About macaques

Young rhesus macaqueMacaques (Macaca spp.) are Old World monkeys, with the greatest geographical distribution of all non-human primates, across Asia, Southern Europe and North Africa. There are 22 species; the two most commonly used in research and testing are the cynomolgus macaque (Macaca fascicularis) and the rhesus macaque (Macaca mulatta).1

Understanding the life history and behaviour of macaque species is essential for providing the best possible care in captivity and for achieving the best quality science from these animals.

Appreciation of life history variables (such as ecological niche, social organisation, developmental stages) and natural behavioural repertoires can help to improve, for example, housing and enrichment design, ease of management of social groups, and the ability to train individuals for voluntary cooperation with scientific procedures, all of which will benefit animal welfare.

Macaques that can express a wide range of species-, age- and sex-specific behaviours are more likely to be able to cope with the challenges posed by husbandry and scientific protocols.

 

Cynomolgus macaque (Macaca fascicularis)

Also called crab-eating or long-tailed macaque. There are ten sub-species. Conservation status: IUCN Red List ‘Least Concern
Physical characteristics | Habitat | Ecology and behaviour


 

Physical characteristics Cyno physical characteristics

(Metrics from Fa 1989)


 

Distribution of cynomolgus macaques in Asia (Image: Michael Gumert)

Distribution of cynomolgus macaques in Asia (Image: Michael Gumert; Cambridge University Press)

Habitat

  • Second largest distribution of any non-human primate.2
  • Native to Southeast Asia, Bangladesh, Malaysia, Sumatra, Java, Borneo, the Philippines and the Nicobar Islands.3
  • Introduced to Mauritius, Hong Kong, Angaur Island and western New Guinea.4 
  • Habitat ranges from lowland rainforests to shrubland, coastal forests and mangroves.5
  • Primarily arboreal in forest environments, but also spends time on the ground.6 Can be highly terrestrial in disturbed
    areas where the canopy cover is low.7
  • Prefers riverine forests; also disturbed forests and forest edges.8
  • See the IUCN Red List website for a map of the geographical range of this species (excluding introduced populations).

Cynomolgus macaques in their natural habitat: fishing, bathing in hot springs, sitting in mangroves, resting in trees in the forest, living alongside humans, resting at a temple (Images: Mel White and Michael Gumert). Click to enlarge the image.

Cynomolgus macaque fishingCynomolgus macaques bathing in hot springsCynomolgus macaque sitting in mangrovesCynomolgus macaques resting in treesCynomolgus macaques alongside woman washing in riverCynomolgus macaques resting at a temple

For video of cynomolgus macaques living on Koram Island in Thailand, see Project Sea Monkey on YouTube.


 

Ecology and behaviour of cynomolgus macaques in the wild

(From Tasker 2012)

Ecology Behaviour
Habitat – Primary and secondary forests close to water Locomotion depends on habitat: in South East Asia, arboreal but able to exploit terrestrial habitats; in Mauritius, primarily terrestrial. Adapted to climbing and leaping (up to 5m); tails are used for balance. Good swimmers may be important for predator avoidance and accessing food. Vertical escape routes utilised to avoid predators9
Home range – 1.24km2; highly variable daily path length 150,  1,900m Long distances covered when searching for food. Feeding (30% of observation time) and moving (23%) are the most common activities observed in Mauritius10
Diet – Diverse, seasonally dependant, primarily frugivorous. Also consume insects, leaves, invertebrates, crabs, frogs, shrimp, bark and clay Eclectic diet, but selective. Cheek pouches enable storing of food during foraging. Food is transported away from the foraging site for consumption, often to avoid competition from dominant conspecifics11
Activity patterns – Primarily diurnal Activity is centered on feeding and foraging in the morning and afternoon. Rest during midday. Enter sleeping trees around 18:00h and remain until early morning (05:30h)12
Sleeping behaviour – Roost in groups Return to same sleeping site each evening. Animals sleep huddled together at the edges of branches to avoid ground-dwelling predators. Branches nearest the top of the tree are chosen, as are trees that border water, predator avoidance involves dropping from trees and swimming away from any potential predators13
Group living – Group sizes range from <10 to >85 individuals Variable group sizes depending on habitat and ecological conditions. Stable groups each with a home range. Break into sub-groups throughout the day. Multi-male/multi-female groups. Sex ratio 1 adult male: 3 adult females. Females remain in natal group (philopatry). Males emigrate from their natal group (4-6 years of age) with their peers before they reach sexual maturity. Males may migrate to other groups many times during their life. May exist as solitary males and/or all male groups14
Social behaviour – Hierarchical Highly social, hierarchical relationships. Organised around matrilines, mothers, daughters and sisters. Females and males have strict dominance hierarchies. Group cohesion is maintained through allogrooming. Group living necessitates complex social communication skills15

Rhesus macaque (Macaca mulatta)

There are six sub-species. Conservation status: IUCN Red List ‘Least Concern

Physical characteristics | Habitat | Ecology and behaviour


 

Physical characteristicsRhesus pc

(Metrics from Fooden 2000)


 

Habitat

  • Largest distribution of any nonhuman primate.16
  • Native to mainland Asia – India, Bhutan, Myanmar, Nepal, Bangladesh, Thailand, Laos, China, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Vietnam.
  • Introduced to Cayo Santiago (Puerto Rico) and in the Silver River State Park (Florida, USA) as free-ranging colonies, both in 1938, and to Morgan Island (South Carolina, USA) in 1979.17
  • Habitat ranges from arid, open areas to grasslands, woodlands and mountainous regions up to over 3,000 metres.18
  • May be either primarily arboreal or terrestrial depending on their habitat.19
  • Forms mixed-species troops with bonnet macaques (Macaca radiata) on the eastern coast of peninsular India.
  • See the IUCN Red List website for a map of the geographical range of this species (excluding introduced populations).

Rhesus macaques are more terrestrial than cynomolgus macaques. Mother sheltering infant from the rain, living amongst humans, locomoting on the beach, feeding on seaweed, and using a tree as a vantage point (Images: Alexander Georgiev and UCD). Click to enlarge the image.

Rhesus infant and mother in the rainDSCN2029Rhesus macaque locomoting on the groundRhesus macaques feeding on seaweedRhesus macaque adult male in a tree

For additional images and video of rhesus macaques, see the ARKive website.


 

Ecology and behaviour of rhesus macaques in the wild

(Adapted from Jennings & Prescott 2009 and Cawthon Lang 2005)

Ecology Behaviour
Habitat – Varies from hot arid areas to rain forest, areas of seasonal snowfall and urban sites; from sea-level to >3000m Can be predominantly terrestrial or arboreal, depending on habitat.20 Locomotion is quadrupedal walking, running and leaping. Vertical escape routes utilised to avoid predators. Good swimmers.21
Home range –Depends on habitat; from 0.01 to >1600 ha.22 Long distances covered when searching for food and water. In areas of human activity, over 90% of the diet can be from human sources, either direct handouts or from agricultural sources23
Diet – Omnivorous; consumes fruit, seeds, leaves, plant exudates, bark, grasses, roots, fungi, insects and fish24 Eclectic diet, but selective. Cheek pouches enable storing of food during foraging. Food is transported away from the foraging site for consumption, often to avoid competition from dominant conspecifics.
Activity patterns – Primarily diurnal Across all habitat types, feeding and resting are the major activities; the rest of the time is spent in travelling, grooming, playing and other activities.25
Sleeping behaviour – Roost in groups Sleep huddled together in elevated positions, e.g. on cliffs or edges of branches to avoid ground-dwelling predators.
Group living – Group sizes range from <10 to >100 individuals; in provisioned populations, can be much larger (e.g. over 300 on Cayo Santiago) Variable group sizes depending on habitat and ecological conditions. Home ranges overlap and groups have high frequencies of intergroup contact, which is characterized by generally mild social interactions.26 Multi-male/multi-female groups. Females remain in natal group (philopatry); most males emigrate before they reach sexual maturity.
Social behaviour – Hierarchical Highly social, hierarchical relationships. Organised around matrilines – mothers, daughters and sisters. Females and males have strict dominance hierarchies. Group cohesion is maintained through allogrooming. Group living necessitates complex social communication skills.

 


  1. Thierry 2011 

  2. Wheatley 1999 

  3. Fooden 2006 

  4. Poirier & Smith 1974; Fittinghoff & Lindburg 1980; Kyes 1993; Stanley & Griffiths 1997; Ong & Richardson 2008 

  5. Groves 2001; Nowak 1999 

  6. Rodman 1991; Fooden 2006; Gumert 2011 

  7. Sussman et al. 2011 

  8. Fooden 2006; Gumert 2011 

  9. Rodman 1991; Supriatna et al. 1996; van Schaik et al. 1996; Sussman et al. 2011 

  10. Wheatley 1980; Sussman & Tattersall 1981 

  11. Wheatley 1980; Sussman & Tattersall 1986; Yeager 1996; Lucas & Corlett 1998; Son 2003; Sussman et al. 2011 

  12. Guryama et al. 1994; Son 2004 

  13. Supriatna et al. 1996; van Schaik et al. 1996; Sussman et al. 2011 

  14. Angst 1975; de Jong et al. 1994; van Noordwijk & van Schaik 1999, 2001; Engelhardt et al. 2004; Sussman et al. 2011 

  15. de Jong et al. 1994; van Noordwijk & van Schaik 1999, 2001; Engelhardt et al. 2004; Sussman et al. 2011 

  16. Southwick et al. 1996 

  17. Rawlins & Kessler 1986 

  18. Rowe 1996 

  19. Seth 2000; Seth et al. 2001 

  20. Seth et al. 2001 

  21. Fooden 2000 

  22. Seth & Seth 1986; Southwick et al. 1996; Fooden 2000; Srivastava & Mohnot 2001 

  23. Southwick & Siddiqi 1994 

  24. Lindburg 1971; Fooden 2000 

  25. Seth & Seth 1986 

  26. Melnick et al. 1984 

Show Buttons
Hide Buttons