Green monkeys, scientifically known as Chlorocebus sabaeus, is a type of Old World monkey found primarily in West Africa, from Senegal to the Volta River. They are a medium-sized primate species, typically weighing between 4 to 8 kilograms, with males usually being larger than females. Green monkeys live in various habitats, including savannas, woodland areas, and forests near bodies of water. They are highly social animals, often forming groups of up to 50 individuals.
The term “green” in their name can be misleading as these monkeys are not exactly green in color. Their fur combines grey and yellow, but blending these hues often gives off a greenish or olive appearance in certain lights. The vibrant hue can also be influenced by the angle of the light and the structure of the monkey’s fur, which can scatter light to emphasize the green effect.
Although the green monkey is a prominent example, other monkey species exhibit varying degrees of greenish or olive tint in their coats. Notably, these species belong to the same genus, Chlorocebus, which consists of vervet monkeys. Among them, the following species display a greenish or olive color in their fur:
Chlorocebus pygerythrus, also known as the vervet monkey, is typically found in East Africa.
Chlorocebus aethiops, the grivet, which is native to the savannas of East Africa.
Chlorocebus tantalus, the tantalus monkey, inhabits areas in Central Africa.
Chlorocebus djamdjamensis, the Bale Mountains vervet, is an endemic monkey species in the Bale Mountains of Ethiopia.
Chlorocebus cynosuros – Known as the Malbrouck, native to Angola, Zambia, and Mozambique.
Chlorocebus rufoviridis – The red-tailed monkey, often known as the black-cheeked white-nosed monkey, red-tailed guenon, redtail monkey, or Schmidt’s guenon.
Outside the Chlorocebus genus, other primate species also sometimes exhibit greenish hues in certain light conditions, largely due to the interaction of light with their fur. Some examples include:
Alouatta palliata – Known as the mantled howler, a species of howler monkey that has fur which can sometimes look greenish because of yellow and black strands mixed together.
Cercopithecus mitis – The blue monkey or diademed monkey is not blue but gets its name from the blueish hue that can be created from the interplay of light on its dark fur, which can sometimes appear olive or green in certain light conditions.
Trachypithecus obscurus – Also known as the dusky leaf monkey, spectacled langur, or spectacled leaf monkey. It has greyish fur that can have a greenish tint in certain lighting.
Remember, these subtle green or olive hues are often a result of the interaction between light and the structure and color of the monkey’s fur, rather than the fur being green in color in the same way that grass or leaves are.
Species Name: Allenopithecus nigroviridis Skin Color(s): Brown, gray and green
Allen's swamp monkeys are small, stocky monkeys with gray to brown fur and long tails. These highly social primates live in the swamp forests of central Africa, where they mostly spend their time in the trees. It was named after Joel Asaph Allen, an American zoologist.
Species Name: Miopithecus talapoin Skin Color(s): Greenish-gray, greenish-yellow, and grayish-white
Also known as the Southern talapoin, Angolan talapoin is a primate species in the Cercopithecidae family. Tail color varies from grayish-black to brownish-black above and is yellow or yellowish-gray below. The Angolan talapoin monkeys are among the smallest species of Old-World monkeys.
Species Name: Chlorocebus djamdjamensis Skin Color(s): Dark brown
The Bale monkey, also called the Bale Mountain Vervet, is an endangered, forest-dwelling arboreal primate restricted to a small range in the southern highlands of Ethiopia. The bale monkey depends primarily on a single species of bamboo (Arundinaria Alpina) and favors a bamboo forest habitat. These African primates feature small round heads, and their bodies are covered with a layer of dark-brown fur.
Species Name: Miopithecus ogouensis Skin Color(s): Greenish-gray
The Gabon talapoin, also called the northern talapoin, is a small species of African primate endemic to riverine habitats in Gabon, Equatorial Guinea, Cameroon, the far western Democratic Republic of the Congo, and the western Republic of the Congo.
Species Name: Chlorocebus sabaeus Skin Color(s): Golden-green
The green monkey (Chlorocebus sabaeus), also called the sabaeus monkey, is an Old World monkey with golden-green fur, pale feet, and hands. Green monkeys' locomotion varies little, regardless of substrate or habitat. In nearly all circumstances, they move quadrupedally in the treetops or on the ground.
Species Name: Chlorocebus aethiops Skin Color(s): Olive
The Grivet monkey (Chlorocebus aethiops) is an Old World monkey with long tufts of white fur on the sides of its face. Grivet monkeys are very social animals. They travel in small groups and are among the few species to have groups with multiple males.
Species Name: Cercopithecus hamlyni Skin Color(s): Olive gray and black
The Hamlyn's monkey (Cercopithecus hamlyni), also called the owl-faced monkey, is an Old World monkey inhabiting the Congo's bamboo and primary rain forests. Hamlyn's monkeys have unique feet and hands in elongated phalanges.
Species Name: Cercopithecus petaurista Skin Color(s): Olive green
The lesser spotted-nosed monkey, lesser spotted monkey, or lesser white-nosed monkey (Cercopithecus petaurista) is a primate species in the Cercopithecidae family. The lesser spotted-nosed monkey is diurnal, arboreal, and cryptic.
Species Name: Chlorocebus cynosuros Skin Color(s): Olive-gray
The Malbrouck (Chlorocebus cynosuros) is an Old-World primate from Africa that belongs to the Chlorocebus genus. The species is sometimes classified as a subspecies of the green monkey (Chlorocebus pygerythrus) or the common grivet (Chlorocebus aethiops).
Species Name: Mandrillus sphinx Skin Color(s): Olive green
The mandrill (Mandrillus sphinx) is a primate of the Old-World monkey family (Cercopithecidae). It is among the two species in the Mandrillus genus and drill. Groups of mandrills can vary from a few individuals to 50 individuals.
Species Name: Cercopithecus ascanius Skin Color(s): Black, red, or orange
The Schmidt's red-tailed monkey, also called the red-tailed guenon, Schmidt's guenon, or black-cheeked white-nosed monkey is a primate species in the Cercopithecidae family. The Schmidt's red-tailed monkey is named for its red coloration on the underside of its tail, as well as the bicolor coloration of its tail as the reddish color increases from the base to the tip.
Species Name: Chlorocebus tantalus Skin Color(s): Yellowish brown
The tantalus monkey (Chlorocebus tantalus) is an Old World monkey endemic to Africa, ranging from Ghana to Sudan. It was initially described as a subspecies of Grivet (Chlorocebus aethiops). Tantalus monkeys are very similar to vervet monkeys but are smaller in size.
Species Name: Macaca sinica Skin Color(s): Golden or orange-brown to yellowish or Olive
The toque macaque (Macaca sinica) is a red-brown Old World monkey endemic to Sri Lanka, known as the rilewa or rilawa. Its common name refers to the strand of hair on its head that resembles a brimless hat.
These monkeys and their similar colorations are an adaptation to their respective environments, providing camouflage against predators. They exhibit great diversity and are important study subjects in fields like social behavior, ecology, and evolutionary biology.