farther distant from Papio.[6] While Theropithecus gelada is the only living species of its genus, separate, larger species are known from the fossil record: T. brumpti, T. darti[7] and T. oswaldi, formerly classified under genus Simopithecus.[8] Theropithecus, while restricted at present to Ethiopia, is also known from fossil specimens found in Africa and the Mediterranean into Asia, including South Africa, Malawi, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Tanzania, Uganda, Kenya, Ethiopia, Algeria, Morocco, Spain, and India, more exactly at Mirzapur, Cueva Victoria, Pirro Nord, Ternifine, Hadar, Turkana, Makapansgat and Swartkrans.

The two subspecies of gelada are:[2]

Physical description[edit]

Female gelada

The gelada is large and robust. It is covered with buff to dark brown, coarse hair and has a dark face with pale eyelids. Its arms and feet are nearly black. Its short tail ends in a tuft of hair.[9][10] Adult males have a long, heavy cape of hair on their backs.[9][10] The gelada has a hairless face with a short muzzle that is closer to a chimpanzee's than a baboon's.[10] It can also be physically distinguished from a baboon by the bright patch of skin on its chest.[9][10] This patch is hourglass-shaped. On males it is bright red and surrounded by white hair; on females it is far less pronounced. However, when in estrus, the female's patch will brighten, and a "necklace" of fluid-filled blisters forms on the patch. This is thought to be analogous to the swollen buttocks common to most baboons experiencing estrus. In addition, females have knobs of skin around their patches. Geladas also have well developed ischial callosities.[10] There is sexual dimorphism in this species: males average 18.5 kg (40.8 lb) while females are smaller, averaging 11 kg (24.3 lb).[11] The head and body length of this species is 50–75 cm (19.7–29.5 in) for both sexes. Tail length is 30–50 cm (11.8–19.7 in).[10]

The gelada has several adaptations for its terrestrial and graminivorous (grass-eating) lifestyle. It has small, sturdy fingers adapted for pulling grass and narrow, small incisors adapted for chewing it. The gelada has a unique gait, known as the shuffle gait, that it uses when feeding.[12] It squats bipedally and moves by sliding its feet without changing its posture.[12] Because of this gait, the gelada's rump is hidden beneath and so unavailable for display; its bright red chest patch is visible, though.

Range and ecology[edit]

Grazing baboons, at c 3000 m in the Semien Mountains
Gelada eating grass

Geladas are found only in the high grassland of the deep gorges of the central Ethiopian plateau. They live in elevations 1,800–4,400 m above sea level, using the cliffs for sleeping and montane grasslands for foraging. These grasslands have greatly spaced trees and also contain bushes and dense thickets.[9][13] The highland areas where they live tend to be cooler and less arid than lowlands areas.[13] Thus, the geladas usually do not experience the negative effects the dry season has on food availability. Nevertheless, in some areas, they do experience frost in the dry season, as well as hailstorms in the wet season.

Geladas are the only primates that are primarily graminivores and grazers – grass blades make up to 90% of their diet. They eat both the blades and the seeds of grasses. When both blades and seeds are available, geladas prefer the seeds. They also eat flowers, rhizomes and roots when available,[12][13] using their hands to dig for the latter two. They also consume herbs, small plants, fruits, creepers, bushes and thistles.[12][13] Insects can be eaten, but only rarely and only if they can easily be obtained. During the dry season, grasses are eaten less and herbs are preferred. Geladas consume their food more like ungulates than primates, and can chew their food as effectively as zebras.[14]

Geladas are primarily diurnal. At night, they sleep on the ledges of cliffs.[15] At sunrise, they leave the cliffs and travel to the tops of the plateaus to feed and socialize.[12] When morning ends, social activities tend to wane and the geladas primarily focus on foraging. They will travel during this time, as well. When evening arrives, geladas exhibit more social activities before descending to the cliffs to sleep.[12]

Behavior[edit]

Social structure[edit]

Gelada reproductive unit

Geladas live in a complex multilevel society similar to that of the hamadryas baboon. The smallest and most basic groups are the reproductive units, which are made up of one to 12 females, their young and one to four males, and the all-male units, which are made up of two to 15 males. The next level of gelada societies are the bands which are made up of two to 27 reproductive units and several all-male units. Herds consist of up to 60 reproductive units that are sometimes from different bands and last for short periods of time. Communities are made of one to four bands whose home ranges overlap extensively. A gelada can typically live to around 20 years old.[15][16][17]

Within the reproductive units, the females tend to be closely related and have strong social bonds.[16] Reproductive units do split up if they get too large. While females have strong social bonds in the group, a female will only interact with at most three other members of her unit.[16] Grooming and other social interactions among females usually occur between pairs.[18] Females in a reproductive unit exist in a hierarchy. Higher-ranking females have more reproductive success and more offspring than lower-ranking females.[19] Closely related females tend to have a similar hierarchical status.[19] Females stay in their natal units for life; cases of females leaving are rare.[20] Aggression is rare within a reproductive unit, being directed mostly towards members of other units.[18] More often, the females start conflicts, but both males and females from both sides will join if the conflict escalates.[18] Also, aggression within a reproductive unit is usually between females.[18]

Male grooming a female

Males can remain in a reproductive unit for four to five years.[16] While geladas have traditionally been considered to have a male-transfer society, many males appear to be likely to return and breed in their natal bands. Nevertheless, gelada males leave their natal units and try to take over a unit of their own. A male can take over a reproductive unit either through direct aggression and fighting or by joining one as a subordinate and taking some females with him to create a new unit.[16] When more than one male is in a unit, only one of them can mate with the females.[18][20] The females in the group together can have power over the dominant male. When a new male tries to take over a unit and overthrow the resident male, the females can choose to support or oppose him. The male maintains his relationship with the females by grooming them rather than forcing his dominance, in contrast to the society of the hamadryas baboon. Females accept a male into the unit by presenting themselves to him. Not all the females may interact with the male. Usually, one may serve as his main partner.[21] The male may sometimes be monopolized by this female.[21] The male may try to interact with the other females, but they usually are unresponsive.[21]

Most all-male units consist of several subadults and one young adult, led by one male. A member of an all-male unit may spend two to four years in the group before attempting to join a reproductive unit. All-male groups are generally aggressive towards both reproductive units and other all-male units.[18] As in reproductive units, aggression within all-male units is rare. As bands, reproductive units exist in a common home range.[22] Within the band, members are closely related and between the units there is no social hierarchy. Bands usually break apart every eight to 9 years as a new band forms in a new home range.

Researchers from the University of the Free State (UFS) in South Africa, while observing gelada monkeys during field studies, discovered that the monkeys were capable of 'cheating' on their partners and covering up their 'infidelity'. A non-dominant male would mate surreptitiously with a female, suppressing their normal mating cries so as not to be overheard. If discovered, the dominant male would attack the miscreants in a clear form of punishment. It is the first time that evidence of the knowledge of cheating and fear of discovery has been recorded among animals in the wild. Dr Aliza le Roux of the Department of Zoology and Entomology at the university believes that dishonesty and punishment are not uniquely human traits, and that the observed evidence of this behaviour among gelada monkeys suggests that the roots of the human system of deceit, crime and punishment lie very deep indeed.[23]

Reproduction and parenting[edit]

Mother gelada with young

When in estrus, the female points her posterior towards a male and raises it, moving her tail to one side.[24] The male then approaches the female and inspects her chest and genital areas.[24][25] A female will copulate up to five times per day, usually around midday.[25] Breeding and reproduction can occur at any time of the year, although some areas have birth peaks.[11][26]

Gelada displaying its teeth and gums with its lip flipped back

Most births occur at night. Newborn infants have red faces and closed eyes, and are covered in black hair.[25] On average, newborn infants weigh 464 g.[27] Females that have just given birth stay on the periphery of the reproductive unit. Other adult females may take an interest in the infants and even kidnap them.[25] An infant is carried on its mother’s belly for the first five weeks, and thereafter on her back.[25][28] Infants can move independently at around five months old. A subordinate male in a reproductive unit may help care for an infant when it is six months old.[25] When herds form, juveniles and infants may gather into play groups of around 10 individuals. When males reach puberty, they gather into unstable groups independent of the reproductive units. Females sexually mature at around three years, but do not give birth for another year.[18][22] Males reach puberty at around four or five years, but are usually unable to reproduce because of social constraints and have to wait until they are around eight to 10 years old.[11] Average life span in the wild is 19 years.[29]

Communication[edit]

Adult geladas use a diverse repertoire of vocalizations various purposes, such as; contact, reassurance, appeasement, solicitation, ambivalence, aggression and defense.[30] The level of complexity of these vocalizations is thought to near that of humans.[31] They sit around and chatter at each other, signifying to those around that they matter, in a way, to the individual "speaking". To some extent, calls are related to the status of an individual. In addition, females have calls signaling their estrus. Geladas communicate though gestures, as well. They display threats by flipping their upper lips back on their nostrils to display their teeth and gums, and by pulling back their scalps to display the pale eyelids.[32] A gelada submits by fleeing or presenting itself.

Geladas on a cliff

Conservation status[edit]

In 2008, the IUCN assessed the gelada as Least Concern, although their population had reduced from an estimated 440,000 in the 1970s to around 200,000 in 2008. It is listed in Appendix II of CITES.[2] Major threats to the gelada are a reduction of their range as a result of agricultural expansion, and shooting as crop pests. However, threats that once existed but no longer do are trapping for use as laboratory animals and shooting to obtain their capes to make items of clothing.[2] As of 2008, proposals have been made for a new Blue Nile Gorges National Park and Indeltu (Shebelle) Gorges Reserve to protect larger numbers.[2]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Groves, C. P. (2005). Wilson, D. E.; Reeder, D. M, eds. Mammal Species of the World (3rd ed.). Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press. p. 167. OCLC 62265494. ISBN 0-801-88221-4. 
  2. ^ a b c d e Gippoliti, S. & Hunter, C. (2008). Theropithecus gelada. In: IUCN 2008. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Retrieved 4 January 2009.
  3. ^ "Classic Roots P". PHTHIRAPTERA CENTRAL. Retrieved 2006-12-26. "thero (G) - A wild beast; summer; hunt for" 
  4. ^ "Classic Roots T". PHTHIRAPTERA CENTRAL. Retrieved 2006-12-26. "pithec, -o, -us (G) - An ape" 
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  6. ^ McKenna, M.C., Bell, S.K. (1997). Classification of mammals above the species level. New York: Columbia University Press. pp. 631 pp. 
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  9. ^ a b c d Napier PH. (1981). Catalogue of primates in the British museum (natural history) and elsewhere in the British Isles, part II: family Cercopithecidae, subfamily Cercopithecinae, London: British Museum (Natural History).
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  17. ^ Grüter CC, Zinner D. (2004). "Nested societies. Convergent adaptations of baboons and snub-nosed monkeys?" Prim Rep 70:1-98.
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  22. ^ a b Dunbar, R. I. M. (1984). Reproductive decisions: an economic analysis of gelada baboon social strategies. Princeton, N.J: Princeton University Press. ISBN 0-691-08360-6. 
  23. ^ Dr Aliza le Roux, Department of Zoology and Entomology, Qwa Qwa campus of UFS
  24. ^ a b Bernstein, I. S. (1975). "Activity patterns in a gelada monkey group". Folia primatologica; international journal of primatology 23 (1–2): 50–71. doi:10.1159/000155661. PMID 806510.  edit
  25. ^ a b c d e f Mori, U. (1979). "Ecological and sociological studies of gelada baboons. Reproductive behavior". Contributions to primatology 16: 183–197. PMID 101336.  edit
  26. ^ Dunbar, R. I. M.; Hannah-Stewart, L.; Dunbar, P. (2002). "Forage quality and the costs of lactation for female gelada baboons". Animal Behaviour 64 (5): 801. doi:10.1006/anbe.2002.9972.  edit
  27. ^ Leutenegger, W. (1973). "Maternal-fetal weight relationships in primates". Folia primatologica; international journal of primatology 20 (4): 280–293. doi:10.1159/000155580. PMID 4208250.  edit
  28. ^ Barrett, L.; Dunbar, R. I. M.; Dunbar, P. (1995). "Mother-infant contact as contingent behaviour in gelada baboons". Animal Behaviour 49 (3): 805. doi:10.1016/0003-3472(95)80211-8.  edit
  29. ^ "Gelada". National Geographic Society. Retrieved 7 March 2012. 
  30. ^ Kawai, M. (1979). "Ecological and sociological studies of gelada baboons. Auditory communication and social relations". Contributions to primatology 16: 219–241. PMID 101338.  edit
  31. ^ Richman, Bruce (1976). "Some vocal distinctive features used by gelada monkeys". Journal of the Acoustical Society of America 60 (3): 718–724. doi:10.1121/1.381144. 
  32. ^ Mori, U. (1979). "Ecological and sociological studies of gelada baboons. Individual relationships within a unit". Contributions to primatology 16: 93–124. PMID 101345.  edit
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