Erythrocebus pataspatas monkey

Geographic Range

Patas monkeys (Erythrocebus patas) live only in Africa. The species has a wide distribution across subSaharan Africa from the western tip of Senegal to East Africa. Patas monkeys occur as far south as Cameroon. (Honolulu Zoo, 2005; Nowak, 1999)


Patas monkeys are found in open country. They live mainly in savanna and woodland habitats since they are predominantly terrestrial. They are typically found in grass savanna, dry and dense woodlands with tall grass, and on grass steppe with thicket clumps. They can tolerate arid conditions, and some of them have been found close to the southern edge of the Sahara desert. However, there are a few exceptions. Some individuals have been seen in moist woodlands. Deforestation has caused these monkeys to be found in man-made clearings in the forest. Finally, they have also been seen in the zone of flooding in the delta of the Senegal River. An area such as the Senegal River does provide the necessary amount of water for patas monkeys to survive. In the drier areas in which patas monkeys typically live, water can be a limiting factor. Patas monkeys avoid areas with dense cover, perhaps due to exposure to predators. The population density of patas monkeys is approximatley 1.5 individuals per km2.

Physical Description

Patas monkeys have a shaggy, reddish-colored coat. these monkeys have a greyhound-like build.) The ventrum is white, as are legs and feet. Patas monkeys have whiskers on thes chin and a white moustache.

They have a narrow body, long legs for quadrupedal locomotion, and a prominent rib cage. (Some authors have noted that The eyes are directed forward for binocular vision. incisors are spatulate, canines conspicuous, and molars are bilophodont. The dental formula is 2/2,1/1,2/2,3/3=32. The nostrils are narrow, close together, and pointed downward (catarrhine).

The body is about 50 to 70 cm, with the reddish-colored tail adding about the same amount to the total length. Weights range between 7 and 13 kg.

Sexual dimorphism is present. The midfacial region (skull) of the male patas monkey is hypertrophied compared to females. Overall body size of males tends to be larger than females due to prolonged and accelerated growth. (Barbara B. Smuts, et al., 1987; Honolulu Zoo, 2005; Nowak, 1999)

  • Sexual Dimorphism
  • male larger
  • Range mass
    7 to 13 kg
    15.42 to 28.63 lb
  • Range length
    50 to 70 cm
    19.69 to 27.56 in
  • Average basal metabolic rate
    5.958 W


Males transfer between groups when sexual maturity is attained. They wait for females to approach them to begin mating. Males may have offspring with more than one female. The usual mating system is "harem" polygyny. However, it has been observed that extragroup males may join a group temporarily during a breeding season.

In "harem" groups, there is one male who reproduces with several females. Evidence for polygyny has been the fact that most groups contain only one adult male, and most males attempt to chase and threaten foreign males. Competiton among males for reproductive females is intense in polygynous species such as patas monkeys because of the differences in reproductive success between resident and exragroup males.

Promiscuous (polygynandrous) mating can happen among patas monkeys. Promiscuous events have been observed in which several males, from two to nineteen, joined a group during a breeding season. During these events, both males and females copulated and both were promiscuous. (Barbara B. Smuts, et al., 1987)

Timing of reproduction seems to vary somewhat with geography. Mating in some populations takes place in June through September, and young are born between November and January. The age of sexual maturity is 4 to 4.5 years old in males and 3 years in females. Females can produce offspring annually, and they have short interbirth intervals. This interval may be less than twelve months.

The gestation period of patas monkeys has been estimated at 170 days. However, it is difficult to know the exact gestation period because the females show no external signs of estrus. Also, females in captivity can go through postconception estrus. Therefore, it is difficult to reliably estimate gestation periods in wild patas monkeys based on captive specimans.

Females give birth to a single young. Although data are lacking for this species, it is likely that the nursing period extends for several months, based upon that seen in other, similar-sized guenons. (Barbara B. Smuts, et al., 1987; Nowak, 1999)

  • Breeding interval
    Patas monkeys are annual breeders, and they have short interbirth intervals
  • Breeding season
    Breeding is typically seasonal, with most births occurring between December and January.
  • Average number of offspring
  • Average number of offspring
  • Average gestation period
    170 days
  • Average gestation period
    167 days
  • Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female)
    3 years
  • Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female)
    Sex: female
    956 days
  • Range age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male)
    4 to 4.5 years

Female patas monkeys nurse and care for their young until they become independent. Female offspring remain in their natal group and associate with their mothers their entire lives.

  • Parental Investment
  • 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
  • post-independence association with parents
  • extended period of juvenile learning


Captive lifespan may reach as much as 24 years. It is likely that the lifespan in wild populations is lower than this. (Nowak, 1999)


Patas monkeys live in social groups in which only the females are permanant members. When males leave the natal group at sexual maturity they may join an all male group or the male may live a solitary lifestyle. Usually only one male per group is present. Groups may consist of ten to forty members. In terms of intergroup relations, conspecifics are not friendly.

Patas monkeys may avoid each other or they might engage in aggressive behavior. This may seem counter-intuitive since their home ranges are large. However, intergroup interactions may occur when several groups drink from the same water hole. Large home ranges also make defense quite difficult (the day range of this species is 4,330m +/-1,520m). The total of all day ranges, or the home range, of this species 3,200 hectares.

When intergroup conflicts do occur, females and young are more active than males. Males may only give loud warning calls. However, during the mating season males join females in antagonizing other groups. Females tend to defend the resources in their home range against females in other groups.

In terms of intragroup relations, social organization is not well known. Dominance hierarchies are not apparent among patas monkey groups. However, it has been observed that a network of dyads with characteristically more than average affiliative behavior exists which indicates that some sort of pattern of social behavior is present. This is especially true of species with similiar age and sex, and perhaps among kin. Captive patas monkeys have confirmed these patterns. Females and juveniles interact socially with each other, and allomaternal care is extensive.

Males and females interact infrequently except during breeding season.

Patas monkeys are diurnal.

Communication and Perception

Communication in all primate species is complex. Because these animals are social, it is likely that visual signals such as body postures and facial expressions play important roles in communication. Vocalizations have been recorded under many different circumstances. Physical contact, through grooming, aggression, and playing, are also important in primate communication. Although no specifically recorded for these monkeys, it is likely that some scent cues are used in reproduction.

Food Habits

Patas monkeys are omnivorous. The diet consists mainly of fruits and insects but also includes leaves, roots, and bird eggs. They have also been found to subsist on either animal or vegetable substances.

  • Animal Foods
  • eggs
  • insects
  • terrestrial non-insect arthropods
  • Plant Foods
  • leaves
  • roots and tubers
  • fruit
  • flowers


Details on predation of this species are not available, so no predators are "known". However, it is likely that patas monkeys fall victim to the standard predators of the subsaharan African savanna: lions, cheetah, African hunting dogs, jackels, brown hyenas, spotted hyenas, snakes, and raptors.

Ecosystem Roles

As fruit eaters, it is likely that patas monkeys help to disperse seeds. As predators, they may influence populations of the species upon which they prey. They may also have some positive impact on populations of organisms which prey upon them. They may have some roles in competing with other terrestrial primates of the savanna.

Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

Patas monkeys are sometimes hunted for meat. They are sold in the pet trade, and they sometimes play a role in medical research.

Economic Importance for Humans: Negative

Patas monkeys frequently raid crops. During these raids, they steal millet, bannas, peanuts, wheat, and dates. In some areas in Sudan, they feed in pineapple plantations, and they also destroy cotton plants by eating the flowers.

  • Negative Impacts
  • crop pest

Conservation Status

The conservation of patas monkeys is critical because of their already small population size, limited geographic range and the current destruction of their habitats. Hunting by humans has increased progressively, especially in West Africa. In areas where hunting occurs, mortality from hunting may obscure biological interactions that otherwise limit populations. Hunters kill patas monkeys for meat in the Ivory Coast. The mountain Nuba people and tribal groups also hunt patas monkeys. Many farmers and plantation owners shoot these monkeys when they raid their crops. Patas monkeys are collected and sold as pets or they are sold to medical research institutions. Over 1000 patas monkeys are collected per year.

There are now eighteen national parks and eleven reserves in which patas monkeys can be found. Some measures have been made to limit the number exported from these national parks and reserves. In Cameroon, exportation requires a permit.

Habitat expansion of patas monkeys is also occurring in places such as Senegal and East Africa as a result of deforestation and drought, which create habitats similar to those preferred by patas monkeys.

Other Comments

The appearance of patas monkeys contributes to the use of alternative names such as red guenons, Hussar monkeys, military monkeys, and dancing red monkeys.


Nancy Shefferly (editor), Animal Diversity Web.

Christopher Bonadio (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

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.

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


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.


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.


generally wanders from place to place, usually within a well-defined range.


an animal that mainly eats all kinds of things, including plants and animals

pet trade

the business of buying and selling animals for people to keep in their homes as pets.


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


Referring to something living or located adjacent to a waterbody (usually, but not always, a river or stream).

seasonal breeding

breeding is confined to a particular season


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.


defends an area within the home range, occupied by a single animals or group of animals of the same species and held through overt defense, display, or advertisement


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

tropical savanna and grassland

A terrestrial biome. Savannas are grasslands with scattered individual trees that do not form a closed canopy. Extensive savannas are found in parts of subtropical and tropical Africa and South America, and in Australia.


A grassland with scattered trees or scattered clumps of trees, a type of community intermediate between grassland and forest. See also Tropical savanna and grassland biome.

temperate grassland

A terrestrial biome found in temperate latitudes (>23.5° N or S latitude). Vegetation is made up mostly of grasses, the height and species diversity of which depend largely on the amount of moisture available. Fire and grazing are important in the long-term maintenance of grasslands.


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.


Barbara B. Smuts, D., R. Robert M. Seyfarth, Thomas T. Struhsaker. 1987. Primate Societies. Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press.

Encyclopedia Britannica, "" (On-line). Accessed November 9, 1999 at

Hays, R.W., 1990. A comparison of growth and sexual dimorphism in the patas monkey(Erythrocebus patas) and the African green monkeys (Cercopithecus aethiops). American Journal of Physical Anthropology, 81: 238.

Honolulu Zoo, 2005. "Patas Monkey" (On-line). Accessed May 30, 2005 at

Nowak, R. 1999. Walker's Mammals of the World, Sixth Edition. Baltimore and London: The Johns Hopkins University Press.

Struhsaker, T.T, G. 1970. Observations on the behaviour and ecology of the patas monkey(Erythrocebus patas) in the Waza Reserve, Cameroon. Journal of Zoology, 161: 49-63.

Wolfheim, Jaclyn H., 1983. Primates of the World: Distribution, Abundance, Conservation. Seattle and London: University of Washington Press.