Primates do monkey around

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iol scitech march 27 Gelada monkey REUTERS File photo: Fazeli said the monkey would be sent into space via 'a liquid-fuel launcher'.

Johannesburg - Humans aren’t the only creatures in the animal kingdom who cheat and try to deceive their partners.

Researchers from the University of the Free State (UFS) were amazed to find that primates really do monkey around.

A long-term research study on gelada monkeys in Ethiopia found that not only do they cheat on their partners, but they deviously try to cover up what they are doing. If caught, the dominant male beats up the pair of lovers.

Geladas, also known as the “bleeding-heart baboon”, are the first animals that have ever shown proof that humans are not the only ones who cheat on their partners and try to hide the act.

Researcher Dr Aliza le Roux, from the department of zoology and entomology at UFS, said they worked alongside researchers from the universities of Michigan and Pennsylvania for three years watching the behaviour of the primates.

She said it was not the first time that cheating had been discovered in the animal kingdom, although it wasn’t observed often, but it was the first time researchers had seen that animals try to deceive their partners to prevent them from finding out about the infidelity.

“We found the first solid evidence that monkeys tried to disguise their cheating, and that there was punishment if they were caught,” Le Roux said.

Geladas are quite unusual in the primate world, not only for their enormous group sizes (over 700 individuals forage together), but also for a certain lack of social intelligence. Males appear to recognise only their closest partners and nobody else.

“It was therefore a surprise to discover that geladas hide their misdemeanours from others. To not only cheat, but to time your cheating so that the dominant male won’t see you, and then to suppress your cries of joy… all of this takes a bit of brain power.”

Le Roux said they also witnessed low-ranking males trying to mate with females outside the natural pecking order.

“This is not so unusual. What is unusual is that the monkeys changed their behaviour in order to escape the consequences of discovery by the dominant male.”

Researchers found the cheating pair would deceive the dominant male by waiting until he wandered a distance away for a quick liaison.

“Then they would suppress their natural mating cries (which are loud, unmistakable calls) and try to get it all over and done with in under 30 seconds,” Le Roux said. - The Star

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