Racing guenons of the African savannahs
Monkeys are regarded as very skilful and agile when it comes to climbing trees, but being very fast runners surely is not one of their main characteristics. But - as always - there are exceptions from the rule in this case too. One of these exceptions is the Patas monkey, the speed-record-holder among all apes. It reaches speeds of more than 50 km/h in not more than three seconds. Patas monkeys are related to guenons. They have long and strong legs and relatively short feet and toes - characteristics, which identify them as fast sprinters. Climbing trees is not their ambition - they are adapted to living on the ground. The Patas monkeys' favourite habitats are the African savannahs south of the Sahara, dominated by grasslands and areas of acacia bushes, where hardly any trees can be found.
Being inconspicuous means being secure
Males and females are quite different in size and appearance. Reaching a length of almost 90 cm and a weight of up to 13 kg, male Patas monkeys are almost twice as large as females. The contrasts in the reddish brown coloured fur are more conspicuous in males than in females. A typical Patas monkey group consists of one adult male and several females with their young of different ages. But there are also groups consisting exclusively of males. Those males are former "harem males", which have been expelled by a rival or young males, which reached sexual maturity and had to leave their mother's group. While searching for food the members of the group spread themselves out over a wide area. Being distant to each other is part of their strategy to be as inconspicuous as possible in order to escape the attention of predators. In contrast to most other monkey species Patas monkeys are quite silent. But if they are - in spite of all their effort to be inconspicuous - detected by a predator, their only chance to escape is to run as fast as possible; opportunities to hide themselves are extremely scarce in their habitat.
The females are in command
The "harem male" keeps itself extraordinarily far away from the other group members and doesn't seem to be integrated very closely into the group. It isn't the leader of the group either; this is the task of the highest ranking female. Being a look-out is the function of the "harem male". It often can be seen in places, where it is able to survey the surroundings for predators and other Patas monkey groups. As long as it is able to fulfil its duties and isn't expelled by another male, it is allowed to stay with the group and father descendants. Young are born after a pregnancy of half a year and are weaned at an age of six months. They become sexually mature when two and a half year old. Patas monkeys reach an age of about 20 years.
Female Patas monkey