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Patas Monkey (Erythrocebus patas) Fact Sheet: Diet & Feeding


Feeding strategy

  • Omnivores; consume wide variety of fruits, grass seeds, bulbs, leaves, new shoots, berries, flowers, tamarind beans, fungi, and animals (Hall 1966; Isbell 2013; Mittermeier et al. 2013)
    • Composition varies by location and season

Plants and their products

  • Acacia spp. provide a wide variety of food resources; enable reproduction during mid-dry season (Isbell 1998; Mittermeier et al. 2013; Nakagawa 2000)
    • Gum, water soluble secretion released when the plant is cut or injured
      • High energy resource (Isbell et al. 1998b; Lambert 1998; Nash 1986)
      • Rich in minerals, especially calcium (Lambert 1998; Nash 1986)
      • Eastern patas subspecies (E. p. pyrrhonotus) consumes more gum than other subspecies, in general (Isbell 1998)
    • Swollen thorns (galls) of A. drepanolobium, the whistling thorn (Isbell 2013; Isbell et al. 1998a)
    • Flowers and seeds
  • Gum, flowers, seeds and legumes, and fruits from various other plants including: Abelmoschus sp., Cassia sp., Commelina sp., Cucumis aculeate, Ipomoea sp., Lycium europium, Sarcostema viminale, Lippia javanica, Hibiscus sp., Plectranthus sp., and Termitomyces sp. (Isbell 2013)
    • Fruits are a large component of year-round caloric intake in some areas (Nakagawa 2000)
    • Legumes and other seeds; high in protein (Nakagawa 2000)
      • Compose a larger portion of diet in the mid-dry season (Nakagawa 2000)
    • Leaves and flowers are small contributors to caloric intake (Nakagawa 2000)
  • Opuntia cactus leaves, where introduced (Isbell 2013)


  • A dietary staple
  • Consume grasshoppers (Orthoptera), ants (Formicidae), beetles (Coleoptera), various larvae (Isbell 1998; Isbell 2013; Nakagawa 2000)
    • 30-40% of the diet in some eastern African populations (Isbell 2013)


  • Rarely eaten
  • Prey on lizards and birds (Isbell 1998; Nakagawa 2000)

Diet varies by population

  • In Segera, patas primarily feed on thorns and gum; composing nearly 70 to 80% of their diet (Isbell 2013)
  • In Kala Maloue National Park, the diet is nearly 65% flowers during the wet season, according to one study (Isbell 2013)

Feeding & Drinking


  • Forage and feed for large amounts of time
    • >35% of observation time, one study in Kenya (Isbell et al. 1998a)
    • Visually search ground and vegetation while walking (Hall 1966; Isbell et al. 1998a)
  • Move frequently from one feeding site to another (Isbell et al. 1998b)
    • c. 23 times per half hour, one study in Kenya (Isbell et al. 1998b)
  • Rarely feed in trees (Hall 1966)
    • Feed on the ground 90% of the time (Mittermeier et al. 2013)

Food acquisition

  • Stand on hind legs, to reach up and pull down seeds from tall grasses or small bushes and thorns of Acacia drepanolobium; as with savanna baboons (Hall 1966)
  • Swipe at flying insects with one hand while standing (Hall 1966)
  • Pluck food with hands, most often (Hall 1966)
    • Rarely apply mouth directly to food items, though A. drepanolobium thorns are commonly eaten this way (Hall 1966)
    • Rub food between hands before placing in mouth, similar to savanna baboons (Hall 1966)
      • When items are gritty or dirty (Hall 1966)
      • Before ingesting hairy caterpillars (Isbell personal communication)

Drinking methods

  • Lap water, or dip hand in water and lick it (Hall 1966)

Patas Diet

a whistling thorn tree fruit

Patas are omnivores.

They primarily consume plant matter such as seeds, fruits, and leaves. In some populations, gum makes up a large portion of the diet.

The whistling thorn tree, Acacia drepanolobium, provides the majority of dietary needs for eastern patas populations. Patas browse on the tree's gum, thorns, and seeds, as well as on ants housed inside the swollen thorns.

Image credit: © meaduva from Flickr. Some rights reserved.

Page Citations

Hall (1966)

Isbell (1998)

Isbell (2013)

Isbell et al. (1998a,b)

Lambert (1998)

Mittermeier et al. (2013)

Nakagawa (2000)

Nash (1986)

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