The Extreme World of Japanese Snow Macaques (Nihonzaru 日本猿)

I remember being amazed when I saw these Japanese Snow Macaques on the telly on a wildlife documentary. It was a great privilege to have had the opportunity to sit and watch these remarkable primates living their lives in the freeezing cold Japanese Alps. They’re incredibly unique primates and so adorable!

Interesting papers I found about Biology and Ecology of Japanese Macaques, Macaca fuscata:

Enari et al (2016) discuss the importance of Japanese macaque and other mammals’ dung burial in snow. When the snow melts the dung frozen dung is exposed and allows a time lagged mammal-beetle interaction. This is important for maintaining plant regeneration. The researchers found 12 dung beetle species which I thought was incredible considering the harsh conditions up in the mountains.

If you’re interested in behaviour a new paper by Kawakami et al (2017) investigated the spontaneous first smiles of new born Japanese Macaques. These involuntary lip-corner raises are considered to be the origin of smile and laughter, as we see in humans and chimps. There is also some older research by Hanya et al (2007) comparing the behaviour of two populations of Japanese macaques and evaluating how this influenced their thermoregulation throughout the year. Basically, they love to huddle and stay still! And… Sometimes… Even make snowballs (Eaton, 1972).

Japanese snow macaques have a huge part to play in the culture of Japan. Interestingly, they are seen as sacred and associated with the gods at the beginning of the 8th century. As time goes on however, and as humans develop and domesticate further, there is a shift towards monkeys being disliked as they became massive pests to agriculture. There are some great links on the wiki page with some beautiful monkey art!


Eaton, G. Primates (1972) Snowball construction by a feral troop of Japanese macaques (Macaca fuscata) living under seminatural conditions : 411. doi:10.1007/BF01793660

Enari, H., Koike, S. & Sakamaki-Enari, H. J For Res (2016) 21: 92. doi:10.1007/s10310-015-0516-z

Kawakami, F., Tomonaga, M. & Suzuki, J.(2017) The first smile: spontaneous smiles in newborn Japanese macaques (Macaca fuscata) 58: 93. doi:10.1007/s10329-016-0558-7

Hanya, G., Kiyono, M. and Hayaishi, S. (2007), Behavioral thermoregulation of wild Japanese macaques: comparisons between two subpopulations. Am. J. Primatol., 69: 802–815. doi:10.1002/ajp.20397


In Sulawesi, as an Entomologist!

During the field seasons of 2012 and 2013 I was the entomology team leader at Operation Wallacea, Indonesia. The country of Indonesia is a huge country made up of around 18,000 islands across 5,000km. With a population of around 260 million people, and an incredible diversity of approximately 730 different languages. It is unsurprising, therefore, that the island biogeography provides a hot-house for speciation in this tropical island region with an incredible examples of adaptation and endemism. The Wallacea region, named after the famous naturalist Alfred Russel Wallace

I worked in the main base for the university students doing the jungle training course, and the starting point for school students in south Buton is the village of Labundo. I conducted lepidoptera pollard surveys, banana baited bottle canopy arthropod surveys and Dung beetle surveys in both natural habitats and disturbed agricultural ecosystems. As well as this, I conducted rapid biodiversity assessment of termites using the standard transect method.