Know Your Primate: Rhesus Macaques

Did you really expect anything else given the recent news?
Suborder: Anthropoidea
Infraorder: Catarrhini
Superfamily: Cercopithecoidea
Family: Cercopithecidae
Subfamily: Cercopithecinae
Genus: Macaca
Species: Macaca mulatta
There are also six subspecies (although I am not sure which was used for the genome sequencing): M. m. brevicauda, M. m. lasiota, M. m. mulatta, M. m. sanctijohannis, M. m. vestita, M. m. villosa


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In general, cercopithicines are distinguished from colobines (the other family of old world monkeys) by a narrower interorbital region, shallower jaws, lower cusps on their molars, cheek pouches and arms and legs that are similar in length. Macaques are relatively generalized, medium sized primates. Like baboons they have long snouts (and like baboons and mangabeys they have a chromosome number of 44). Macaques are the most widely dispersed of all non human primates (there is even a free ranging population in Puerto Rico). The Rhesus Macaque is probably the most widely used laboratory primate.
According to Primate Info Net (from which, some of this information was derived):

Because they are found in such a broad geographic area, it is difficult to concisely summarize the types of habitats rhesus macaques populate. In the most general terms, they are found in both tropical and temperate habitats including semidesert, dry deciduous, mixed deciduous and bamboo, and temperate forests as well as in tropical forests and mangrove swamps, usually at elevations from sea level to 2000 m (6561 ft), but they have been seen at elevations up to 4000 m (13,123 ft) in China and northeastern India… Rhesus macaques are also found in areas close to humans in urban settings or near cultivated fields…

The impact of humans on Rhesus macaques (aside from laboratory use) has been quite large:

Rhesus macaques are exceptionally adapted to coexisting with humans and thrive near human settlement, in both urban and agricultural areas. It is impossible to characterize their “natural” diet without considering the impact of humans. Because they are found in higher densities in areas of human disturbance compared to forests, in some areas rhesus macaques derive, both directly and indirectly, a substantial part of their diet from human activities… In fact, up to 93% of their diet can be from human sources, either from direct handouts or from agricultural sources … Rhesus macaques are omnivores and feed on a wide array of plant and invertebrate products. By raiding crops, they have access to a huge variety of cultivated fruits and vegetables, and in highly urban areas, they forage by picking through garbage …

Which indicates that they are quite resourceful and adapt easily.
Pandering to lovers of cute:
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Rhesus macaques live in large multimale/multifemale groups with a dominance hierarchy. Like Pan they are quite promiscuous.
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I almost forgot, they move primarily by quadrupedal walking and running and have an opposable thumb…
Here is a picture of a Rhesus macaque skull:
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4 Responses

  1. What about the Florida colonies?

  2. Good point, there are several thousand (at a minimum) free-ranging Rhesus macaques in Florida.

  3. (there is even a free ranging population in Puerto Rico)

    An invasive species, I assume?

  4. Yes, they were introduced in 1938. Both the Puerto Rico and Florida populations are introduced, mostly with the idea of having a supply for research purposes (such as on several of the Florida Keys and in Puerto Rico), some are animals that escaped from, or were dumped by, their owners (mostly in Florida).

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