Toque macaque

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Toque macaque [1]
Macaca sinica - 01.jpg
Scientific classification Red Pencil Icon.png
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Primates
Suborder: Haplorhini
Infraorder: Simiiformes
Family: Cercopithecidae
Genus: Macaca
M. sinica
Binomial name
Macaca sinica
(Linnaeus, 1771)
Toque Macaque range map.svg
Toque macaque range map

The toque macaque ( /tɒkməˈkæk/ ; Macaca sinica) is a reddish-brown-coloured Old World monkey endemic to Sri Lanka, where it is known as the rilewa or rilawa (Sinhala: රිළවා), (hence "rillow" in the Oxford English Dictionary ). Its name refers to the whorl of hair at the crown of the head, compared to a brimless toque cap. [3]



With age, the face of females turns slightly pink. This is especially prominent in the subspecies sinica.


M. s. sinica is found from the Vavuniya, Mannar to the lowlands of Anuradhapura, Polonnaruwa, Puttalam, and Kurunegala; and along the arid zone of the Monaragala and Hambantota districts.

M. s. aurifrons can be found sympatrically with subsp. sinica within intermediate regions of the country in Kegalle and parts of Kurunegala. They are also found in south-western parts of the island in the Galle and Matara districts near Kalu Ganga.

M. s. opisthomelas has recently been identified as a separate subspecies. It can be found in the entire south-western region of central hill bordering Ratnapura) and in the Nuwara Eliya districts. They can be seen around the Hakgala Botanical Garden and other cold climatic montane forest patches. [4] They also can be observed in Trincomalee near Koneswaram Temple. [5]


The generic name Macaca is from Portuguese macaco, of unclear origin, while sinica means "of China," even though the species is not found there. [6]

The three recognized subspecies of toque macaques are:

M. s. opisthomelas is similar to subsp. aurifrons, but has a long fur and contrasting golden color in the anterior part of its brown cap.

The three subspecies can be identified through the orientation of their different hair patterns.

Social structure

Monkey is cleaning the other Monkeys Social grooming.jpg
Monkey is cleaning the other Monkeys

The social status is highly structured in toque macaques, where there are dominance hierarchies among both males and females. A troop may consist of as few as 8 to as many as 40. When the troop becomes too large, social tension and aggression towards each other arise, causing some individuals to flee from the troop. This is noticeable in adults and sub adults, where a troop may consist largely of females. Newly appointed alpha males also show aggressiveness towards females, causing the females to flee. There are sightings of severe fights between individuals of the same troop and some get heavy wounds to cheeks, eyes, and sometimes broken arms. [4]

Young offspring of a troop's alpha female will typically receive better sustenance and shelter than their peers. [7]


Mother Toque macaque (Macaca sinica) with her baby in Katagamuwa sanctuary - Sri Lanka Female Toque macaque with baby - (Harmony of Life).jpg
Mother Toque macaque (Macaca sinica) with her baby in Katagamuwa sanctuary - Sri Lanka

When in estrous, the female's perineum becomes reddish in color and swells. This change is a signal to the males that she is ready to mate. There is an average of 18 month between births. After a 5–6 month gestation period, female macaque give birth to a single offspring. Offspring hold on to their mothers for about 2 months. During this time they learn survival techniques and social skills critical for survival. The infants are born into their social classes based on their mothers position in the troop. Young males are forced to abandon their troop when they are about 6–8 years of age. This prevents in-breeding and ensures that the current alpha male maintains his position in the troop. Leaving the troop is the only way a male can change his social standing. If he has good social skills and is strong he may become an alpha male. A single alpha male can father all of the troops' offspring. [4]

Birth rarely occurs during the day or on the ground. During labor the female isolates herself from the group (about 100 m). The mother stands bipedally during parturition and assists the delivery with her hands. The infant is usually born 2 minutes after crowning. The infant can vocalize almost immediately after birth; it is important for the mother and infant to recognize each other's voices. Vocalization will be used to alert the mother of imminent danger, and can assist in finding each other if separated. After birth the mother licks the infant and orients it toward her breasts. She will resume foraging behavior within 20 minutes after parturition. The mother also eats part of the placenta, because it contains needed protein. The alpha female of the group asserts her power by taking part of the placenta for herself to eat. [8]


Macaca sinica opisthomelas Macaca sinica aurifrons - Wetzone subspecies.jpg
Macaca sinica opisthomelas

They are fond of eating drooping yellow clusters of flowers of Cassia fistula . They eat any good thing making use of human detritus by going after plantains, pineapples, rice grains, papaws, and mangoes. Even there are plenty of foods present in natural habitation, toque macaques enjoy to take any food with little effort around human dwellings. They are occasionally seen around houses near a forest patch, where they invade all the fruiting plants in the day sessions and return to the forest cover in night. Because, these macaques have very little fear for humans and their companions-the dogs.

Cheek pouches enable toque macaques to store enough food while eating fast. In the dry zone, they are known to eat drupes of understory shrub Zizyphus , ripe fruits of Ficus , and Cordia species. They occasionally eat many small animals ranging from small insects to mammals like indian palm squirrels and Vandeleuria oleracea . [4]


Wild cats (leopards and fishing cats) and Indian rock python are the main predators of this species.

Life expectancy

The lifespan of toque macaques in the wild is about the same as in captivity, up to 35 years. The expected lifespan in the wild is low due to high infant mortality rates. There is also significant mortality among adolescent males when they venture off to join a different troop. Once toque macaques have reached sexual maturity they will likely live to an old age. (Fooden, 1979; Michael and Crook, 1973). [9]


Macaca sinica in the Bundala National Park, Sri Lanka SL Bundala NP asv2020-01 img30.jpg
Macaca sinica in the Bundala National Park, Sri Lanka

As of 2008, IUCN listed toque macaque as endangered in their list due to habitat destruction and hunting, and also for taming for pets. [10] With few patches of forests for survival, they engage to survive close to human habitation, giving a serious trouble for both the parties. Due to devastated eating of crop plants, humans always take precautions to avoid their entrance to the cultivation fields. This results killing by shot, trappings, and poisoning.

Both subsp. aurifrons and sinica are kept as pets by various indigenous people for economic purposes. They were heavily used by both Sri Lanka Army and LTTE for their shooting practices in the recent past, but now prohibited. [2]

Antibody prevalence

In an experiment, serum samples taken from toque macaque individuals at Polonnaruwa were examined for antibodies to Toxoplasma gondii by the modified agglutination test. There was no evidence of maternal transmission of antibodies or congenital toxoplasmosis. None of the infected macaques died within 1 year after sampling. Toxoplasma gondii infection was closely linked to human environments where domestic cats were common. Although infection with T. gondii has been noted in several species of Asian primates, this is the first report of T. gondii antibodies in toque macaques.

As dengue reservoir

It's unclear if nonhuman primates also serve as a reservoir of human dengue viruses under certain conditions. According to a study by some biologists, a cross-sectional serologic survey was carried out to characterize the pattern of transmission of a recently identified dengue virus among toque macaques in Sri Lanka. The results indicated that an epizootic dengue virus was active among the macaques. A single epizootic had taken place between October 1986 and February 1987 during which 94% of the macaques within the 3 km2 study site were exposed to the virus. The epizootic was highly focal in nature because macaques living 5 km from the study population were not exposed to the virus. The transmission of dengue viruses among macaques in the wild may have important public health implications. [11]

Related Research Articles

Macaque Genus of Old World monkeys

The macaques 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 Gibraltar. Macaques are principally frugivorous, 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. All macaque social groups are matriarchal, arranged around dominant females.

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 55 million years ago.

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.

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.

Formosan rock macaque Species of Old World monkey

The Formosan rock macaque, also known as the Formosan rock monkey or Taiwanese macaque, is a macaque endemic to the island of Taiwan, which has also been introduced to Japan. Besides humans, Formosan rock macaques are the only native primates living in Taiwan. The species was first described by Robert Swinhoe in 1862.

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.

Pagai Island macaque Species of Old World monkey

The Pagai Island macaque, also known as the Pagai macaque or Bokkoi, is an Old World monkey endemic to the Mentawai Islands off the west coast of Sumatra. It is listed as critically endangered on the IUCN Red List due to its ever-shrinking habitat. Macaca pagensis formerly included the overall darker Siberut macaque as a subspecies, but this arrangement is polyphyletic, leading to the two being classified as separate species. Both were formerly considered subspecies of the southern pig-tailed macaque.

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 beruk.


Girneys are soft vocalizations used by species of Old World monkeys to ease affiliative social interactions between unrelated members of the same species. The vocalizations are most commonly used by adult females around birthing season; the female will direct the call towards an unrelated mother and her offspring as an attempt to initiate friendly contact. However, mothers themselves will never direct girneys towards their own offspring as girneys do not increase affiliative interactions between relatives. Monkeys will also produce call when interacting with a dominant member of the same species, and when avoiding further conflict after becoming victim of an agonistic interaction. In all contexts, the vocalization is beneficial as it allows the signaler to inform potential aggressor that they are nonthreatening, thereby reducing the chance of attack and increasing fitness. Girneys are often accompanied by lip-smacking and a hesitant approach towards the dominant monkey. If the vocalization successfully reduces tension, it may be followed by allogrooming, alloparenting, and/or a rocking embrace.

Tufted gray langur Species of Old World monkey

The tufted gray langur, also known as Madras gray langur, and Coromandel sacred langur, is an Old World monkey, one of the species of langurs. This, like other gray langurs, is mainly a leaf-eating monkey. It is found in southeast India and Sri Lanka. It is one of three Semnopithecus species named after characters from The Iliad, S. hector and S. ajax being the others. In Sinhala it is known as හැලි වදුරා.

M. sinica may refer to:

Dark Days in Monkey City is an Animal Planet documentary series about the lives of wild toque macaques in Sri Lanka. In the tradition of Meerkat Manor it followed the stories of individual primates, but differed from earlier shows by adding special effects and transitional animation.

Tibetan macaque Species of Old World monkey

The Tibetan macaque, also known as the Chinese stump-tailed macaque or Milne-Edwards' macaque, is a macaque species found from eastern Tibet east to Guangdong and north to Shaanxi in China. It has also been reported from northeastern India. This species lives in subtropical forests at elevations from 800 to 2,500 m above sea level.

Wolf Dittus

Wolfgang Peter Johann Dittus is a primatologist and behavioral ecologist based in Sri Lanka.

In biology, paternal care is parental investment provided by a male to his own offspring. It is a complex social behaviour in vertebrates associated with animal mating systems, life history traits, and ecology. Paternal care may be provided in concert with the mother or, more rarely, by the male alone.

Infanticide in non-human primates occurs when an individual kills its own or another individual's dependent young. Five hypotheses have been proposed to explain infanticide in non-human primates: exploitation, resource competition, parental manipulation, sexual selection, and social pathology.


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  4. 1 2 3 4 Yapa, A.; Ratnavira, G. (2013). Mammals of Sri Lanka. Colombo: Field Ornithology Group of Sri Lanka. p. 1012. ISBN   978-955-8576-32-8.
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