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Airdate: Jan 11, 1999
Scientist: Kate Abernathy


This month is the peak of the birthing season for Mandrills in West Africa.

In the rainforests of west Africa, this month is the peak of birthing season for the primates known as Mandrills-- and for these animals, color, like sound, is an important means of communication. I'm Jim Metzner, and this is the Pulse of the Planet, presented by the American Museum of Natural History.

"A Mandrill is a terrestrial monkey. It's closely related to the baboon, so about the size of a dog-- a Labrador dog, for a male."

Kate Abernathy is a Research Fellow with the International Center for Medical Research in Gabon, Africa.

"The males are very brightly colored. They have red noses with white lines on their face on either side of the nose and then a bright yellow mane of fur around their face. And white ears. They have very bright purple coloration on the rump. So the whole animal is very spectacular. The bright colors on Mandrills are signals in the forest. They're very social animals, especially the females, they live all year round in very big troops-- hundreds of animals together. And as the forest it's a dark and dense environment, they need to stay in touch with each other. They use a lot of vocalizations but they also use color signals. The bright colors of the males are signals to the females that he's there but also warning colors to other males that he is big and bright and strong and they assess the strength of other males on the intensity of the coloration that they have."

More on Mandrills in future programs.

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Pulse of the Planet is presented by the American Museum of Natural History. Additional funding for this series has been provided by the National Science Foundation. I'm Jim Metzner.