We all know that everyone poops. And everyone does it through his or her bottom. But this isn’t really a book about pooping. It’s about the many other things animals can do with their incredible rear ends – from sitting to stinging, from attracting a mate to taking a breath. And it’s about how different those rear ends are. Some are fat; others are narrow and pointed. Some are brightly colored. A few can sting.
Looking at different animals’ hindquarters can give you information about the ways those animals live, both alone and together. It can help you appreciate how unique every creature is and to marvel at the many ways animals have managed to survive, breed, and even stay “top dog” – all by using their amazing bottoms.
FIND A MATE
Some people wear makeup on their faces. Female baboons and male mandrills look like they’ve put makeup on their butts.
Baboons, which are found all over Africa, live in large troops made up of smaller family groups. Each family group has one male leader, up to ten females, and their young. The oldest and strongest males are the rulers. Each male mates with all the adult females in his family group. The females need a way to tell the male they’re ready to mate. When they are, their bright red bottoms swell, becoming very large and developing odd folds.
Baboons spend a lot of time on the ground – more time than any other monkey. They walk on all fours, waving their tails, so it’s easy for people and other baboons to see their rumps. People may find the swollen female rear ends ugly, but male baboons find them attractive.
Mandrills are a type of baboon. Among them, it’s the males who have the colorful rear ends, which match their equally colorful faces. Some scientists think they use their rumps to attract females. Ruling males often have the brightest colors. This may not only win them more females, but also discourage rival males.
There are other theories about the male mandrill’s colors. The mandrill may use its face and bottom as a threat. The fact that both are colored doubles the warning. The colors may also confuse the enemy. Is the mandrill coming or going? In a dark forest, it’s hard to tell. In addition, a mandrill’s bright bottom may act as a beacon – a kind of light for the members of the troop to follow.
So far no one knows exactly what a mandrill is saying with his blue-and-red rear end – no one, that is, except another mandrill.