|Red capped mangabeys (Cercocebus torquatus)|
Taxonomically understanding mangabeys can be a bit confusing. Crested mangabeys form the genus Lophocebus, which contains at least four different species: Lophocebus albigena (gray-cheeked mangabey), Lophocebus aterrimus (black mangabey) Lophocebus kipunji (highland mangabey) Lophocebus opdenboschi (Opdenbosch's mangabey). These can be distinguished from the white-eyelid mangabeys which are placed within the Cercocebus genus (. It used to be that all mangabeys were contained within the same genus, Cercocebus, but thanks to genetic studies, we now know that Lophocebus are more closely related to baboons (Papio) whereas Cercocebus are more closely related to Mandrills (Mandrillus). The following figure will helpfully illustrate this a little bit better.
And just to make things a bit more confusing, one particular crested mangabey, Lophocebus kipunji, is classified by some primatologists as belonging to its own distinct genus, Rungwecebus kipunji.
|Left: A white-eyelid mangabey (Cercocebus atys), Right: A crested mangabey (Lophocebus aterrimus)|
Luckily, crested mangabeys and white-eyelid mangabeys are rather easy to visually distinguish: crested mangabeys have dark eyelids and large crests atop their heads. White eyelid mangabeys lack such crests and have, you guessed it, white eyelids.
Next week we'll take a closer look at a member of the Cercocebus genus, Cercocebus atys, the sooty mangabey.