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Japanese Macaque Fact Sheet

  • Latin Name

    Macaca fuscata
  • Class

  • Order

  • Range

    Native to Japan’s three southern islands, Japanese macaques are the most northern-living non-human primates on Earth.
  • Status

    Japanese macaques are common in their native range.
  • Habitat

    Japanese macaques occupy deciduous and evergreen forests.
  • Niche

    For wild Japanese macaques, the menu changes with the seasons. In summer, snow monkeys feast on plentiful foods including fruit, flowers, seeds, leaves and even mushrooms. When the weather turns cold, Japanese macaques nibble roots and buds. They’ll even take advantage of avalanches to find unfrozen food beneath!
  • Life History

    Wild snow monkeys live in troops ranging from 10 to more than 100 members. Females stay in their birth groups, with daughters inheriting mom’s rank. These long-lasting female lines make it possible for complex cultures to pass down through the generations—everything from stacking stones to taking dips in hot springs.
  • Special Adaptations

    • Thick coats insulate snow monkeys from cold winters. Japanese macaques also have compact, bulky bodies that reduce the amount of body heat that’s exposed to the elements.
    • Japanese macaques’ tails are short and stumpy, maxing out at 3.5 inches in length. These reduced rear ends are less likely to feel the nip of frostbite!
    • A dip in a hot spring provides a nice way to warm up during chilly winters. This behavior is passed down through the generations, although low-ranking Japanese macaques may find themselves “frozen” out of a spot in the water.
    • Some snow monkey troops wash foods such as sweet potatoes, cassava and rice in the ocean before they eat. This rinse may remove grit from the food—and add a little salty flavor.
    • When Japanese macaques’ basic needs are met, they’ve been observed “rocking out” for fun. Individuals stack, knock down and even cuddle stones. Stone play is solitary, although the sight of one monkey doing it seems to encourage others.


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