What Colors Are Monkeys?

July 16, 2023
David Sunnyside

Whether they're blue with orange feet or red with a white mustache, monkeys are colorful creatures. In this book, readers meet twelve monkeys from around the world and find out about their colors, habitats, and lifestyles.

Monkeys are non-ape primates that live in forests and jungles and spend a lot of time searching for fruits and leaves among the branches. They have relatively flat, short faces, move with all four limbs, and usually live in social family groups.

Color is a vital cue in monkeys' daily lives, especially for some species, such as the guenon. This group of African primates rely on color to communicate with each other, including in displays that signal they are looking for food or warning others not to steal their food. They also use their color to attract and repel predators, with some species having black faces that help them blend in.

One interesting finding from a recent study is that the color of monkeys' faces seems to be related to their environment and social structure. The study, led by Sharlene Santana, assistant professor of biology at the University of Washington and curator of mammals at the Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture, examined 139 species of catarrhines (Old World monkeys and apes) from Africa and Asia. Santana and her colleagues compared the facial color patterns of each animal to the species’ geographic location and environmental conditions.

For example, guenons that lived closer to the equator in dark forest environments had darker faces. This might be an adaptation to their environment, since darker face colors could help camouflage these primates so they can blend in with the green vegetation.

David Sunnyside
Co-founder of Urban Splatter • Digital Marketer • Engineer • Meditator
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