Cercopithecus mitisblue monkey

Geographic Range

Cercopithecus mitis is found in rain forests of central, eastern, and southern Africa. The species can also be found in the Congo basin.


Cercopithecus mitis is found in a variety of habitats. They are very dependent upon humid, shaded areas with abundant water and tall trees which provide both food and shelter.

Physical Description

Blue monkeys are small (ranging in weight from 4 to 6 kg) and arboreal. The face is nearly naked, usually dark in color (infrequently blue), and has well-developed musculature (Lawlor, 1979). Cercopithecus mitis is also known as the diademed monkey because it has a prominent row of forward pointing white fur just above its brow line (Rudran, 1978).

White whiskers are well developed in males. Males are larger than females. Male canines are also slightly larger than the female canines (Rudran,1978).

These monkeys are catarrhine; the nostrils are close together and they face downward. They have cheek pouches to carry food while foraging (Rudran, 1978).

The dental formula of C. mitis is 2/2 1/1 3/3 2/2=32.

The nail on each digit is flattened, and the pollex is opposable (Lawlor, 1979).

The upper parts of the body are gray and the limbs are darker in appearance. Some young have indistinct russet-colored rump patches, which has not been seen in adults (Dorst and Dandelot, 1970). (Dorst and Dandelot, 1970; Lawlor, 1979; Rudran, 1978)

  • Sexual Dimorphism
  • male larger
  • Range mass
    4 to 6 kg
    8.81 to 13.22 lb
  • Average basal metabolic rate
    19.276 W


Blue monkeys have a polygynous mating system, although promiscuous mating has been known to occur (Estes, 1991). Females solicit copulation from the males using body language (Estes, 1991). Females present their hindquarters to a male to indicate that they are ready to copulate. During copulation, females pout, looking over their shoulder at the male.

Breeding occurs throughout the year. The gestation period lasts 5 months (Rudran, 1978). The female gives birth to a single offspring. The young are weaned at about six months and reach sexual maturity at about three years (Grzimck, 1990).

  • Breeding interval
    Females are capable of producing young annually if food is available.
  • Breeding season
    Breeding occurs throughout the year.
  • Average number of offspring
  • Average number of offspring
  • Average gestation period
    5 months
  • Average gestation period
    132 days
  • Average weaning age
    6 months
  • Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female)
    3 years
  • Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female)
    Sex: female
    1673 days
  • Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male)
    3 years
  • Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male)
    Sex: male
    1673 days

The young are relatively well developed at birth, with open eyes and the capability to grasp their mother and support their own weight (Macdonald, 1984). Females provide their young with milk for about six months. Allomaternal care does occur amongst the female troup members (Bourliere and Bertrand, 1970).

  • Parental Investment
  • precocial
  • pre-fertilization
    • provisioning
    • protecting
      • female
  • 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


Longevity for this species has not been reported, but if C. mitis is like other members of the genus Cercopithecus, the maximum lifespan is probably around 20 years. (Grzimek, 1994)


Blue monkeys are diurnal and arboreal. Cercopithecus mitis tends to be a social species with group sizes ranging from 10 to 40 individuals. The groups have a unimale social system (Estes, 1991). The alpha male receives all of the copulations from the troop females. He also guards the troop against other conspecific troops and males. Females tend to join in confrontations with other conspecific troops (Estes, 1991). When take-overs occur, the former alpha male is often ousted from the group. Additionally, blue monkeys form alliances with other monkeys such as Cercopithecus ascanius. This is probably for added protection against predators. Cercopithecus mitis and C. ascanius do not compete for resources because they forage in different locations in the forest (Richard, 1985). (Richard, 1985)

Communication and Perception

As in other species of primates, communication in these monkeys is likely to be complex and varied. Because of their facial markings, facial expressions are extremely marked. Body postures add to the visual signals used in communication. Vocalizations are common in primates and are probably used by diademed monkeys. Tactile communication occurs between mates and rivals, as well as between mothers and their offspring. Grooming is an important physical activity which helps to solidify social bonds. (Grzimek, 1994; MacDonald, 1984)

Food Habits

Blue monkeys are frugivorous and folivorous in nature, eating mainly fruits and leaves. In addition, blue monkeys tend to concentrate their invetebrate feeding on slow-moving slugs and worms (Rudran, 1978).

  • Animal Foods
  • mollusks
  • terrestrial worms
  • Plant Foods
  • leaves
  • fruit


As is true for other forest dwelling monkeys, C. mitis likely falls prey to leopards. Other potential predators include snakes and birds of prey. (Grzimek, 1994; MacDonald, 1984)

Ecosystem Roles

As a prey species, these monkeys probably have some impact on predator populations. In addition, they are likely to be important in seed dispersal because of their frugivory.

Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

In Uganda, blue monkeys are hunted for their meat (Fleagle, 1988).

  • Positive Impacts
  • food

Economic Importance for Humans: Negative

Blue monkeys eat cultivated crops and destroy exotic trees.

  • Negative Impacts
  • crop pest

Conservation Status

Survival threats to blue monkeys include habitat destruction, such as the clearing of rain forests. Blue monkeys are also destroyed for eating cultivated crops or destroying exotic trees (Fleagle, 1988).

Other Comments

Blue monkeys are a social species. An interesting aspect of the interspecific relations of blue monkeys is their involvement in mixed groupings consisting of two or more primate species (Rudran, 1978). Blue monkey associations with redtails and red colobus sometimes last for six to seven hours within a day (Rudran, 1978). Often, blue monkeys will associate with other species to form coalitions against other groups, to help find food, and also for added protection against predators. With polyspecific associations groups are able to cover a larger area when foraging for food. They are also able to get a broader view of a large area and warn of an approaching predator by alarm calls.


Nancy Shefferly (editor), Animal Diversity Web.

Nicole Strawder (author), University of Michigan-Ann Arbor, Phil Myers (editor), Museum of Zoology, University of Michigan-Ann Arbor.



living in sub-Saharan Africa (south of 30 degrees north) and Madagascar.

World Map


uses sound to communicate


Referring to an animal that lives in trees; tree-climbing.

bilateral symmetry

having body symmetry such that the animal can be divided in one plane into two mirror-image halves. Animals with bilateral symmetry have dorsal and ventral sides, as well as anterior and posterior ends. Synapomorphy of the Bilateria.


uses smells or other chemicals to communicate

  1. active during the day, 2. lasting for one day.
dominance hierarchies

ranking system or pecking order among members of a long-term social group, where dominance status affects access to resources or mates


animals that use metabolically generated heat to regulate body temperature independently of ambient temperature. Endothermy is a synapomorphy of the Mammalia, although it may have arisen in a (now extinct) synapsid ancestor; the fossil record does not distinguish these possibilities. Convergent in birds.


union of egg and spermatozoan


an animal that mainly eats leaves.


A substance that provides both nutrients and energy to a living thing.


forest biomes are dominated by trees, otherwise forest biomes can vary widely in amount of precipitation and seasonality.


an animal that mainly eats fruit


An animal that eats mainly plants or parts of plants.


offspring are produced in more than one group (litters, clutches, etc.) and across multiple seasons (or other periods hospitable to reproduction). Iteroparous animals must, by definition, survive over multiple seasons (or periodic condition changes).


having the capacity to move from one place to another.

native range

the area in which the animal is naturally found, the region in which it is endemic.


the kind of polygamy in which a female pairs with several males, each of which also pairs with several different females.


having more than one female as a mate at one time


rainforests, both temperate and tropical, are dominated by trees often forming a closed canopy with little light reaching the ground. Epiphytes and climbing plants are also abundant. Precipitation is typically not limiting, but may be somewhat seasonal.

scrub forest

scrub forests develop in areas that experience dry seasons.


remains in the same area


reproduction that includes combining the genetic contribution of two individuals, a male and a female


associates with others of its species; forms social groups.


uses touch to communicate


Living on the ground.


The term is used in the 1994 IUCN Red List of Threatened Animals to refer collectively to species categorized as Endangered (E), Vulnerable (V), Rare (R), Indeterminate (I), or Insufficiently Known (K) and in the 1996 IUCN Red List of Threatened Animals to refer collectively to species categorized as Critically Endangered (CR), Endangered (EN), or Vulnerable (VU).


the region of the earth that surrounds the equator, from 23.5 degrees north to 23.5 degrees south.


uses sight to communicate


reproduction in which fertilization and development take place within the female body and the developing embryo derives nourishment from the female.

year-round breeding

breeding takes place throughout the year

young precocial

young are relatively well-developed when born


Bourliere, F., C. Hunkeler, M. Bertrand. 1970. Ecology and Behaviour of Lowe's Guenon (Cercopithecus cambelli lowei) in the Ivory Coast. In Old World Monkeys. London and New York: Academic Press.

Dorst, J., P. Dandelot. 1970. A Field Guide to the Larger Mammals of Africa. Smithsonian Contributions to Zoology, 136: 313-385.

Estes, R. 1991. The Behavior Guide to African Mammals. California: University of California Press.

Fleagle, J. 1988. Primate Adaptation and Evolution. London and New York: Academic Press.

Grzimek, T. 1994. Encyclopedia of Mammals. New York: McGraw-Hill Publishing Company.

Lawlor, T. 1979. Handbook to the Orders and Families of Living Mammals. Eureka: Mad River Press.

MacDonald, D. 1984. Encyclopedia of Mammals. New York: Facts on File Publications.

Richard, A. 1985. Sympatry, Competition, and the Niche. Chicago: Freeman and Company.

Rudran, R. 1978. Sociology of the Blue monkeys (Cercopithecus mitis stuhlmanni) of the Kibale Forest, Uganda. Smithsonian Contributions to Zoology, 249: 148-236.

Wilson, D., D. Reeder. 1993. Mammal Species of the World. Washington: Smithsonian Institution Press.