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Journal: Primates; journal of primatology


Most living primates exhibit a daytime or nighttime activity pattern. Strict diurnality is thought to be the rule among anthropoids except for owl monkeys. Here we report the diel activity pattern of an Asian colobine, the Guizhou snub-nosed monkey Rhinopithecus brelichi, based on a methodology that relied on using 24-h continuously operating camera traps. We conducted the study in Fanjingshan National Nature Reserve in Guizhou, China from March 22 to May 19 and from June 17 to October 14, 2011. After standardizing all time elements to a meridian-based time according to the geographic coordinates of the study site, we showed unequivocally that the monkeys, though predominantly diurnal, exhibited activity beyond daylight hours throughout the study. Specifically, their activity at night and during twilight periods suggests a complex interplay of behavioral adaptations, among others, to living in a temperate environment where day length and food resources fluctuate substantially across seasons. We contend that, under prevailing ecological conditions, so-called strictly diurnal primates may adjust their activity schedule opportunistically in order to increase energy intake. We also discuss the advantages of using camera traps in primate studies, and how the standardized use of meridian-based time by researchers would benefit comparisons of diel activity patterns among primates.

Concepts: Primate, Monkey, Old World monkey, Snub-nosed monkey, Colobinae, Simian, Gray Snub-nosed Monkey, Colobine monkeys


On 10 April 2015, a Dutch TV crew was filming at the Royal Burgers Zoo in Arnhem, The Netherlands. It was the intention to film the chimpanzees in the enclosure from close-by and from above with the means of a drone. When the drone came a bit closer to the chimpanzees, a female individual made two sweeps with a branch that she held in one hand. The second one was successful and downed the drone. The use of the stick in this context was a unique action. It seemed deliberate given the decision to collect it and carry it to a place where the drone might be attacked. This episode adds to the indications that chimpanzees engage in forward planning of tool-use acts.

Concepts: Human, Netherlands, Dutch language, Television program, King Crimson, Tool-using species, Arnhem, Gelderland


Interspecies sexual behaviour or ‘reproductive interference’ has been reported across a wide range of animal taxa. However, most of these occurrences were observed in phylogenetically close species and were mainly discussed in terms of their effect on fitness, hybridization and species survival. The few cases of heterospecific mating in distant species occurred between animals that were bred and maintained in captivity. Only one scientific study has reported this phenomenon, describing sexual harassment of king penguins by an Antarctic fur seal. This is the first article to report mating behaviour between a male Japanese macaque (Macaca fuscata yakui) and female sika deer (Cervus nippon yakushimae) on Yakushima Island, Japan. Although Japanese macaques are known to ride deer, this individual showed clearly sexual behaviour towards several female deer, some of which tried to escape whilst others accepted the mount. This male seems to belong to a group of peripheral males. Although this phenomenon may be explained as copulation learning, this is highly unlikely. The most realistic hypothesis would be that of mate deprivation, which states that males with limited access to females are more likely to display this behaviour. Whatever the cause for this event may be, the observation of highly unusual animal behaviour may be a key to understanding the evolution of heterospecific mating behaviour in the animal kingdom.

Concepts: Scientific method, Male, Reproduction, Deer, Sex, Macaque, Primate, Japanese Macaque


Imitation is a cornerstone of human development, serving both a cognitive function (e.g. in the acquisition and transmission of skills and knowledge) and a social-communicative function, whereby the imitation of familiar actions serves to maintain social interaction and promote prosociality. In nonhuman primates, this latter function is poorly understood, or even claimed to be absent. In this observational study, we documented interactions between chimpanzees and zoo visitors and found that the two species imitated each other at a similar rate, corresponding to almost 10% of all produced actions. Imitation appeared to accomplish a social-communicative function, as cross-species interactions that contained imitative actions lasted significantly longer than interactions without imitation. In both species, physical proximity promoted cross-species imitation. Overall, imitative precision was higher among visitors than among chimpanzees, but this difference vanished in proximity contexts, i.e. in the indoor environment. Four of five chimpanzees produced imitations; three of them exhibited comparable imitation rates, despite large individual differences in level of cross-species interactivity. We also found that chimpanzees evidenced imitation recognition, yet only when visitors imitated their actions (as opposed to postures). Imitation recognition was expressed by returned imitation in 36% of the cases, and all four imitating chimpanzees engaged in so-called imitative games. Previously regarded as unique to early human socialization, such games serve to maintain social engagement. The results presented here indicate that nonhuman apes exhibit spontaneous imitation that can accomplish a communicative function. The study raises a number of novel questions for imitation research and highlights the imitation of familiar behaviours as a relevant-yet thus far understudied-research topic.

Concepts: Psychology, Human, Interaction, Sociology, Cognition, Primate, Knowledge, Imitation


We have analyzed the ranging patterns of the Mimikire group (M group) of chimpanzees in the Mahale Mountains National Park, Tanzania. During 16 years, the chimpanzees moved over a total area of 25.2 or 27.4 km(2), as estimated by the grid-cell or minimum convex polygon (MCP) methods, respectively. Annually, the M group used an average of 18.4 km(2), or approximately 70 %, of the total home-range area. The chimpanzees had used 80 % of their total home range after 5 years and 95 % after 11 years. M group chimpanzees were observed more than half of the time in areas that composed only 15 % of their total home range. Thus, they typically moved over limited areas, visiting other parts of their range only occasionally. On average, the chimpanzees used 7.6 km(2) (in MCP) per month. Mean monthly range size was smallest at the end of the rainy season and largest at the end of the dry season, but there was much variability from year to year. The chimpanzees used many of the same areas every year when Saba comorensis fruits were abundant between August and January. In contrast, the chimpanzees used several different areas of their range in June. Here range overlap between years was relatively small. Over the 16 years of the study we found that the M group reduced their use of the northern part of their range and increased their frequency of visits to the eastern mountainous side of their home range. Changes in home-range size correlated positively with the number of adult females but not with the number of adult males. This finding does not support a prediction of the male-defended territory model proposed for some East African chimpanzee unit-groups.

Concepts: Human, Mathematics, Tropics, Vector space, Chimpanzee, Tanzania, Wet season, Home range


Hoolock gibbons (genus Hoolock) are a group of very endangered primate species that belong to the small ape family (family Hylobatidae). The entire population that is distributed in the northeast and southeast of Bangladesh is estimated to include only around 350 individuals. A conservation program is thus necessary as soon as possible. Genetic markers are significant tools for planning such programs. In this study, we examined chromosomal characteristics of two western hoolock gibbons that were captured in a Bangladesh forest. During chromosome analysis, we encountered two chromosome variations that were observed for the first time in the wild-born western hoolock gibbons (Hoolock hoolock). The first one was a nonhomologous centromere position in chromosome 8 that was observed in the two examined individuals. The alteration was identical in the two individuals, which were examined by G-band and DAPI-band analyses. Chromosome paint analyses revealed that the difference in the centromere position was due to a single small pericentric inversion. The second variation was a heterozygous elongation in chromosome 9. Analysis by sequential techniques of fluorescence in situ hybridization with 18S rDNA and silver nitrate staining revealed a single and an inverted tandem duplication, respectively, of the nucleolus organizer region in two individuals. These chromosome variations provide useful information for the next steps to consider the evolution and conservation of the hoolock gibbon.

Concepts: DNA, Chromosome, Chromosomes, Primate, Ape, Gibbon, Gibbons, Bunopithecus sericus


Conserving a species depends on an understanding of its habitat requirements. Primatologists often characterize the habitat requirements of primates using macroscale population-based approaches relying on correlations between habitat attributes and population abundances between sites with varying levels of disturbance. This approach only works for species spread between several populations. The populations of some primates do not fulfill these criteria, forcing researchers to rely on individual-based (microscale) rather than population-based approaches for habitat characterization. We examined the reliability of using micro-scale habitat characterizations by studying the microhabitat preferences of a group of wild western hoolock gibbons (Hoolock hoolock) in order to compare our results to the habitat preferences of western hoolock gibbons identified during a macroscale study of populations across Bangladesh. We used stepwise discriminant analysis to differentiate between the areas of low, medium, and high usage based on microhabitat characteristics (tree species availability, altitude, canopy connection, distance from forest edge, and levels of human disturbance). The gibbons used interior forest habitat with low food tree availability most frequently for sleeping and socializing, and used edge habitat containing high food tree availability for medium periods for feeding. These results indicate that the gibbons prefer interior forest but are frequently forced to visit the forest edge to feed. Therefore, the optimal habitat would be interior forest away from human disturbance with high sleeping-tree and feeding-tree availability. These habitat preferences are consistent with the habitat attributes of Bangladesh’s largest remaining western hoolock gibbon populations, which live in areas containing low agricultural encroachment and high food-tree availability. Microhabitat use studies can be used to characterize the habitat requirements of a species, but should include multiple scales of analysis wherever possible.

Concepts: Gibbon, Gibbons


Between-group encounters are an obvious outcome of intergroup competition. Between-group encounters in primates range from avoidance to fatally aggressive. The prevailing hypotheses explain such encounters as mate defense strategy by males and resource defense strategy by females. However, the rate and nature of between-group encounters may also be influenced by habitat and demographic characteristics. We studied the effect of forest fragment size on group encounters in lion-tailed macaques in the Western Ghats of southern India. The encounter rate decreased as the fragment size increased. Group density and home range overlap correlated positively with the encounter rate. The aggressive encounters were more in the relatively medium-sized fragment where the observed frequency of between-group encounters was higher than the expected frequency than in the small fragment and the large forest complex. Together, these results indicate a complex pattern of effects of fragment size on between-group encounters in primates.

Concepts: Macaque, Frequency, India, Tamil Nadu, South India, Western Ghats, Lion-tailed Macaque, Silent Valley National Park


The ability of animals to survive dramatic climates depends on their physiology, morphology and behaviour, but is often influenced by the configuration of their habitat. Along with autonomic responses, thermoregulatory behaviours, including postural adjustments, social aggregation, and use of trees for shelter, help individuals maintain homeostasis across climate variations. Japanese macaques (Macaca fuscata) are the world’s most northerly species of nonhuman primates and have adapted to extremely cold environments. Given that thermoregulatory stress can increase glucocorticoid concentrations in primates, we hypothesized that by using an available hot spring, Japanese macaques could gain protection against weather-induced cold stress during winter. We studied 12 adult female Japanese macaques living in Jigokudani Monkey Park, Japan, during the spring birth season (April to June) and winter mating season (October to December). We collected faecal samples for determination of faecal glucocorticoid (fGC) metabolite concentrations by enzyme immunoassay, as well as behavioural data to determine time spent in the hot springs, dominance rank, aggression rates, and affiliative behaviours. We used nonparametric statistics to examine seasonal changes in hot spring bathing, and the relationship between rank and air temperature on hot spring bathing. We used general linear mixed-effect models to examine factors impacting hormone concentrations. We found that Japanese macaques use hot spring bathing for thermoregulation during the winter. In the studied troop, the single hot spring is a restricted resource favoured by dominant females. High social rank had both costs and benefits: dominant females sustained high fGC levels, which were associated with high aggression rates in winter, but benefited by priority of access to the hot spring, which was associated with low fGC concentrations and therefore might help reduce energy expenditure and subsequent body heat loss. This unique habit of hot spring bathing by Japanese macaques illustrates how behavioural flexibility can help counter cold climate stress, with likely implications for reproduction and survival.

Concepts: Macaque, Primate, Behavior, Season, Spring, Japanese Macaque, Hot spring, Winter


The present study aimed to investigate whether chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes) could learn a transverse pattern by being trained in the rules of the rock-paper-scissors game in which “paper” beats “rock,” “rock” beats “scissors,” and “scissors” beats “paper.” Additionally, this study compared the learning processes between chimpanzees and children. Seven chimpanzees were tested using a computer-controlled task. They were trained to choose the stronger of two options according to the game rules. The chimpanzees first engaged in the paper-rock sessions until they reached the learning criterion. Subsequently, they engaged in the rock-scissors and scissors-paper sessions, before progressing to sessions with all three pairs mixed. Five of the seven chimpanzees completed training after a mean of 307 sessions, which indicates that they learned the circular pattern. The chimpanzees required more scissors-paper sessions (14.29 ± 6.89), the third learnt pair, than paper-rock (1.71 ± 0.18) and rock-scissors (3.14 ± 0.70) sessions, suggesting they had difficulty finalizing the circularity. The chimpanzees then received generalization tests using new stimuli, which they learned quickly. A similar procedure was performed with children (35-71 months, n = 38) who needed the same number of trials for all three pairs during single-paired sessions. Their accuracy during the mixed-pair sessions improved with age and was better than chance from 50 months of age, which indicates that the ability to solve the transverse patterning problem might develop at around 4 years of age. The present findings show that chimpanzees were able to learn the task but had difficulties with circularity, whereas children learned the task more easily and developed the relevant ability at approximately 4 years of age. Furthermore, the chimpanzees' performance during the mixed-pair sessions was similar to that of 4-year-old children during the corresponding stage of training.

Concepts: Skill, Learning, Developmental psychology, Study skills, Intelligence, Play