We are an interdisciplinary group conducting research on a population of geladas (Theropithecus gelada) in the Simien Mountains National Park of Ethiopia.
We (co-directors Thore Bergman and Jacinta Beehner) started the Simies Mountains Gelalda Research Project, formally the University of Michigan Gelada Research Project in 2005. For more than a decade, we studied the behavior of baboons (geladas’ close cousins); and although geladas look and act like baboons, they have some peculiarities that make them irresistible study subjects. First, why the enormous groups? Why do geladas live in groups that are an order of magnitude larger than even the largest baboon groups? And second, why the bleeding heart? Geladas, also known as the “bleeding heart baboon,” have a red patch of skin on their chest and neck – something that no other primate has. These questions drew us to this unusual species, and while our research group is now beginning to get answers to these initial questions (see Research), we are continuously generating new questions about the evolution of sociality, the relationship between hormones and behavior, and the cognitive processes that go along with living in huge groups.