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  • The snow monkeys of Japan live further north than any other non-human 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 non-scientific 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 behaviortheir own kind of culturepassed down from generation to generation.

  • I wonder what they think about while they soak.

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The snow monkeys of Japan live further north than any other non-human primate.

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The Story Behind Japan’s Bathing Monkeys | ScienceTake

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    Mayu Okuuchi posted on 2022/09/09
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