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Macaques [1]
Bonnet macaque (Macaca radiata) Photograph By Shantanu Kuveskar.jpg
Bonnet macaque in Manegaon, Maharashtra, India
Scientific classification Red Pencil Icon.png
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Primates
Suborder: Haplorhini
Infraorder: Simiiformes
Family: Cercopithecidae
Tribe: Papionini
Genus: Macaca
Lacépède, 1799
Type species
Macaca sylvanus

See text

The macaques ( /məˈkɑːk/ or /məˈkæk/ ) [2] constitute a genus (Macaca) of gregarious Old World monkeys of the subfamily Cercopithecinae. The 23 species of macaques inhabit ranges throughout Asia, North Africa, and (in one instance) Gibraltar. Macaques are principally frugivorous (preferring fruit), although their diet also includes seeds, leaves, flowers, and tree bark. Some species, such as the crab-eating macaque, subsist on a diet of invertebrates and occasionally small vertebrates. On average, southern pig-tailed macaques in Malaysia eat about 70 large rats each per year. [3] [4] All macaque social groups are matriarchal, arranged around dominant females. [5]


Macaques are found in a variety of habitats throughout the Asian continent and are highly adaptable. Certain species have learned to live with humans and have become invasive in some human-settled environments, such as the island of Mauritius and Silver Springs State Park in Florida. Macaques can be a threat to wildlife conservation as well as to human well-being via carrying transmittable and fatal diseases. Currently, invasive species of macaques are handled with several control methods.


Aside from humans (genus Homo ), the macaques are the most widespread primate genus, ranging from Japan to the Indian subcontinent, and in the case of the Barbary macaque (Macaca sylvanus), to North Africa and Southern Europe. Twenty-three macaque species are currently recognized. Macaques are robust primates whose arms and legs are about the same in length. The fur of these animals is typically varying shades of brown or black and their muzzles are rounded in profile with nostrils on the upper surface. The tail varies among each species, which can be long, moderate, short or totally absent. [6] Although several species lack tails, and their common names refer to them as apes, these are true monkeys, with no greater relationship to the true apes than any other Old World monkeys. Instead, this comes from an earlier definition of 'ape' that included primates generally. [7]

In some species, skin folds join the second through fifth toes, almost reaching the first metatarsal joint. [8] The monkey's size differs depending on sex and species. Males from all species can range from 41 to 70 cm (16 to 28 inches) in head and body length, and in weight from 5.5 to 18 kg (12.13 to 39.7 lb). [6] Females can range from a weight of 2.4 to 13 kg (5.3 to 28.7 lb). These primates live in troops that vary in size, where males dominate, however the rank order of dominance frequently shifts. Female ranking lasts longer and depends upon their genealogical position. Macaques are able to swim and spend most of their time on the ground, along with some time in trees. They have large pouches in their cheeks where they carry extra food. They are considered highly intelligent and are often used in the medical field for experimentation. Adults also are notorious for tending to be bad tempered. [6]

Distribution and habitat

Macaques are highly adaptable to different habitats and climates and can tolerate a wide fluctuation of temperatures and live in varying landscape settings. They easily adapt to human-built environments and can survive well in urban settings if they are able to steal food. They can also survive in completely natural settings absent of humans.

The ecological and geographic ranges of the macaque are the widest of any non-human primate. Their habitats include the tropical rainforests of Southeast Asia, Sri Lanka, India, arid mountains of Pakistan and Afghanistan, and temperate mountains in Japan, northern China, Morocco, and Nepal. Some species also inhabit villages and towns in cities in Asia. [9]

Ecology and behavior


Macaques are mainly vegetarian, although some species have been observed feeding on insects. In natural habitats, they have been observed to consume certain parts of over one hundred species of plants including the buds, fruit, young leaves, bark, roots, and flowers. When macaques live amongst people, they raid agricultural crops such as wheat, rice, or sugarcane; and garden crops like tomatoes, bananas, melons, mangos, or papayas. [10] In human settings, they also rely heavily on direct handouts from people. This includes peanuts, rice, legumes, or even prepared food.

Group structure

Macaques live in established social groups that can range from a few individuals to several hundred; as they are social animals. A typical social group possess between 20 and 50 individuals of all ages and of both sexes. The typical composition consists of 15% adult males, 35% adult females, 20% infants, and 30% juveniles, though there exists variation in structure and size of groups across populations. [9]

The premotor cortex of macaques is widely studied. Macaque monkey's premotor areas.jpg
The premotor cortex of macaques is widely studied.

Macaques have a very intricate social structure and hierarchy. If a macaque of a lower level in the social chain has eaten berries and none are left for a higher-ranking macaque, then the one higher in status can, within this social organization, remove the berries from the other monkey's mouth. [12]

Reproduction and mortality

The reproductive potential of each species differs. Populations of the rhesus macaque can grow at rates of 10% to 15% per year if the environmental conditions are favorable. However, some forest-dwelling species are endangered with much lower reproductive rates. [9] After one year of age, macaques move from being dependent on their mother during infancy, to the juvenile stage, where they begin to associate more with other juveniles through rough tumble and playing activities. They sexually mature between three and five years of age. Females will usually stay with the social group in which they were born; however, young adult males tend to disperse and attempt to enter other social groups. Not all males succeed in joining other groups and may become solitary, attempting to join other social groups for many years. [9] Macaques have a typical lifespan of 20 to 30 years.

As invasive species

M. fascicularis on a scooter at Ko Chang, Thailand Monkey Kai Bae.jpg
M. fascicularis on a scooter at Ko Chang, Thailand

Certain species under the genus Macaca have become invasive in certain parts of the world, while others that survive in forest habitats remain threatened. The long-tailed macaque (M. fascicularis) is listed as a threat and invasive alien species in Mauritius, along with the rhesus macaques (M. mulatta) in Florida. [13]

The long-tailed macaque causes severe damage to parts of its range where it has been introduced because the populations grow unchecked due to a lack of predators. [14] On the island Mauritius, they have created serious conservation concerns for other endemic species. They consume seeds of native plants and aid in the spread of exotic weeds throughout the forests. This changes the composition of the habitats and allows them to be rapidly overrun by invasive plants.

Long-tailed macaques are also responsible for the near extinction of several bird species on Mauritius by destroying the nests of the birds as they move through their native ranges and eat the eggs of critically endangered species, such as the pink pigeon and Mauritian green parrot. [15] They can be serious agricultural pests because they raid crops and gardens and humans often shoot the monkeys which can eliminate entire local populations.

In Florida, a group of rhesus macaques inhabit Silver Springs State Park. Humans often feed them, which may alter their movement and keep them close to the river on weekends where high human traffic is present. [13] The monkeys can become aggressive toward humans, and also carry potentially fatal human diseases, including the herpes B virus. [16]

Relations with humans

Several species of macaque are used extensively in animal testing, particularly in the neuroscience of visual perception and the visual system.

Nearly all (73–100%) pet and captive rhesus macaques are carriers of the herpes B virus. This virus is harmless to macaques, but infections of humans, while rare, are potentially fatal, a risk that makes macaques unsuitable as pets. [17]

Urban performing macaques also carried simian foamy virus, suggesting they could be involved in the species-to-species jump of similar retroviruses to humans. [18]

In Vietnam, macaque is eaten by some people as bushmeat.[ citation needed ]

In 2021, Thai authorities seized a car that transported 88 macaques; allegedly the animals were on their way to a neighboring country to be used as food.

Population control

Management techniques have historically been controversial, and public disapproval can hinder control efforts. Previously, efforts to remove macaque individuals were met with public resistance. [13] One management strategy that is currently being explored is that of sterilization. Natural resource managers are being educated by scientific studies in the proposed strategy. Effectiveness of this strategy is estimated to succeed in keeping populations in check. For example, if 80% of females are sterilized every five years, or 50% every two years, it could effectively reduce the population. [13] Other control strategies include planting specific trees to provide protection to native birds from macaque predation, live trapping, and the vaccine porcine zona pellucida (PZP), which causes infertility in females. [15]


In January 2018, scientists in China reported in the journal Cell the first creation of two crab-eating macaque clones, named Zhong Zhong and Hua Hua, using somatic cell nuclear transfer – the same method that produced Dolly the sheep. [19] [20] [21] [22]


As of 2005, the authors of Mammal Species of the World recognized the following species and species groups, aside from the white-cheeked macaque, which was described in 2015.

GroupsImage Common name Scientific name Distribution Conservation status
(IUCN Red List 2020) [23]
Barbary macaque group Macaca sylvanus.Mother and baby.jpg Barbary macaque M. sylvanusAlgeria, Morocco, and Gibraltar EN
Southern pig-tailed macaque group Lion-tailed macaque canine.jpg Lion-tailed macaque M. silenus Western Ghats of South India EN
Cercopithecidae - Macaca nemastrina.jpg Southern pig-tailed macaque (also locally called beruk)M. nemestrina Southern Thailand, Malaysia, and IndonesiaEN
Macaca leonina mother with baby - Khao Yai.jpg Northern pig-tailed macaque M. leoninaBangladesh, Cambodia, China, India, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand, and VietnamVU
Beruk Mentawai Macaca pagensis.JPG Pagai Island macaque M. pagensis Sumatra, IndonesiaCE
Siberut macaque M. siberu Siberut, IndonesiaEN
Male macaque maure (Macaca maura).jpg Moor macaque M. maura Sulawesi, IndonesiaEN
Booted macaque M. ochreata Sulawesi, IndonesiaVU
Macaca tonkeana groupe.jpg Tonkean macaque M. tonkeanaCentral Sulawesi and the nearby Togian Islands in IndonesiaVU
Heck's macaque M. hecki Sulawesi, IndonesiaVU
Macaca nigra in captivity Tandurusa Zoo.JPG Gorontalo macaque M. nigrescens Sulawesi, IndonesiaVU
Kuifmakaak (8721744168).jpg Celebes crested macaque M. nigra Sulawesi (Celebes) and Bacan Islands, IndonesiaCE
Crab-eating macaque group Ngarai Sianok sumatran monkey.jpg Crab-eating macaque (also called long-tailed macaque or cynomolgus monkey)M. fascicularis Southeast Asia VU
Stump tailed Macaque P1130751 24.jpg Stump-tailed macaque M. arctoides South China, India, Malaysia, Burma, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, and VietnamVU
Rhesus macaque group Davidraju img15(Macaca mulatta) Rhesus macaque.jpg Rhesus macaque M. mulattaSouth, Central, and Southeast Asia LC
Formosan macaque.jpg Formosan rock macaque M. cyclopis Taiwan LC
Japanese Snow Monkey (Macaque) Mother Grooms Her Young.jpg Japanese macaque (also called snow monkey)M. fuscataJapanLC
Toque macaque group Toque macaque (Macaca sinica) 05.jpg Toque macaque M. sinica Sri Lanka EN
Bonnet macaque (Macaca radiata) head.jpg Bonnet macaque (also called zati)M. radiataIndiaVU
Assam-Makak 1670-2.jpg Assam macaque M. assamensisBhutan; Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, Sikkim, and Tripura in northeastern India; into northern Myanmar; and ChinaNT
Male Tibetan Macaque.jpg Tibetan macaque M. thibetanaEastern Tibet, east to Guangdong and north to Shaanxi in ChinaNT
Arunachal macaque from Bugun and Shertukpen forests around Eaglenest WLS.JPG Arunachal macaque M. munzala Arunachal Pradesh, northeastern India EN
Macaca leucogenys female.jpg White-cheeked macaque M. leucogenys [24] Southeastern Tibet and Arunachal Pradesh, northeastern India Undetermined

Later studies disputed some of these species groupings. For example, Li et al., based on DNA testing, do not recognize the M. fascularis group. Rather, they place the crab-eating macaque within the M. mulatta group and the stump-tailed macaque within the M. sinica group. [25]

Prehistoric (fossil) species:

See also

Related Research Articles

Primate An order of mammals

A primate is a eutherian mammal constituting the taxonomic order Primates. Primates arose 85–55 million years ago first from small terrestrial mammals, which adapted to living in the trees of tropical forests: many primate characteristics represent adaptations to life in this challenging environment, including large brains, visual acuity, color vision, a shoulder girdle allowing a large degree of movement in the shoulder joint, and dextrous hands. Primates range in size from Madame Berthe's mouse lemur, which weighs 30 g (1 oz), to the eastern gorilla, weighing over 200 kg (440 lb). There are 190–448 species of living primates, depending on which classification is used. New primate species continue to be discovered: over 25 species were described in the 2000s, and 11 since 2010.

Crab-eating macaque Species of mammal

The crab-eating macaque, also known as the long-tailed macaque and referred to as the cynomolgus monkey in laboratories, is a cercopithecine primate native to Southeast Asia. A species of macaque, the crab-eating macaque has a long history alongside humans; it has been alternately seen as an agricultural pest, sacred animal in some temples, and more recently, the subject of medical experiments.

Old World monkey Family of mammals

Old World monkey is the common English name for a family of primates known taxonomically as the Cercopithecidae. Twenty-four genera and 138 species are recognized, making it the largest primate family. Old World monkey genera include baboons and macaques. Common names for other Old World monkeys include the talapoin, guenon, colobus, douc, vervet, gelada, mangabey, langur, mandrill, surili (Presbytis), patas, and proboscis monkey. Phylogenetically, they are more closely related to apes than to New World monkeys. They diverged from a common ancestor of New World monkeys around 45 to 55 million years ago.

Simian immunodeficiency virus (SIV) is a species of retrovirus that cause persistent infections in at least 45 species of African non-human primates. Based on analysis of strains found in four species of monkeys from Bioko Island, which was isolated from the mainland by rising sea levels about 11,000 years ago, it has been concluded that SIV has been present in monkeys and apes for at least 32,000 years, and probably much longer.

Rhesus macaque Species of Old World monkey

The rhesus macaque, colloquially rhesus monkey, is a species of Old World monkey. It is listed as least concern in the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species in view of its wide distribution, presumed large population, and its tolerance of a broad range of habitats. It is native to South, Central, and Southeast Asia and has the widest geographic range of all non-human primates, occupying a great diversity of altitudes and a great variety of habitats, from grasslands to arid and forested areas, but also close to human settlements.

Barbary macaque Species of Old World monkey

The Barbary macaque, also known as Barbary ape or magot, is a macaque species native to the Atlas Mountains of Algeria and Morocco along with a small introduced population in Gibraltar. It is one of the best-known Old World monkey species.

Japanese macaque The only nonhuman primate in Japan

The Japanese macaque, also known as the snow monkey, is a terrestrial Old World monkey species that is native to Japan. They get their name "snow monkey" because some live in areas where snow covers the ground for months each year – no other non-human primate is more northern-living, nor lives in a colder climate. Individuals have brownish grey fur, pinkish-red faces, and short tails. Two subspecies are known.

Lion-tailed macaque Species of Old World monkey

The lion-tailed macaque, or the wanderoo, is an Old World monkey endemic to the Western Ghats of South India.

The Yerkes National Primate Research Center located in Atlanta, Georgia, owned by Emory University, is a center of biomedical and behavioral research, is dedicated to improving human and animal health, and is the oldest of seven National Primate Research Centers partially funded by the National Institutes of Health. It is known for its nationally and internationally recognized biomedical and behavioral studies with nonhuman primates by Emory University.

Toque macaque Species of Old World monkey

The toque macaque is a reddish-brown-coloured Old World monkey endemic to Sri Lanka, where it is known as the rilewa or rilawa, . Its name refers to the whorl of hair at the crown of the head, compared to a brimless toque cap.

Monkey Animal of the "higher primates" (the simians), but excluding the apes

Monkey is a common name that may refer to certain groups or species of simian mammals of infraorder Simiiformes. The term is applied descriptively to groups of primates, such as families of New World monkeys and Old World monkeys. Many monkey species are tree-dwelling (arboreal), although there are species that live primarily on the ground, such as baboons. Most species are mainly active during the day (diurnal). Monkeys are generally considered to be intelligent, especially the Old World monkeys of Catarrhini.

Bonnet macaque Species of Old World monkey

The bonnet macaque, also known as zati, is a species of macaque endemic to southern India. Its distribution is limited by the Indian Ocean on three sides and the Godavari and Tapti Rivers, along with its related competitor the rhesus macaque in the north. Land use changes in the last few decades have resulted in changes in its distribution boundaries with the rhesus macaque, raising concern for its status in the wild.

Stump-tailed macaque Species of Old World monkey

The stump-tailed macaque, also called the bear macaque, is a species of macaque found in South Asia. In India, it is found in south of the Brahmaputra River, in the northeastern part of the country. Its range in India extends from Assam and Meghalaya to eastern Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland, Manipur, Mizoram and Tripura.

Nicobar long-tailed macaque Subspecies of Old World monkey

The Nicobar long-tailed macaque is a subspecies of the crab-eating macaque, endemic to the Nicobar Islands in the Bay of Bengal. This primate is found on three of the Nicobar Islands—Great Nicobar, Little Nicobar and Katchal—in biome regions consisting of tropical and subtropical moist broadleaf forests.

Southern pig-tailed macaque Species of mammal

The southern pig-tailed macaque, also known as the Sundaland pig-tailed macaque and Sunda pig-tailed macaque, is a medium-sized macaque that lives in southern Thailand, Malaysia, and Indonesia. It is known locally as the bruh.

The Primate Rescue Center is a primate rescue organization founded by Clay Miller and April Truitt in the late 1980s. The PRC is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization located in Wilmore, Kentucky, approximately 17 miles south of Lexington, Kentucky. The PRC provides lifetime sanctuary for rescued primates from all over the United States, and is home to over 50 primates, including a troop of 11 common chimpanzees.

Mason-Pfizer monkey virus (M-PMV), formerly Simian retrovirus (SRV), is a species of retroviruses that usually infect and cause a fatal immune deficiency in Asian macaques. The ssRNA virus appears sporadically in mammary carcinoma of captive macaques at breeding facilities which expected as the natural host, but the prevalence of this virus in feral macaques remains unknown. M-PMV was transmitted naturally by virus-containing body fluids, via biting, scratching, grooming, and fighting. Cross contaminated instruments or equipment (fomite) can also spread this virus among animals.

Plasmodium cynomolgi is an apicomplexan parasite that infects mosquitoes and Asian Old World monkeys. This species has been used as a model for human Plasmodium vivax because Plasmodium cynomolgi shares the same life cycle and some important biological features with P. vivax.

Zhong Zhong and Hua Hua Worlds first cloned primates (born 2017)

Zhong Zhong and Hua Hua are a pair of identical crab-eating macaques that were created through somatic cell nuclear transfer (SCNT), the same cloning technique that produced Dolly the sheep in 1996. They are the first cloned primates produced by this technique. Unlike previous attempts to clone monkeys, the donated nuclei came from fetal cells, not embryonic cells. The primates were born from two independent surrogate pregnancies at the Institute of Neuroscience of the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Shanghai.


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