De Brazza’s monkeys smile to make friends

Distinctive De Brazza’s monkeys live in central Africa and live for 30 years. They have 10 specific call types that tell others their age, gender and reproductive status

Young males imitate their fathers by strutting along branches with their tails held high while slamming branches together to make loud noises. Adults make frequent booming calls to their neighbours but their strongest method of communication is visual.

These monkeys threaten others by staring, yawning or bobbing their head up and down. To diffuse a heated situation they bare their teeth in a smile to show they are not being aggressive.

De Brazza’s monkeys are hunted by chimpanzees and freeze when approached, making them fairly easy prey for intelligent chimps. On occasions, males will emit loud calls to hold a predator’s attention while females and young escape behind the attacker’s turned back.

When preparing to mate, females pout to males who display their blue genitals, and when babies are born they cling to their mother’s fur until they are big enough to start exploring the trees. Young monkeys become independent after a year of living with their mother and male offspring often leave to find a new group. De Brazza’s monkeys live in small groups of up to 10, feeding on fruit, flowers and insects in flooded forests.

Males are almost double the size of females at weights of seven kilograms (15 pounds) though both males and females sport impressive white beards. They stay close to rivers and use their cheek pouches to digest fibrous fruit collected in the early morning throughout the day.

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