Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Creature Feature: (Drunk) Vervet Monkeys.

There are a lot of awkward things about humans. The feet and spine are far from ideal for a biped. We can eat meat even if we really shouldn't. For some reason, liquor has been a part of human civilization since forever. If the Aquatic Ape Theory is a thing, why not a Drunk Ape Theory?

OK, fine. Those aren't apes, they're vervet monkeys (Chlorocebus pygerythrus).Vervet monkeys are small monkeys native to the Eastern coast of Africa. Some populations also exist on Saint Kitts, Barbados, and Nevis as a result of the African slave trade. They eat mostly vegetation. Oh, and given the chance, they will also indulge in liquor. It's not uncommon amongst primates, really. Evolution is a thing!

These particular vervet monkeys are residents of Saint Kitts Island in the Caribbean. Since their introduction, the monkeys have taken to the drinks offered at Caribbean resorts. Scientists studied the monkeys for two years. They found shockingly close parallels with human behavior that, aside from signs of blatant drunkenness, would not be obvious to the casual observer. The ratios of, say, drinkers to teetotalers are exactly the same between the vervets and humans, for example. The drunken monkeys also seem to be the popular ones, but don't give yourself alcohol poisoning trying to prove this one in humans.

Hi, I'm Lori, and my monkey's an alcoholic. Disclaimer: this ranch probably does not give its monkeys booze.

But wait! These monkeys are pretty cool when they aren't drunk, too! They have hypertension and anxiety disorders exactly as found in humans. They are also among the few animals in nature who are actually spiteful, destroying the food sources of competitors instead of consuming it themselves. Primates: so much like us, in all the wrong ways. Your mileage may vary.

Vervet monkeys are also very vocal. They are among the few non-human animals to have something resembling words: specific alarm calls for specific predators. They have a different call for snakes than they do for eagles, a different call for eagles than baboons, and so on. I don't think anybody has tried to test the effect of liquor on these calls, but it would be funny to see.

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