Two incidents of venomous snakebite on juvenile blue and Sykes monkeys (Cercopithecus mitis stuhlmanni and C. m. albogularis)
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Although rarely observed, predation is thought to be an important factor in the evolution of primate life histories and behavior. Here I describe two incidents of snake predation on Cercopithecus mitis guenons from Kenya. The first case involved a juvenile blue monkey (Cercopithecus mitis stuhlmanni) in the Kakamega Forest, which died following a bite by a Gaboon viper (Bitis gabonica gabonica). The snake’s attempts to ingest its prey were unsuccessful. In the second incident, a juvenile Sykes monkey (Cercopithecus mitis albogularis) at Gede Ruins National Monument died suddenly after suffering symptoms that are characteristic of bites inflicted by black mambas (Dendroaspis polylepis). In both cases circumstantial evidence suggests that attacks occurred during extended play sessions in dense vegetation on or near the ground. If so, the observations support the hypothesis that play may be a costly activity.
KeywordsCercopithecus mitis Predation Snake bite Social play
The observations were made during a research project funded by the National Science Foundation (BSC 0550509), Columbia University, and the Earthwatch Institute. I am grateful to the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology, Government of Kenya, for permission to conduct research in the country, and to the National Museums of Kenya for allowing me to work at Gede Ruins National Monument. Special thanks go to Andrea Durczik for sharing her detailed notes on the Sykes monkey death.
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