Baboon is a very common species that lives in Africa. They are often mentioned in books, we can meet them in feature films and cartoons. These monkeys are highly aggressive, but at the same time they skillfully get along with people. For their colorful appearance, baboons have been nicknamed “dog-faced” monkeys.
Origin of the species and description
Baboons belong to the genus of primates and the monkey family. The classical classification distinguishes five subspecies of baboons, but scientists are arguing about the allocation of individual species among the categories.
So far, the following subspecies have been distinguished:
- anubis baboon. Large primates from Central Africa;
- hamadryas. They are distinguished by thick hair, a mane and a pronounced scarlet ischial callus;
- guinea baboon. A little-studied species of baboons, the smallest representative of the species;
- baboon. Small primate capable of interbreeding with many subspecies of baboons;
- bear baboon. The largest baboon, characterized by a sparse coat and living in South Africa.
All members of the marmoset family have characteristic features that can be recognized by them. These include:
- the so-called “dog's head” — elongated narrow muzzle;
- the presence of large fangs;
- a long tail that is never used for grasping purposes;
- move exclusively on four legs;
- almost all species have pronounced ischial calluses.
From other families of monkeys, the marmoset family differs in aggressiveness not only in the mating season. There were cases when monkeys of the family attacked tourists, smashed city stalls, smashed car windows. Their body constitution allows them to move quickly and deliver strong blows, and the sizes of these monkeys range from medium to large.
Appearance and Features
Males and females differ from each other in size: males are much larger, thicker than females. Often they have a thick mane and large muscle mass, as well as long fangs that females cannot boast of. In many ways, such gender differences are due to the way of life, where the male plays the role of guarding the harem.
The color of baboons varies depending on the subspecies and habitat. It can be dark gray or almost black in color, brown, brown, beige, silver gray. By the color of the male, you can determine his age, by the mane – social status. Leading males (there may be several if the individuals are young) have a well-groomed, thick mane, which is carefully combed out to each other.
Interesting fact: The mane and color of older males are darker than young; a similar gradation is also noticeable in other representatives of the African fauna – lions.
Baboons are also distinguished by their tail: as a rule, it is shorter than that of other monkeys, since it does not perform any important functions. The first third of the tail, coming from the back, curves and sticks up, while the rest hangs down. A monkey cannot move such a tail, it does not perform a grasping function.
Baboons move on four legs, but their front legs are sufficiently developed to perform grasping functions. The length of baboons varies depending on the subspecies: from 40 to 110 cm. A bear baboon can reach a mass of 30 kg. – Only gorillas are the largest of the monkeys.
The dog-like muzzle is another distinguishing feature of baboons. This is a long, narrow muzzle with close-set eyes, a long nose with nostrils looking up. Baboons have powerful jaws, which makes them serious contenders in a fight, and tough wool protects them from many bites of predators.
The muzzle of a baboon is not covered with hair or has a little down, acquired with age. The color of the muzzle can be black, brown or pink (almost beige). Bright is the ischial callus – usually black, brown or red. In females of some subspecies, it swells during the mating season and takes on a rich crimson color.
Where does the baboon live?
Baboons are heat-loving monkeys, but the habitat itself is not important to them. They can be found in tropical areas, in deserts, semi-deserts, savannahs, in rocky hills and in clay territory. Omnivorousness makes them a common species.
Baboons live throughout the African continent, but the range is divided between different species:
- bear baboon can be found in Angola, South Africa, Kenya;
- baboon and anubis live in the north and equator of Africa;
- Guinean lives in Cameroon, Guinea and Sengal;
- Hamadryan is located in Sudan, Ethiopia, in the Aden region of the Arabian Peninsula and on the Somali Islands.
Baboons are not afraid of people, and their pack lifestyle gives them even more self-confidence. Therefore, flocks of baboons settle on the outskirts of cities or in villages, where they steal food and even attack local residents. Rummaging through garbage and garbage dumps, they become carriers of dangerous diseases.
Interesting fact: In the last century, the baboons of the Cape Peninsula plundered the plantations and killed the settlers' livestock.
Usually baboons live on the ground, where they are engaged in gathering and – less often – hunting. Thanks to a clear social structure, they are not afraid of predators, who can easily get any monkeys that are vulnerable on the ground. If a baboon wants to sleep, he climbs the nearest tree or any other hill, but there are always sentinel baboons who are ready to notify the monkeys of the approaching danger.
Baboons do not build nests and do not create inhabited shelters – they just feed in a certain territory and migrate to a new one, if food becomes scarce, water supplies are depleted, or there are too many predators around.
What does a baboon eat?
Baboons are omnivores, although they prefer plant foods. In search of food, one individual is able to overcome up to 60 km., In which camouflage color helps.
Usually, the diet of baboons includes:
- soft roots and tubers of plants;
- seeds and green grass;
- fish, molluscs, crustaceans;
- locusts, large larvae and other protein insects;
- small birds;
- medium-sized mammals, including ungulates;
- occasionally baboons can eat carrion if the flock is hungry for a long time, although they do they are extremely reluctant to do so.
Baboons are not shy or timid monkeys. Sometimes they can beat off fresh prey from solitary predators – young lions or jackals. Also, monkeys, adapted to life in cities, successfully raid cars and food stalls, from where food is stolen.
Fun fact: During periods of drought, baboons have learned to dig up the bottom of dry rivers, extracting drops of moisture to quench their thirst.
Often baboons rummage through the garbage, where they also look for food. In South Africa, baboons are caught from the natives of sheep, goats and poultry. Baboons get used to being raiders and, having successfully tried to steal food once, they get used to this occupation forever. But baboons are hardy animals, which allows them to stay without food or even drink for a long time.
Now you know what the baboon eats. Let's see how he lives in the wild.
Character and lifestyle features
Baboons are slow animals that lead a terrestrial lifestyle. Accordingly, they need a good system of protection against predators, which they provide a rigid hierarchy. There are about six males and twice as many females in a flock of baboons. The leader is the leader – usually an adult baboon. He directs the movements of the flock in search of food, is the main defense of the flock, the first to fight with attacking predators.
Interesting fact: Sometimes a strong male leader comes to overthrow two or three young males, who then manage the pack together.
Young males below the leader also have its own hierarchy: among them there are higher and lower. Their status gives them an advantage in the choice of food, but at the same time, the higher the status, the more the male must participate in the active protection of the pack.
Young males watch around the clock to see if the flock is in any danger. Baboons have more than thirty sound signals announcing certain events, including alarms. If a dangerous predator is detected, the leader rushes to him, which uses massive jaws and sharp fangs. If the leader fails, other males may come to the rescue.
Young males also participate in the defense if the pack is under group attack. Then a fight ensues, in which there are often dead – and not always on the side of the monkeys. Baboons fight mercilessly, act in a coordinated manner, which is why many predators simply bypass them.
An important part in the life of baboons is grooming – combing wool. It also shows the social status of the animal, because the most “combed out” is the leader of the pack. Among females there is also a hierarchy in grooming, but it does not affect their social status in general: all females are equally guarded by males.
Social structure and reproduction
Only the leader can mate indefinitely flocks, the rest of the males, for the most part, do not have the right to mate with females at all. This is due to the fact that the leader has the best qualities that help monkeys survive – strength, endurance, aggressiveness. It is these qualities that should be passed on to potential offspring.
An adult male at the age of 9 starts his own harem of females. Males at 4-6 years old either have one female or do without them at all. But when the male outgrows the age of 15, his harem gradually disintegrates – the females leave for younger males.
Interesting fact: Homosexual relationships are not uncommon among baboons. Sometimes two young males overthrow an old leader while in a homosexual relationship.
Baboons do not have a breeding season – females are ready to mate at the age of three. Baboons fight for females, but usually young males recognize the unquestioning right to mate for the leader. He has a great responsibility, because he does not leave pregnant females and females with cubs alone – he gets them food and regularly communicates with offspring. Young males who have acquired one female behave in a similar way, but their relationship with her is closer.
Pregnancy lasts about 160 days, a small baboon weighs about 400 g. It clings tightly to the mother's belly with its paws, and in this position the mother carries it with her. When the baby becomes an adult and stops feeding on milk, he can follow the mother – this happens at the age of 6 months.
Interesting fact: Baboons have a feature that is widespread in pygmy chimpanzees. If a conflict arises within the flock, sometimes the hormone of aggression turns into the production of hormones of sexual arousal, and instead of a fight, baboons have sexual intercourse.
At 4 months, a transition occurs age – the baboon's coat brightens, becomes thicker, acquires a color characteristic of the subspecies. The young are united in a group, which also establishes its own hierarchy. At 3-5 years old, males tend to leave the flock as early as possible, and young females prefer to stay with their mothers, occupying their niche in the flock hierarchy.
Natural enemies of the baboon
Predators prefer to avoid flocks of baboons, but may attack a single female, cubs or young baboons who left the flock at the age of five.
Usually baboons face the following enemies:
- flocks of lions;
- leopards are the main enemies of baboons, because they skillfully hide on the trees;
- hyenas, which even the leaders of baboons are afraid of;
- jackals, red wolves;
- sometimes baboons stumble upon a black mamba that kills them with poison in self-defense.
Predators do not threaten the baboon population, as they can fight back anyone. Rushing at the enemy in a large group, they utter screams and beat their paws on the ground, producing a shocking effect on the threat. Females usually do not need self-defense, as they are guarded by males.
An adult male, as a rule, is able to cope with almost any threat himself. Often a baboon can be seen in a fight with a leopard, from which the predator usually comes out as a loser – he quickly leaves the battlefield, sometimes acquiring serious wounds from the sharp fangs of the monkey.
Population and species status
Despite the fact that baboons are a very common species, there is still a threat of extinction in the future. This is facilitated by active deforestation and the development of savannahs and steppes in which baboons live.
On the other hand, the activities of poachers and climate change have affected the populations of predators such as lions, leopards and hyenas, which are among the main baboon enemies. This allows baboons to multiply and uncontrollably, which makes some African regions overpopulated with this species of monkeys.
An increase in the animal population leads to the fact that baboons come into contact with people. Monkeys are dangerous, aggressive and carriers of many diseases, they also destroy plantations and livestock.
Baboons are a good specimen for scientists to study, as they have electrophysical sleep stages similar to human ones. Also, humans and baboons have a similar reproductive system, the same hormone action and hematopoietic mechanisms.
Controlled breeding of baboons in zoos is a good measure of population control. Despite the aggressiveness, the baboon is an intelligent animal, which makes it even more in demand in the study.