Why do mandrills have colourful faces?

Male mandrills develop brilliantly coloured faces as they produce more testosterone with age, and the high ranking males have the brightest faces of all to let the other mandrills know who’s boss.

Mandrills are the biggest species of monkey  with males reaching heights of 65 centimetres (26 inches) and they roam the forests of central Africa in groups of up to 600. In the darkness of the trees, their vivid faces and hindquarters help mandrills follow each other and ensure no monkey gets left behind.

The electric blue and scarlet face of a dominant male mandrill tells neighbouring females that he is a top quality partner and will produce the strongest offspring. This ensures that the next generation will have prime DNA and reduces the chance of genetic mutations.

Females have facial colouration too, and this is thought to signal their reproductive status to the surrounding males. When a female comes into oestrus her face and rear end flush a deep pink so a male can recognise that she is ready to conceive.


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Image from www.flickr.com/photos/vegaseddie/3339507278