Herd of 'Bleeding Hearts'
|[Note Guidelines] Photographer's Note|
|Late in the afternoon gelada monkeys (Theropithecus gelada) finish grazing on the grasses and herbs that make up their daily habitat and congregate atop the slopes that lead down towards their sleeping cliffs. They spend this time resting, chatting, and grooming one another. In the distance is the void of the great rift valley which this Afro-alpine grassland braces to the west. The grassland sits at high altitude (~3,500m) above the tree-line on a 115 sq. km. plateau called the "Guassa". This site houses one of the largest gelada populations outside of the Simien Mountains National Park that lies several hundred kilometers to the North. |
The title refers to a nickname often given to geladas, 'The Bleeding Heart Baboon'. Recent trends are shying away from calling geladas baboons as they represent their own distinct and highly specialized genus (Theropithecus). 'Bleeding Heart' refers to the sexual skin the geladas have on their chests. They spend much their time in a sitting position while they graze for grass and herbs, so the typical placement of sexual skin (i.e. the butt) on many primates just wouldn't be as effective in this case. Evolution came up with a handy solution and in this last extant member of the genus, both males and females have a red sexual skin on their chests. Females' chests undergo further transformations during estrus when a ring of pink/red beads tumesce around the outside of the skin. This is a sign for males that females are ready to mate.
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Very good document of this gelada monkeys populations.