Concept: Barbary Macaque
For four decades, the inability of nonhuman primates to produce human speech sounds has been claimed to stem from limitations in their vocal tract anatomy, a conclusion based on plaster casts made from the vocal tract of a monkey cadaver. We used x-ray videos to quantify vocal tract dynamics in living macaques during vocalization, facial displays, and feeding. We demonstrate that the macaque vocal tract could easily produce an adequate range of speech sounds to support spoken language, showing that previous techniques based on postmortem samples drastically underestimated primate vocal capabilities. Our findings imply that the evolution of human speech capabilities required neural changes rather than modifications of vocal anatomy. Macaques have a speech-ready vocal tract but lack a speech-ready brain to control it.
Tool use has allowed humans to become one of the most successful species. However, tool-assisted foraging has also pushed many of our prey species to extinction or endangerment, a technology-driven process thought to be uniquely human. Here, we demonstrate that tool-assisted foraging on shellfish by long-tailed macaques (Macaca fascicularis) in Khao Sam Roi Yot National Park, Thailand, reduces prey size and prey abundance, with more pronounced effects where the macaque population size is larger. We compared availability, sizes and maturation stages of shellfish between two adjacent islands inhabited by different-sized macaque populations and demonstrate potential effects on the prey reproductive biology. We provide evidence that once technological macaques reach a large enough group size, they enter a feedback loop - driving shellfish prey size down with attendant changes in the tool sizes used by the monkeys. If this pattern continues, prey populations could be reduced to a point where tool-assisted foraging is no longer beneficial to the macaques, which in return may lessen or extinguish the remarkable foraging technology employed by these primates.
Individuals with more or stronger social bonds experience enhanced survival and reproduction in various species, though the mechanisms mediating these effects are unclear. Social thermoregulation is a common behaviour across many species which reduces cold stress exposure, body heat loss, and homeostatic energy costs, allowing greater energetic investment in growth, reproduction, and survival, with larger aggregations providing greater benefits. If more social individuals form larger thermoregulation aggregations due to having more potential partners, this would provide a direct link between sociality and fitness. We conducted the first test of this hypothesis by studying social relationships and winter sleeping huddles in wild Barbary macaques (Macaca sylvanus), wherein individuals with more social partners experience greater probability of winter survival. Precipitation and low temperature increased huddle sizes, supporting previous research that huddle size influences thermoregulation and energetics. Huddling relationships were predicted by social (grooming) relationships. Individuals with more social partners therefore formed larger huddles, suggesting reduced energy expenditure and exposure to environmental stressors than less social individuals, potentially explaining how sociality affects survival in this population. This is the first evidence that social thermoregulation may be a direct proximate mechanism by which increased sociality enhances fitness, which may be widely applicable across taxa.
- Experimental brain research. Experimentelle Hirnforschung. Experimentation cerebrale
- Published almost 6 years ago
The prehensile hand is one of the major traits distinguishing primates from other mammal species. All primates, in fact, are able to grasp an object and hold it in part or entirely using a single hand. Although there is a wealth of behavioral data regarding grasping movements in humans and apes, there is relatively little material on macaques, the animal model often used to investigate neuronal mechanisms responsible for grip control in humans. To date, evidence regarding free-ranging macaques is confined to observational data, while quantitative reports describe studies carried out in laboratory settings or in captivity. The purpose of the present study was to provide the first kinematic descriptions of basic grip behavior with regard to precision and power grips in free-ranging macaque monkeys. Video footage of those animals grasping objects was analyzed frame-by-frame using digitalization techniques. The results revealed that the two types of grips considered are each characterized by specific kinematic signatures. It was also found that hand kinematics was scaled depending on the type of grasp needing to be adopted and the intrinsic properties of the object to be grasped. In accordance with data concerning humans, these findings indicate that the intrinsic features of an object affect the planning and control of reach-to-grasp movements even in free-ranging macaques. The data presented here take research in the field of comparative reach-to-grasp kinematics in human and non-human primates another step forward as they are based on precise measurements of spontaneous grasping movements by animals living/acting in their natural environment.
It is sometimes necessary for nonhuman primates to be restrained during biomedical and psychosocial research. Such restraint is often accomplished using a “primate chair.” This article details a method for training adult rhesus macaques to cooperate with a chair restraint procedure using positive and negative reinforcement. Successful training was accomplished rapidly in approximately 14 training days. The success of this training technique suggests that this method represents a refinement to traditional techniques. Further, this method worked effectively for animals previously deemed unfit for traditional pole-and-collar training.
Hemorrhage is the leading cause of potentially survivable trauma mortality, necessitating the development of improved therapeutic interventions. The objective of this study was to develop and characterize a reproducible, clinically translatable non-human primate (NHP) model of uncontrolled severe hemorrhage. Such a model is required to facilitate the development and meaningful evaluation of human-derived therapeutics.
Feeding wildlife is a very popular tourist activity, largely because it facilitates the close observation of animals in their natural habitat. Such provisioning may benefit animals by improving their survival and reproductive success, especially during periods of natural food shortage. However, provisioning by tourists may also have negative impacts on the health of the animals involved; to date such impacts are poorly understood. Here, we investigated the effects of tourist provisioning on the health of wild adult Barbary macaques, Macaca sylvanus, in Morocco. We compared health measures between a heavily provisioned group and a group that received negligible food from tourists and, in the former group, we also assessed health measures in relation to the intensity of provisioning. We used a broad range of non-invasive health measures relating to birth rate and survival, disease and injury risk, body size and condition, and physiological stress. Our findings indicate that feeding by tourists may overall have negative impacts on the health of Barbary macaques, being linked in particular to larger body size, elevated stress levels and more alopecia. Finally, we propose a framework to help consider the potential costs and benefits of provisioning, which may facilitate future research and management decisions on whether-and how much-provisioning is acceptable.
As humans age, they become more selective regarding their personal goals  and social partners . Whereas the selectivity in goals has been attributed to losses in resources (e.g., physical strength) , the increasing focus on emotionally meaningful partners is, according to socioemotional selectivity theory, driven by the awareness of one’s decreasing future lifetime . Similar to humans, aging monkeys show physical losses  and reductions in social activity [2, 5-7]. To disentangle a general resource loss and the awareness of decreasing time, we combined field experiments with behavioral observations in a large age-heterogeneous population of Barbary macaques (Macaca sylvanus) at La Forêt des Singes. Novel object tests revealed a loss of interest in the nonsocial environment in early adulthood, which was modulated by the availability of a food reward. Experiments using vocal and visual representations of social partners indicated that monkeys maintained an interest in social stimuli and a preferential interest in friends and socially important individuals into old age. Old females engaged in fewer social interactions, although other group members continued to invest in relationships with them. Consequently, reductions in sociality were not due to a decrease in social interest. In conclusion, some of the motivational shifts observed in aging humans, particularly the increasing focus on social over nonsocial stimuli, may occur in the absence of a limited time perspective and are most likely deeply rooted in primate evolution. Our findings highlight the value of nonhuman primates as valuable models for understanding human aging [8, 9].
During wildlife tourism, proximity or actual contact between people and animals may lead to a significant risk of anthropozoonotic disease transmission. In this paper, we use social network analysis, disease simulation modelling and data on animal health and behaviour to investigate such risks at a site in Morocco, where tourists come to see wild Barbary macaques (Macaca sylvanus). Measures of individual macaques' network centrality-an index of the strength and distribution of their social relationships and thus potentially their ability to spread disease-did not show clear and consistent relationships with their time spent in close proximity to, or rate of interacting with, tourists. Disease simulation modelling indicated that while higher-ranked animals had a significantly greater ability to spread disease within the group, in absolute terms there was little difference in the size of outbreaks that different individuals were predicted to cause. We observed a high rate of physical contact and close proximity between humans and macaques, including during three periods when the macaques were coughing and sneezing heavily, highlighting the potential risk of disease transmission. We recommend that general disease prevention strategies, such as those aimed at reducing opportunities for contact between tourists and macaques, should be adopted.
- Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
- Published almost 4 years ago
In humans and obligatory social animals, individuals with weak social ties experience negative health and fitness consequences. The social buffering hypothesis conceptualizes one possible mediating mechanism: During stressful situations the presence of close social partners buffers against the adverse effects of increased physiological stress levels. We tested this hypothesis using data on social (rate of aggression received) and environmental (low temperatures) stressors in wild male Barbary macaques (Macaca sylvanus) in Morocco. These males form strong, enduring, and equitable affiliative relationships similar to human friendships. We tested the effect of the strength of a male’s top three social bonds on his fecal glucocorticoid metabolite (fGCM) levels as a function of the stressors' intensity. The attenuating effect of stronger social bonds on physiological stress increased both with increasing rates of aggression received and with decreasing minimum daily temperature. Ruling out thermoregulatory and immediate effects of social interactions on fGCM levels, our results indicate that male Barbary macaques employ a tend-and-befriend coping strategy in the face of increased environmental as well as social day-to-day stressors. This evidence of a stress-ameliorating effect of social bonding among males under natural conditions and beyond the mother-offspring, kin or pair bond broadens the generality of the social buffering hypothesis.