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|Home > Life in Japan > Environment|
Friday, Sept. 21, 2001
By ROWAN HOOPER
* Japanese name: Nihon zaru * Scientific name: Macaca fuscata fuscata * Description: These monkeys -- the only ones in Japan -- are distinctive because of their brown-white fur and red faces (hair doesn't grow on the face). Males grow up to 60 cm tall and weigh about 12 kg. Females are slightly smaller, between 47-55 cm and 10 kg. They live in groups of 20 to up to 150. Young males are forced by the alpha male to leave the group when they become adolescent. * Where to find them: From Honshu to Kyushu, from subtropical lowland to subalpine highland. * Food: Fruit, berries, leaves, seeds, small animals, insects, crop plants. In winter, when everything is covered in snow, they eat the bark of trees. * Special features: Macaques are one of the few animals in the world that transmit cultural information to other group members. Scientists studying a macaque group first realized this when a female macaque figured out how to wash sweet potatoes before eating them, and taught the trick to other monkeys; they also rinse wheat in water. Even more amazingly, they use medicine. They eat takenigusa, a bamboolike grass that is used in Chinese medicine, to treat parasite problems. Some macaques also eat soil. Why? Their diet can cause gastric upsets but clay minerals in the soil help prevent diarrhea by buffering the gut from plant chemicals. Clever monkeys.