The Japanese macaque (Macaca fuscata), is a terrestrial Old World monkey species native to Japan. They are also sometimes known as the snow monkey because they live in areas where snow covers the ground for months each year , no other non-human primate is more northern-living, nor lives in a colder climate. Individuals have brown-grey fur, red faces, and short tails.
There are two subspecies. In Japan, the species is known as Nihonzaru to distinguish it from other primates, but the Japanese macaque is very familiar in Japan, so when Japanese people simply say saru, they usually have in mind the Japanese macaque.
The Japanese macaque is sexually dimorphic. Males weigh on average 11.3 kg (25 lb), while females average 8.4 kg (19 lb).Macaques from colder areas tend to weigh more than ones from warmer areas. Male average height is 570.1 mm (22.44 in) and female average height is 522.8 mm (20.58 in).
Japanese macaques have short stumps for tails that average 92.51 mm (3.642 in) in males and 79.08 mm (3.113 in) in females. The macaque has a pinkish face and posterior. The rest of its body is covered in brown, greyish, or yellowish hair. The coat of the macaque is well-adapted to the cold and its thickness increases as temperatures decrease. The macaque can cope with temperatures as low as -20 °C (-4 °F)
Macaques mostly move on all fours. They are semi-terrestrial, with females spending more time in the trees and males spending more time on the ground. Macaques are known to leap. They are also great swimmers and have been reported to swim over half a kilometer. The longevity for the macaque averages 6.3 years, (at least for females). However, they have been known to live much longer; males have lived up to 28 years and females up to 32 years.
Japanese macaques live in matrilineal societies and females stay in their natal groups for life, while males move out before they are sexually mature. Macaque groups tend to contain multiple adults of both sexes. In addition, a macaque troop contains multiple matrilines. These matrilines may exist in a dominance hierarchy with all members of a specific group ranking over members of a lower-ranking group.
Temporary all-male groups also exist, composed of those that have recently left their natal groups and are about to transfer to another group. However, many males spend ample time away from
any group and may leave and join several groups.
Males within a group have a dominance hierarchy, with one male having alpha status. The dominance status of male macaques usually changes when a former alpha male leaves or dies. Other ways in which status changes is when an alpha male loses his rank or when a troop splits, leaving a new alpha position. The longer a male is in a troop, the higher his status is likely to be. Females also exist in a stable dominance hierarchy, and a female's rank depends on her mother. Younger females tend to rank higher than their older siblings.
Higher-ranking matrilines have greater social cohesion. Strong relationships with dominant females can allow dominant males to retain their rank when they otherwise would not.
Females maintain both social relationships and hygiene through grooming. Grooming occurs regardless of climate and seasonal difference. Females which are matrilineally related groom each other more often than unrelated individuals.
Females will also groom unrelated females to maintain group cohesion and social relationships between different kinships in a troop. Nevertheless, a female will only groom a limited number of other females, even if the group expands. Females will also groom males, usually for hygienic purposes, but it can serve to attract dominant males to the group. Mothers pass their grooming techniques to their offspring most likely through social rather than genetic means.
The Japanese macaque is diurnal. In colder areas, from autumn to early winter, macaques feed in between different activities. In the winter, macaques have two to four feeding bouts each day with fewer daily activities. In the spring and summer, they have two or three bouts of feeding daily. In warmer areas such as Yakushima, daily activities are more varied. The typical day for a macaque is 20.9% inactive, 22.8% traveling, 23.5% feeding, 27.9% social grooming, 1.2% self-grooming, and 3.7% other activities.
Macaques usually sleep in trees, but will also sleep on the ground, as well as on or near rocks and fallen trees. During the winter, macaques huddle together for warmth in sleeping grounds. Macaques at Jigokudani Monkey Park are notable for visiting the hot springs in the winter to warm up.
The Japanese macaque is omnivorous and will eat a variety of foods. Over 213 species of plant are included on the macaques diet. It also eats insects and soil. On Yakushima Island, fruit, mature leaves and fallen seeds are primarily eaten. The macaque also eats fungi, ferns, invertebrates, soil and other parts of plants.
In addition, on Yakushima, their diets vary seasonally with fruits being eaten in the summer and herbs being eaten in the winter. Further north, macaques mostly eat foods such as fruit and nuts to store fat for the winter, when food is scarce. On the northern island of Kinkazan, macaques mostly eat fallen seeds, herbs, young leaves and fruits. When preferred food items are not available, macaques will dig up underground plant parts (roots or rhizomes) or eat soil
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