Secret rendezvous: Geladas conceal monkeying around from leader males

Feb 13, 2013
Secret rendezvous: Geladas conceal monkeying around from leader males
Credit: Aliza le Roux

Humans who cheat on a loved one aren't the only ones to change their behavior to avoid discovery.

New research documents for the first time how wild gelada monkeys tactically conceal their from dominant leader males.

Researchers from the University of Michigan, University of the Free State-Qwaqwa in South Africa and University of Pennsylvania observed a herd of geladas in the Simien Mountains National Park of Ethiopia. For three years, they noted the details of the —and —of more than 200 wild geladas. Their findings are published in the current issue of Nature Communications.

Secret rendezvous: Geladas conceal monkeying around from leader males
Sitting left to right, researchers Noah Snyder-Mackler, Aliza le Roux, and Allie Spencer wait for the geladas to climb to the plateau in the early morning. Credit: Eila Roberts

While females typically only mate with the dominant leader male of their unit or harem, the opportunity for infidelity always exists. Subordinate follower males hang out with some of the units, while young bachelor males are also hovering around the edges of every gelada herd.

However, monkeys that would try to commit adultery while deceiving the leader male have to overcome an obstacle presented by their open grassland habitat—there is simply no place to hide, says Aliza le Roux, the study's lead author and researcher at the University of the Free State-Qwaqwa.

Researchers suspected that cheating geladas might still try to conceal their indiscretions. Leader typically give loud calls while mating—a vocal duet that can be heard from more than 30 meters away. Therefore, the simplest way for to avoid discovery would be to stay quiet and keep an eye on the whereabouts of the leader male, researchers said.

After carefully studying more than 1,000 among geladas, the research team found that cheating individuals do, indeed, make sexual noises less frequently. Most cheating between the female and subordinate happened while the leader male was at a safe distance away. This combination of behavior suggests that the couple tactically alter their behavior to avoid detection.

Further, the study showed that cheating has consequences: the leader male violently chased the follower male and female apart. This aggression was not direct competition, as the leader male seldom mated with the female after the attack. The researchers, therefore, surmise that gelada leader males punish cheaters whenever they can.

"By studying the existence of both deception and punishment in the wild, especially among primates, it allows scientists to better understand cooperative and competitive strategies," said Thore Bergman, U-M assistant professor in the departments of Psychology and Ecology and Evolutionary Biology.

Explore further: Syracuse biologist reveals how whales may 'sing' for their supper

Related Stories

How cooperation can trump competition in monkeys

Jul 03, 2012

Being the top dog — or, in this case, the top gelada monkey — is even better if the alpha male is willing to concede at times to subordinates, according to a study by researchers from the University ...

Have we met? Research finds 'missing social knowledge'

May 19, 2010

(PhysOrg.com) -- The face looks familiar but... Just as humans don't always know their neighbors, new research at the University of Michigan shows even the most social of animals don't always recognize individuals they regularly ...

Monkeys put off sex by bystanders

Oct 30, 2012

Monkeys shy away from bystanders during copulation, irrespective of the bystanders' gender or rank. The new study, by Anne Overduin-de Vries and her team from the Biomedical Primate Research Centre in the Netherlands, also ...

Recommended for you

Study shows starving mantis females attract more males

9 hours ago

A study done by Katherine Barry an evolutionary biologist with Macquarie University in Australia has led to the discovery that a certain species of female mantis attracts more males when starving, then do ...

African swine fever threatens Europe

11 hours ago

African swine fever, or ASF, is a viral disease that kills almost every pig it infects and is likened to Ebola. It gained a foothold in Georgia in 2007, when contaminated pig meat landed from a ship from ...

User comments : 7

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

Telekinetic
1 / 5 (2) Feb 13, 2013
There's a new reality show in here somewhere. Ethiopian Shore?
BSD
1 / 5 (2) Feb 13, 2013
LOOK AT THE FU^&ING TEETH ON THAT THING!!!!!!
NikFromNYC
1 / 5 (4) Feb 13, 2013
It's just as silly when "researchers" discover such profound discoveries when they bring their clipboards into bars.
Telekinetic
2 / 5 (4) Feb 13, 2013
It's just as silly when "researchers" discover such profound discoveries when they bring their clipboards into bars.

I don't know if it's completely frivolous, because it investigates the origin of guilt, and only confirms that primates and other species do have feelings, which counters a prevailing attitude that to make connections between humans and the rest of the animal kingdom is wishful anthropomorphizing.
NikFromNYC
1 / 5 (3) Feb 13, 2013
...anthropomorphizing.


Bisexual and incestuous bonobo orgies need be studied to explain 1960s America, and Hollywood.
Telekinetic
1 / 5 (2) Feb 13, 2013
You'd need to begin with the ancient Greek and Roman Bacchanal to be thorough in your research. Who knows what went on 10,000 years prior to that. And the 1960's were great years in world history- What's So Funny 'Bout Peace, Love, and Understanding? (E. Costello)
DavidW
1 / 5 (3) Feb 13, 2013
You'd need to begin with the ancient Greek and Roman Bacchanal to be thorough in your research. Who knows what went on 10,000 years prior to that. And the 1960's were great years in world history- What's So Funny 'Bout Peace, Love, and Understanding? (E. Costello)


Peace is a prize recieved in life through truth. Love is truth manifest. We can't have peace without truth while being alive. Those are the rules of the road.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.