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  • The snow monkeys of Japan live further north

  • than any other nonhuman primate.

  • And one troop has become downright famous

  • because they're the only monkeys in the world

  • to spend hours in the winter soaking in hot springs.

  • Only recently, scientists have started investigating

  • the behavior of the macaques.

  • But before we get to that, here's a brief history

  • of how a group of macaques developed the hot tub habit

  • in the first place.

  • Macaques live all over Japan.

  • But this group's home is near Nagano,

  • where the winter temperatures are often below freezing,

  • but the landscape is sprinkled with natural hot springs.

  • But it wasn't until 1963,

  • so the story goes, that a monkey first joined human visitors

  • in a hotel bathing pool.

  • Of course, one macaque in the pool

  • soon became many macaques, which upset the humans.

  • The solution: build a park and hot spring bathing pools

  • just for the monkeys.

  • Happy monkeys, happy humans.

  • The macaques soon became an attraction,

  • drawing more attention and more visitors

  • to the mountains of Nagano.

  • Back to the present.

  • Researchers are now focusing on why the monkeys bathe.

  • Probably to stay warm, but that's just an assumption.

  • Since cold causes stress, increasing levels of hormones

  • called glucocorticoids,

  • scientists tested levels of these hormones in the monkeys.

  • They didn't draw blood or collect saliva.

  • They collected and tested feces.

  • And since the monkeys are so used to human tourists,

  • they paid no attention to the researchers.

  • As suspected, stress levels were lower during periods

  • when the macaques were bathing.

  • Interestingly, the higher-ranking females

  • had more access to the pool and more time bathing.

  • Takeshita herself found a kind of nonscientific inspiration

  • in the monkey bathing.

  • Many times after coming back from the field

  • I would go to hot springs.

  • They also show how a small group of animals

  • can develop a unique behavior, their own kind of culture,

  • passed down from generation to generation.

  • I wonder what they think about while they soak.

The snow monkeys of Japan live further north

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B1 US TheNewYorkTimes bathing nagano pool monkey group

The Story Behind Japan’s Bathing Monkeys | ScienceTake

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    Mayu Okuuchi posted on 2020/02/12
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