Red-tailed monkey

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Red-tailed monkey [1]
Red-tailed monkey (Cercopithecus ascanius).jpg
Semliki Wildlife Reserve, Uganda
Scientific classification Red Pencil Icon.png
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Primates
Suborder: Haplorhini
Infraorder: Simiiformes
Family: Cercopithecidae
Genus: Cercopithecus
C. ascanius
Binomial name
Cercopithecus ascanius
(Audebert, 1799)
Cercopithecus ascanius distribution.svg
Geographic range

The red-tailed monkey, also known as the black-cheeked white-nosed monkey, red-tailed guenon, redtail monkey, or Schmidt's guenon (Cercopithecus ascanius) is a species of primate in the family Cercopithecidae.


It is found in Angola, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Kenya, Rwanda, South Sudan, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia, and possibly Burundi. The red-tailed monkey is usually black, red, or orange. Although native to this region, it has spread north and south as well as it can survive in different habitats and under different conditions. It is a distinct creature in its habitats and is gradually becoming endangered due to deforestation and over-exploitation through hunting and predation.

Taxonomy and classification

All primates are within the class Mammalia due to the distinguishing features of all mammals such as mammary glands, hair, and placental delivery of young. Primates are then in the Order Primates which is separated into two Sub-orders, Haplorhini and Strepsorhini. Sub-order Haplorhini is characterized by having a dry nose and nostrils that are oval in shape while sub-order Strepsorhini have moist noses with nostrils that are elliptical in shape. The red-tailed guenon is within the sub-order Haplorhini which is separated into two parvorders. Parvorder Catarrhini are the Old World monkeys and parvorder Platyrrhini are New World monkeys. Red-tailed monkeys are within the Parvorder Catarrhini and have nostrils that point downward which differs from the Platyrrhini which have nostrils that point to the sides. The overall classification of the red-tailed monkey is:


Distinguishing features

The species Cercopthecus ascanius in an arboreal habitat in Uganda, Africa. Red-Tailed Monkey, Uganda (15587657375).jpg
The species Cercopthecus ascanius in an arboreal habitat in Uganda, Africa.
A skull at the Museum Wiesbaden in Wiesbaden, Germany Cercopithecus ascanius 04 MWNH 282.jpg
A skull at the Museum Wiesbaden in Wiesbaden, Germany

The red-tailed monkey is named as it sounds, for its red coloration of the tail's underside as well as the bi-coloration of the tail as the reddish color increases from the base to the tip. There are other features characteristic to this mammal as well such as the white nose and cheeks in the midst of black or dark grey body fur. Red-tailed monkeys also have very large, elastic cheeks which are used in gathering food and storing it in their mouths for safety. [3]


Sizes of their bodies range between individuals as well as between the sexes as males are larger than the females. Body length ranges from 1 to 2 foot (12-24 inches), without the tail included, males being on the upper end of the scale and females being on the lower. Adult males also weigh between 7 and 10 pounds and females weigh slightly less between 6 and 8 pounds. The tail length can reach up to 35 inches long which can be twice the body length for some red-tailed monkeys. The tail helps the monkeys achieve balance.


Communication and vocalization

Red-tailed monkeys communicate using different methods which are characteristic of communicating specific behaviors or things. Physical and vocal communication are used between members of social groups of these monkeys to demonstrate social dominance, submissiveness, or greeting. Vocal communication is used between members of social groups of red-tailed monkeys in which the more submissive monkey will make a soft, oscillating call to its elder. Physical communication is exhibited in nose to nose greetings where two red-tailed guenons touch their noses together. This is a sign of affection and can be followed by playful behavior. Visual communication is used as a sign of warning to others to stay away and as a defense against predators. Red-tailed monkeys practice staring or staring with their mouth open. When these monkeys implement staring, they lift their eyebrows to retract the skin on their forehead which makes the skin on the face expand backwards revealing the underneath of their eyelids. On the dark fur background, their eyelids can be seen very easily by others and understand it as a display that the red-tailed monkey is being threatened and the other species needs to stay away. Head-bobbing is another threat display in which the monkey moves its head up and down. These types of communication can be used separately or together depending on how threatened the monkey feels to its surroundings. [4] Other types of communication are used such as chemical and olfactory communication; however, not much information is available on this type of communication.

Feeding habits

Red-tailed monkeys are primarily fructivorous, but are considered omnivorous because they will eat leaves, flowers, or insects in times where fruit is scarce. As they forage, these monkeys gather their findings in the expandable cheeks of their mouths. The pouches will hold a large amount of food where they can forage in one area and then carry their food away to another location where it is safe to consume without the threat of another stealing from them. [3]

Social structure

Red-tailed monkeys are social primates that form groups that can range in size from 7 to 30 individuals. The groups consist of one dominant male and females and their offspring, male or female juveniles. Groups generally stay together through all periods of the day and through life, except for males who reach maturity. These males will leave the group they were born into and go on to form all male groups with other red-tailed monkey males or survive alone until they can replace the dominant male of a different social group. [5] The females practice allomaternal care in which the various females in a group will help take care of their own young as well as the young of other females in the group. Often, the different social groups will congregate for support from each other when food is unlimited and in abundance. [6]

Activity and habitat

Red-tailed monkeys are active in the early morning and evening which is characterized as diurnal activity. They act as important seed dispersers as they collect fruit and other food items. Their dispersal is throughout the tropical forest of in East and Central Africa ranging to Kenya and many areas of the Congo. The red-tailed monkey species is categorized in recognized subspecies and these subspecies have different ranges, the subspecies C. a. schmidti having the widest distribution from Congo into countries of Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda and the subspecies C. a. atrinasus having the smallest distribution restricted to a local habitat of Zovo, Angola. [7] They are primarily arboreal but will come to the ground. In the trees, they are very active and travel at greater speeds than being on the ground. On the ground, they travel quadrupedally, on all four legs. While they show a dominating preference for being arboreal in activity and where they choose to rest, they forage on the ground and as a result, they spend an adequate amount of their time on the forest floor as well. [8]


Like all placental mammals, red-tailed monkeys produce viviparous young. They tend to only give birth to a single young per mating season. [3] Their mating system is characterized as polygynous meaning that one male mates with multiple females and is a common sight in mammals due to advantages of the grouped social system. The most prominent and successful mating season is from the month of November extending into the month of February; however, breeding can occur throughout the course of an entire year. [6] In some studies, it has been seen that the red-tailed monkey will interbreed and hybridize with another species in its genus: the blue monkey (C. mitis). The hybrids have been seen on the terrestrial island of Gombe, Tanzania, and this hybridization could serve a vital purpose in the reproduction of both the red-tailed and blue monkey species, and quite possibly, produce a new species in the future. [9]

Conservation status

Conservation efforts for the red-tailed monkey are of "least concern" as listed by the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. [2] This has been justified because this species of monkey is located at many different habitats throughout the Congo and throughout East-Central Africa. Also, the species is quite abundant in these areas and they have an average lifespan of about 28 years. [3] The red-tailed monkey is subject to predation by crowned eagles, wild cats, and occasionally, humans and chimpanzees. Despite the influence of predation on their population, no major threat to this species in terms of endangerment is posed, although some locations of their habitat suffer from deforestation and hunting pressure as well.

Related Research Articles

Old World monkey Family of mammals

Old World monkey is the common English name for a family of primates known taxonomically as the Cercopithecidae. Twenty-four genera and 138 species are recognized, making it the largest primate family. Old World monkey genera include baboons, macaques, and mabahlls. Common names for other Old World monkeys include the talapoin, guenon, colobus, douc, vervet, gelada, mangabey, langur, mandrill, surili (Presbytis), patas, and proboscis monkey. Phylogenetically, they are more closely related to apes than to New World monkeys. They diverged from a common ancestor of New World monkeys around 55 million years ago.


Haplorhini, the haplorhines or the "dry-nosed" primates, is a suborder of primates containing the tarsiers and the simians, as sister of the Strepsirrhini ("moist-nosed"). The name is sometimes spelled Haplorrhini. The simians include catarrhines, and the platyrrhines.

Guenon Genus of Old World monkeys

The guenons are the genus Cercopithecus of Old World monkeys. Not all members of this genus have the word "guenon" in their common names; also, because of changes in scientific classification, some monkeys in other genera may have common names that include the word "guenon". Nonetheless, the use of the term guenon for monkeys of this genus is widely accepted.

Blue monkey Species of Old World monkey

The blue monkey or diademed monkey is a species of Old World monkey native to Central and East Africa, ranging from the upper Congo River basin east to the East African Rift and south to northern Angola and Zambia. It sometimes includes Sykes', silver, and golden monkeys as subspecies.

Dryas monkey Species of Old World monkey

The Dryas monkey, also known as Salonga monkey, ekele, or inoko, is a little-known species of guenon found only in the Congo Basin, restricted to the left bank of the Congo River. It is now established that the animals that had been classified as Cercopithecus salongo were in fact Dryas monkeys. Some older sources treat the Dryas monkey as a subspecies of the Diana monkey and classify it as C. diana dryas, but it is geographically isolated from any known Diana monkey population.

White-throated guenon Species of Old World monkey

The white-throated guenon, also known as the red-bellied monkey and the red-bellied guenon, is a diurnal primate that lives on trees of rainforests or tropical areas of Nigeria and Benin.

Preusss monkey Species of Old World monkey

The Preuss's monkey, also known as Preuss's guenon, is a diurnal primate that lives terrestrially in mountainous forests of eastern Nigeria, western Cameroon and Bioko in Equatorial Guinea. It was formerly classified as a subspecies of the L'Hoest's monkey.

Sun-tailed monkey Species of Old World monkey

The sun-tailed monkey from Gabon is one of the least studied primates in its habitat. It was discovered as a new species in 1988, and is classified as a guenon, which is a member of the genus Cercopithecus, but was subsequently moved to the genus Allochrocebus. It is closely related to A. preussi and A. Ihoesti, which has been determined by chromosomal analysis. Sun-tailed monkeys prefer shady areas with dense vegetation. However, even after small amounts of logging activity, populations can be unaffected. Much of their diet remains unknown and is still being studied, but they are known to prefer fruit. Their social groups are made up of one male and multiple females. Generally, the sun-tailed monkey is less aggressive towards related individuals, which is noteworthy because it has been found that, in other primate species, aggression rates towards related individuals are generally as high or higher than aggression rates towards non-related individuals. Within their social groups, individual monkeys show preference for their mothers over their fathers, and are overall less aggressive to other monkeys that they are associated with spatially.

Allens swamp monkey Species of Old World monkey

The Allen's swamp monkey is a primate species categorized in its own genus Allenopithecus in the Old World monkey family. Phylogenetically, it is a sister clade to the guenons, but differs in dentition and habits.

De Brazzas monkey Species of Old World monkey

De Brazza's monkey is an Old World monkey endemic to the riverine and swamp forests of central Africa. The largest species in the guenon family, it is one of the most widespread arboreal African primates. Aside from size, it can be differentiated from other cercopithecus monkeys by its orange diadem and white beard. Due to its cryptic nature, the species is not well documented in all of its habitats but has shown unique traits such as pair-bonding and aggressive behavior towards other guenons.

Mona monkey Species of Old World monkey

The mona monkey is an Old World monkey that lives in western Africa between Ghana and Cameroon. The mona monkey can also be found on the island of Grenada as it was transported to the island aboard slave ships headed to the New World during the 18th century. This guenon lives in groups of up to thirty-five in forests. It mainly feeds on fruit, but sometimes eats insects and leaves. The mona monkey has brown agouti fur with a white rump. Its tail and legs are black and the face is blue-grey with a dark stripe across the face. The mona monkey carries food in cheek pouches.

Hamlyns monkey Species of Old World monkey

The Hamlyn's monkey, also known as the owl-faced monkey, is a species of Old World monkey that inhabits the bamboo and primary rainforests of the Congo. This species is exceedingly rare and known only from a few specimens; little is known about it. However these specimens tend to be widely dispersed throughout the eastern part of Congo, from the Epulu River to the Lukuga River and from the Congo River to the Kabale Forest, with one example in northwestern Rwanda. Geographically it corresponds quite closely to another species of monkey, L'Hoest's monkey C. lhoesti. It travels on the ground, and researchers think that it may be awake primarily by night.

LHoests monkey Species of mammal

L'Hoest's monkey or mountain monkey, is a guenon found in the upper eastern Congo basin. They mostly live in mountainous forest areas in small, female-dominated groups. They have a dark coat and can be distinguished by a characteristic white beard.

Wolfs mona monkey Species of Old World monkey

Wolf's mona monkey, also called Wolf's guenon, is a colourful Old World monkey in the family Cercopithecidae. It is found in central Africa, primarily between the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Uganda. It lives in primary and secondary lowland rainforest and swamp forest.

Campbells mona monkey Species of Old World monkey

Campbell's mona monkey, also known as Campbell's guenon and Campbell's monkey is a species of primate in the family Cercopithecidae found in the Ivory Coast, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Liberia, Senegal, and Sierra Leone. It was named for Henry Dundas Campbell, in 1838. Lowe's mona monkey was previously considered a subspecies of Campbell's mona monkey. The International Union for Conservation of Nature has rated this species as being a near-threatened species because it has a wide range and is able to adapt to degraded habitats.

Red-eared guenon Species of Old World monkey

The red-eared guenon, red-eared monkey, or russet-eared guenon is a species of primate in the family Cercopithecidae. It is found in Cameroon, Equatorial Guinea, and Nigeria. Its natural habitat is subtropical or tropical moist lowland forests. It is threatened by habitat loss, illegal bushmeat hunting and pet trade.

Lesser spot-nosed monkey Species of Old World monkey

The lesser spot-nosed monkey, lesser spot-nosed guenon, lesser white-nosed guenon, or lesser white-nosed monkey is a species of primate in the family Cercopithecidae. It is found in Ivory Coast, Ghana, Guinea, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Togo, Guinea-Bissau, and possibly Senegal.

Crested mona monkey Species of Old World monkey

The crested mona monkey, also known as the crowned guenon, crowned monkey, golden-bellied guenon, or golden-bellied monkey,, is a species of African primate in the family Cercopithecidae found in west central Africa.

Roloway monkey Species of Old World monkey

The roloway monkey is an endangered species of Old World monkey endemic to tropical West Africa. It was previously considered a subspecies of the Diana monkey. It is classified as Critically Endangered due to habitat loss and continued hunting for the bushmeat trade. The roloway monkeys are mainly arboreal species, for the most part inhabiting forests in Ghana and some reserves in South-Eastern Côte-D'Ivoire. More specifically studies have shown that the C. diana roloway is mostly concentrated in Tanoé forest because of their heavy threats to extinction.

Tantalus monkey Species of Old World monkey

The tantalus monkey is an Old World monkey from Africa that ranges from Ghana to Sudan. It was originally described as a subspecies of the grivet. All species in Chlorocebus were formerly in the genus Cercopithecus. It is a common species with a wide range, and the International Union for Conservation of Nature has rated its conservation status as being of "least concern".


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  3. 1 2 3 4 "Schmidt's red-tailed monkey". Smithsonian's National Zoo. 2016-04-25. Retrieved 2016-11-28.
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  5. "Red-Tailed guenon (Cercopithecus ascanius)" (PDF). The Maryland Zoo in Baltimore. February 15, 2014. Retrieved November 28, 2016.
  6. 1 2 "Cercopithecus ascanius (black-cheeked white-nosed monkey)". Animal Diversity Web. Retrieved 2016-11-28.
  7. "Red-tail Monkey - Cercopithecus ascanius - Details - Encyclopedia of Life". Encyclopedia of Life. Retrieved 2016-11-29.
  8. Bektic, Lejla (2009). "Habitat Preference and Foraging Behaviour in Adult Red-tailed Monkeys (Cercopithecus ascanuis)" (PDF). Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences Department of Animal Environment and Health Ethology and Animal Welfare Programs. Retrieved November 29, 2016.
  9. Detwiler, Kate M. (2004-01-01). "Hybridization between Red-tailed Monkeys (Cercopithecus ascanius) and Blue Monkeys (C. Mitis) in East African Forests". In Glenn, Mary E.; Cords, Marina (eds.). The Guenons: Diversity and Adaptation in African Monkeys. Developments in Primatology: Progress and Prospects. Springer US. pp. 79–97. doi:10.1007/0-306-48417-x_7. ISBN   9780306473463.