The influence of snowfall, temperature and social relationships on sleeping clusters of Japanese monkeys during winter in Shiga Heights

Primates. 2007 Apr;48(2):130-9. doi: 10.1007/s10329-006-0004-3. Epub 2006 Aug 3.


We studied Japanese monkeys (Macaca fuscata) of the Shiga A(1) troop at their sleeping sites in Shiga Heights, Japan, for 41 nights during 3 winters. Monkeys chose their sleeping sites in Japanese cedars and in deciduous broad-leaved forests on non-snowing nights and in Japanese cedar forests on snowing nights. We counted 399 sleeping clusters in which 2 or more monkeys remained in physical contact through the night and 43 solitary sleeping monkeys, though monkeys did not maintain physical contact with others in the daytime. We found 397 clusters on tree branches and 2 clusters on rocks. The mean size of huddling clusters was 3.06+/-1.22 SD. The cluster size (3.17+/-1.26 SD) at lower ambient temperatures between -7 and -4 degrees C was larger than that at higher temperatures between -2 and 4 degrees C (cluster size 2.88+/-1.13 SD). Most clusters were composed of kin. Females kept close to related females in the daytime and huddled with them at night. The highest-ranking male mainly huddled with his kin and his familiar females. Other males kept farther apart from each other in the daytime, probably to avoid social conflicts. Through cold winter nights, however, such males reduced inter-individual distances and huddled with other males. Japanese monkeys appear to recognize three types of inter-individual distances: an intimate distance less than 1 m, a personal distance of 1-3 m and a social distance of 3-20 m; they change their inter-individual distances according to social and ecological circumstances.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Age Factors
  • Animals
  • Climate*
  • Ecosystem*
  • Japan
  • Macaca / physiology*
  • Observation
  • Sleep*
  • Snow
  • Social Behavior*
  • Temperature