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Wolves & Monkeys

July 1, 2015

An unusual relationship has formed between Ethiopian wolves and gelada baboons.

Transcript

BOB HIRSHON (host):

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An Ethiopian wolf among a herd of grazing gelada monkeys. (© Jeff Kerby)

Can monkeys help wolves? I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

Wolves and monkeys are about the last animals you’d expect to co-exist peacefully. But in the highlands of Ethiopia, gelada baboons tolerate the presence of wolves, which hunt for rodents as the primates graze.

VIVEK VENKATARAMAN (Dartmouth College):

Up to two hours at a time, these animals can be within meters of each other.

HIRSHON:

After Dartmouth primatologist Vivek Venkatraman and a team of field researchers started noticing this behavior, they decided to quantify the wolves’ rodent hunting habits.

VENKATARAMAN:

And sure enough, what we found was that they spend a higher proportion of their time hunting when they’re among the monkeys and they’re also better at it: they’re more likely to have a successful attempt.

HIRSHON:

The researchers don’t yet know why the wolves catch more prey when they’re near baboons. But they write in the Journal of Mammalogy that the noisy primates could be driving the rodents aboveground, or making it harder for them to detect predators. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.