The Japanese macaque is the most unusual monkey on the planet. Unlike both gentle and heat-loving counterparts, it lives in the harsh conditions of the dormant Kuttar volcano and snowy winters. Macaca fuscata settles in the perimeter of the largest geothermal crater..
Snow and sub-zero temperatures in winter coexist with columns of smoke and steam escaping from the bowels of the earth. Monkeys not only learned to live in the harsh conditions of the island, but also adapted to use the energy of the earth. Unusual pictures of monkeys basking in the water in the middle of snow and steam are striking in surrealism. Tourists from all over the world come to admire such an unusual picture.
Origin of the species and description
Macaca fuscata is a chordate mammal from the order of primates. Belongs to an extensive marmoset family, consisting of more than 20 species. At the beginning of the 19th century, scientists found and described two subspecies of the Japanese macaque, and later fixed these names in zoological reference books:
- Macaca fuscata fuscata, 1875;
- Macaca fuscata yakui Kuroda, 1941.
Snow monkeys are found in almost the entire vast territory of the Japanese islands.
The largest colonies are concentrated in national parks:
- Hell Valley, Shikotsu-Toya national pair of Hokkaido;
- Jigokudani, the famous monkey park Northern part of Honshu;
- Meiji No Mori Mino Quasi-National Park near Osaka.
The found remains of early macaques belong to the beginning of the Pliocene era. The species is over 5 million years old. The remains of ancient representatives of the genus suggest that these mammals survived the mammoths and saw the first Neanderthals. Scientists believe that Japanese macaques reached the islands of Japan by crossing the isthmus from Korea during the Middle Pleistocene 500,000 years ago.
Appearance and Features
Outwardly, Japanese macaques differ from their relatives in their long, thick six and red skin. In Japan, they are called red-faced. The face, paws and buttocks of the monkeys remain uncovered with hair. Thick wool appeared as a result of evolution and helps to survive in harsh climatic conditions for this species. The color varies from brown to gray to yellowish brown.
Macaques have a small, squat body. They have a small tail, tiny ears and an elongated skull typical of macaques. The eyes are warm brown with a yellow tint. Monkeys of this species have an unusually intelligent and expressive look
Video: Japanese Macaque
The weight of this species does not exceed 12 kilograms. Japanese macaques are sexually dimorphic. Males are taller and more massive than females. The largest male individuals reach 11.5 kg, growing up to 60 cm in height. Females weigh an average of 8.4 kg with a height of 52-53 cm.
Scientists have noted a relationship between the body weight of Japanese macaques and climate. Japanese macaques in southern areas tend to weigh less than those in higher elevation northern areas where there is more snow during the winter months.
Japanese macaques living in favorable conditions have a larger skull than those living in harsh conditions. In the first group, the average length of the male skull is 13.4 cm, in females 11.8 cm. In the second group, the skull is slightly reduced: in males – 12.9 cm, in females 1.5 cm.
Where does the Japanese macaque live?
Habitat Macaca fuscata — Japanese islands. Macaques of this species can be found in all regions of the island and the archipelago. Settles in subtropical and subalpine forests. The most northern part of the range falls on cool temperate deciduous and broad-leaved forests. This region has an average temperature of 10.9 ˚C and an average annual rainfall of 1500 mm.
In the southern part of their range, Japanese macaques live in evergreen broadleaf forests. In this region, the average temperature is 20 ˚C, and the average annual rainfall reaches 3000 mm. The entire range of the range is characterized by severe winters. Groups of primates descend 2000 m down for wintering. All Japanese macaques spend the winter months in the lowlands.
In the summer, monkeys can be seen at altitudes up to 3200 meters. During the winter months, groups usually descend to warmer areas, up to 1800 meters above sea level. Japanese macaques are found not only in the central part of the islands. They settle on the coast, in the zone of lakes and even marshy areas.
In the early 1970s, 25 pairs of Macaca fuscata were brought to a ranch in Texas as an experiment. The monkeys found themselves in conditions that were not typical for their species. A sharp change in climate and food preferences threatened extinction. Many of them died. But the snow monkey has shown unique survival traits. Pairs adapted and multiplied.
After 20 years, the population recovered and grew. However, due to the irresponsible behavior of people who could no longer control the group, the animals escaped into the wildlife of arid Texas. Once released, the monkeys suffered from hunger and thirst. They were hunted by both people and animals. After timely intervention by animal rights activists, the monkeys were caught and returned to the protected area.
What does the Japanese macaque eat?
The Japanese Macaque is omnivorous and eat a variety of foods. There are more than 200 plant species in their diet. The diet consists of spring, summer and autumn-winter diet. Autumn in the forests of Japan is abundant. Juicy root vegetables, ripe and overripe fruits. Macaques do not neglect mature plant leaves, seeds, nuts and fragrant roots.
In spring, monkeys look for early shoots of bamboo and fern in last year's foliage. They dig up fresh grass, are busy looking for young buds on trees and shrubs. Part of the food remains in the forests from last year. Monkeys get it from under the snow, fallen leaves, moss. By spring, the animals begin to feel a lack of food. Small insects are eaten, which, in anticipation of warmth, rise from hibernation.
In spring, monkeys feast on eggs that birds lay on trees and in mountain crevices. Snow monkeys love mushrooms, which abound throughout the year-round shady and humid forests of Japan. Mushrooms grow both on the ground and on trees. Monkeys are able to find them at any time of the year.
Almost year-round diet is based on nuts and berries. In winter and early spring, nuts left over from autumn and frozen, uneaten berries get into the food. It has been observed that monkeys are not averse to chewing bark and soil. They hunt invertebrates. Macaques living on the coast love to hunt oysters, fish, crabs and other inhabitants of the sea.
Character and lifestyle features
Japanese macaque — unusually intelligent, calm and friendly animal with its own way of life. High intelligence allows Macaca fuscata to survive long winters lasting more than 120 more days. Organization and rules created in primate groups help to survive in low temperatures.
Although Japanese macaques have thick and lush fur, it is not water-repellent. Leaving hot baths in winter can cause monkeys to get cold and get sick. In order for the tribesmen to be able to stay in warm water as long as possible, separate individuals are on duty on land. Staying out of the water, they guard the perimeter, monitor security and bring food to those who remain in the bath. When it's their turn to rest, they dive into the water.
Japanese macaques are familiar with hygiene skills. They wash their food, clean it from the remnants of the earth, and even clean it before eating. In addition, Japanese macaques are able to soften food with water. Scientists have noticed that they soak cereals before eating them.
Interesting fact: Macaca fuscata know how and love to have fun. Their fun is seasonal. In winter, they enjoy skiing and playing snowballs. Such high intelligence has been noted in the religion, folklore and art of Japan, as well as in proverbs and idiomatic expressions.
The snow monkey leads a diurnal lifestyle, which mostly takes place in the trees. Japanese macaques have their own means of communication. Scientists have found that monkeys even have their own dialect when reproducing sounds. In addition, they use facial expressions and gestures, with the help of which they convey information and communicate. To express thoughts and emotions, macaques use various facial expressions, showing teeth, raising their eyebrows and even raising their ears.
Social Structure and Reproduction
Primates live in groups. They have developed a strict hierarchy. Alpha males have access to food first of all, and then other members of the pack according to their status.
Macaques pass on the acquired skills and knowledge to their offspring. Protect cubs, share food, have common signals warning of danger. Members of the group look after each other, help to look for parasites, and also create and maintain social bonds within the squad. Most grooming is done between relatives, usually mothers and daughters.
Macaques form a pair bond between males and females, mate, feed, rest and travel during the mating season. Alpha males have the privilege of choosing a female. In addition, they often destroy alliances with males below them in the hierarchy. Females mate with males of any rank, but prefer dominants. However, the decision to mate is made by the female.
Pregnancy ends with childbirth 180 days after conception. The female brings one cub, very rarely two. Males reach puberty after 6 years, females after 4 years. Cubs are born with dark brown hair. At the age of five to six weeks, the pups begin to eat solid food and can feed independently from their mothers by seven weeks.
Females carry their babies on their stomachs for the first four weeks. After this time on the back. Older males also take part in the upbringing of the younger generation. They take care of the babies, feed them and even carry them on their backs, just like the females do.
Natural enemies of the Japanese macaque
Due to the specific narrow habitat, the number of natural enemies of primates in nature is limited. Different groups of monkeys may have different natural threats depending on the habitat of the predators themselves.
Danger can come from the ground, trees and even from the sky:
- Tanuki — ; raccoon dogs. They inhabit almost the entire territory of Japan;
- Wild cats — found on the islands of Tsushima and Iriomote. Less than 250 individuals remain in the wild;
- Poisonous snakes inhabit the entire wooded and swampy part of the country;
- Foxes of the island of Honshu;
- Mountain eagle – birds settle in the mountainous regions of the archipelago.
However, the biggest threat to monkeys is humans. They suffer from farmers, lumberjacks and hunters. The range of animals is being reduced due to the development of farmland, the construction and development of a network of roads.
The main reason for the decline in the population of Japanese macaques is the destruction of their habitat. This forces the monkey to adapt and find food outside the familiar territory. Approximately 5,000 macaques are killed each year, despite being a protected species, because they raid nearby farms for food and destroy crops.
Since macaques are considered agricultural pests and cause significant harm to peasants, uncontrolled hunting has been opened for them. In 1998, over 10,000 Japanese macaques were killed. After the thoughtless extermination, the government of the country took up the problem of protecting the Japanese macaque.
Population and species status
The total population of wild snow monkeys on the islands of the Sea of Japan in their natural habitat is more than 114,430 monkeys. In different years, this figure increases or decreases depending on natural conditions.
Animals are common on all the main islands of Japan:
The northernmost population of Japanese macaques is found on the northern tip of the island of Honshu – more than 160 animals. The southernmost is on Yakushima Island off the southern coast of Japan. The population was assigned its own subspecies, M.f. Yakui. There are more than 150 individuals in the group on Yakushima. A small population of 600 lives in Texas, USA and is protected by local conservation organizations.
In addition to wildlife, Japanese macaques live in their usual conditions in the national parks of Japan. In particular, you can see snow monkeys by coming to the Shikotsu-Toya lake national park on the island of Hokkaido, the Meiji No Mori Mino quasi-national park at the foot of Mino Mountain north of Osaka, or to Honshu Island in Jigokudani Park.
According to scientists, the population is stable, does not cause much concern, but requires human control and care.
Japanese macaque conservation
The Japanese government ensures the preservation of the species. On the three Japanese islands of Honshu, Shikoku and Kyushu, reserves and national parks are organized where monkeys can develop and breed in their natural environment. Small colonies of macaques live on all the islands of the Sea of Japan.
Macaca fuscata is listed in the Red Book. The status of the species is stable, Least Concern by international standard. However, at the beginning of the last century, due to unreasonable human behavior, the Japanese macaque was on the verge of extinction.
According to the US ESA, the snow monkey is listed as endangered. The subspecies Macaca fuscata yakui from Yakushima Island is listed as an endangered species by the IUCN. At the end of the last century, there were between 35,000 and 50,000 macaques in Japan. One way or another, human activities affect the growth and decline of the snowy macaque population.
Interesting fact: There are cases when groups of macaques invaded villages and terrorized the inhabitants, chasing them and snatching food from the hands of children. Macaques invade the territory of people not only for the purpose of obtaining food, but also in search of warm sources. To prevent raids from monkeys, it was decided to equip several sources for macaques from Nagano. This happened after the monkeys tried to take over the territory of a famous resort.
Establishing feeding stations in order to save macaques and prevent their raids on nearby farms, to a certain extent, backfired, since macaque populations in these areas have been created artificially.
Japanese macaque — unique animal. This is the only living being on the planet besides man, intelligently using the heat of the earth for life. Has highly developed intellectual abilities. He is not afraid of water and swims in the open sea for more than a kilometer in search of food, and sometimes entertainment. The snow monkey makes good contact with humans and other animals.