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Patas Monkey (Erythrocebus patas) Fact Sheet: Taxonomy & History

Taxonomic History & Nomenclature

Common names

  • Many common names: patas, red, nisnas, military, and hussar monkey; red guenon (Grubb 2006; Hall 1966; Isbell 2013; Mittermeier et al. 2013; Osman 1966)
    • White mustache gives rise to the name "military" or hussar monkey (Hall 1966)
    • Hussar refers to a type of military cavalry
  • West African red monkey, West African patas, and black-nosed patas - western subspecies (Grubb 2006; Osman 1966)
  • Aïr Massif patas and Aïr red monkey - Aïr Massif subspecies (Grubb 2006; Osman 1966)
  • Blue Nile hussar monkey, Nile patas, nisnas, and dancing red monkey - eastern subspecies (Osman 1966)
  • Ikoma patas monkey - southern subspecies (Grubb 2006; Osman 1966)

Scientific name (Gotch 1995)

  • Erythrocebus, from two Greek words, eruthros meaning "red" and kebos meaning "monkey"
  • patas, French version of a Wolof (Senegal) word "pata"


  • Synonymous with Cercopithecus patas
  • Formerly placed within the genus Cercopithecus; due to certain physical characteristics, eg. cranial features (Hall 1966)

Evolutionary History


  • Origin likely at Cretaceous-Paleogene (formerly Cretaceous-Tertiary) boundary or earlier
    • c. 66 million years ago (Ma) (Shotake 1981; Wildman et al. 2004; Winnery et al. 2004; Zinner et al. 2013)
    • Up to 80-90 Ma (Martin 2000; Eizirik et al. 2004; Bininda-Edmonds et al. 2007)

Superfamily Cercopithecoidea

  • Diverged in the early Miocene, c. 32 Ma (Finstermeier et al. 2013)

Family Cercopithecidae

  • Referred to as Old World monkeys (Isbell 2013)
  • Include baboons, macaques, patas, and vervet monkeys (Szalay and Delson 1979)

Genus Erythrocebus

  • Single species, patas monkey
    • Subspecies variably recognized, 0-4 (Isbell 2013)
    • Phenotypic variation in facial color in regional populations (Isbell 2013)
  • Closely allied with savanna, Chlorocebus spp, and mountain, Allochrocebus sp, monkeys (Groves and Kingdon 2013)
    • Cranial features similar to Chlorocebus
    • Skeletal adaptations for terrestriality similar to Allochrocebus
  • Hybrid combinations of vervet (Chlorocebus pygerythrus) with patas (E. patas) known to occur in managed care (Matsubayashi et al. 1978)
    • These species have different chromosome numbers (2n=60 and 54 respectively)
    • Offspring are healthy
    • Pelage resembles that of the patas mother, morphological measurements are a mosaic of both parents

Cultural History

African culture

  • Stylized tribal art often features monkeys; tribal ceremonial masks or sculptures (Morris 2013)

Studied to understand human evolution, physiology, disease, and pharmacology

  • Human evolution and bipedal walking (Elton 2006; Isbell et al. 1998a)
  • Model animals in medical research and human disease; extensively used (Hall 1966)
    • Due to physiological similarities
    • Research areas include: pharmacology/toxicology, infectious disease, and organ system disease (CCNPILAR 1975)


Kingdom: Animalia

Phylum: Chordata

Class: Mammalia

Infraclass: Eutheria

Order: Primates

Family: Cercopithecidae

Subfamily: Cercopithecinae

Genus: Erythrocebus

Species: Erythrocebus patas (Schreber, 1775) - patas monkey

Subspecies: E. p. patas
Subspecies: E. p. pyrrhonotus
Subspecies: E. p. villiersi

(Isbell 2013; ITIS 2014; Kingdon 1997; de Jong et al. 2020)

Page Citations

Bininda-Edmonds et al. (2007)


Elton (2006)

Eizirik et al. (2004)

Finstermeier et al. (2013)

Gotch (1995)

Groves and Kingdon (2013)

Grubb (2006)

Hall (1966)

Isbell (1998a)

Isbell (2013)

ITIS (2014)

Kingdon (1997)

Martin (2000)

Matsubayashi et al. (1978)

Mittermeier et al. (2013)

Morris (2013)

Osman (1966)

Shotake (1981)

Szalay and Delson (1979)

Wildman et al. (2004)

Winnery et al. (2004)

Zinner et al. (2013)

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