Life at the Top: Scientists Find First Molecular Clues to High-Altitude Adaptation in Gelada Monkeys

Amongst the high mountain meadows and grasslands of the Ethiopian plateau stands one primate, the gelada–the “bleeding heart” monkey named for its brilliant red chest. Geladas are the last of their kind, having outlived their extinct relatives by adopting an unusual lifestyle. Unlike their forest- and savannah-dwelling monkey cousins, geladas have carved out a high-altitude niche all to themselves, contently munching on highland grasses for sustenance. Along with their adept mountaineering skills, geladas can typically be found in herds, clinging to cliffs in the morning, and resting on their cushion-like rumps that are ideally suited for sitting and grazing all day. What makes them uniquely adapted to thriving in the thin airs of the plateau, 6,000-14,000 feet above sea level from their baboon cousins? And could these features have implications for human adaptation?

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