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Invasion of the Forest By an African Savannah Monkey: Behavioural Adaptations

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Tantalus monkeys, a race of the savannah species Cercopithecus aethiops, have invaded the cultivated forest of Bakossi in south-west Cameroon during the last seventy years and become important agricultural pests. The cultivated forest is a new habitat to which they are well adapted by virtue of their eclectic diet, their habit of foraging away from tall trees, their semi-terrestriality, their flexible group size and their cryptic nature. The indigenous related species of the rainforest are less able to exploit the changed habitat, probably because they are insufficiently terrestrial or cryptic and they typically forage among the trees that provide their refuge. As a result of their conflict with the farmers whose crops they raid, the forest tantalus monkeys contrast with conspecifics in the savannah by their less predictable ranging patterns, their quieter call repertoire, a striking and consistent male pattern of vigilance behaviour and their habit of hiding from dogs rather than giving the loud alarm calls that are invariably given where canids are not associated with man.

Affiliations: 1: Ethology and Neurophysiology Group, School of Biological Sciences, University of Sussex, Brighton, Sussex, U.K.


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