Science in Action: Snow Monkey Chooses Offspring’s Name via Touchscreen Computer Technology

Animals & Gardens

October 27, 2021

What’s in a name? At Lincoln Park Zoo – science! A snow monkey, Mito, chose the name for her male infant using touchscreen computer technology alongside Lester E. Fisher Center for the Study and Conservation of Apes researchers at Regenstein Macaque Forest. The infant, born August 3, has been named Minato!

Mito, a 15-year-old Japanese macaque, gave birth to the male infant this past summer. Since then, both mother and infant have acclimated to the troop of 13 snow monkeys.

Christopher Bijalba / Lincoln Park Zoo

The snow monkeys at Regenstein Macaque Forest regularly participate in voluntary primate cognition research which uses touchscreens to help zoo researchers understand how the primates experience the world. From these studies, Fisher Center scientists can better understand macaques’ ability to sequence and memorize symbols as well as their individual food preferences, enhancing the zoo’s ability to ensure high-level care and welfare for these primates.

Due to Mito’s familiarity with the touchscreen, she was provided two name options upon voluntarily entering the state-of-the-art cognition cube at the macaque habitat. The names for all of the snow monkey offspring at the zoo are inspired by Japanese cities and towns, paying homage to macaques’ native habitat, and begin with the same first letter as their mother to demonstrate the prominent matrilines in this species. Mito’s name choices were Minato or Miyoshi. Minato, the chosen name via touchscreen, is a part of the city of Tokyo with a population of about 240,000 people and means “port”.

Since Regenstein Macaque Forest’s opening in 2015, Lincoln Park Zoo has welcomed seven infants to the troop, demonstrating the excellent care and welfare being provided to this unique species.

Lincoln Park Zoo is dedicated to conservation and research of primates through the Lester E. Fisher Center for the Study and Conservation of Apes. Fisher Center researchers engage in cutting-edge science at the zoo and in the wild to learn more about how to best understand and protect our closest living relative.

Japanese macaques are found throughout most of Japan and are known for their tolerance for extreme climates, from sub-tropical lowlands to sub-alpine regions. While snow monkey populations do have alpha males, rank is determined by matrilines, meaning societal rank is inherited by offspring from their mothers.

Be sure to stop by Regenstein Macaque Forest to spot the youngster in action!