Monday, April 9, 2018

Japanese Macaques Cope with Cold-Climate Stress Using Spa Therapy


Image credit: Wikimedia Commons

For decades Japanese Macaques, commonly known as Snow Monkeys, have bathed in the hot springs in Jigokudani Monkey Park, Japan. The benefits of this spa therapy on stress have been outlined in a study conducted by the research team under Dr. Rafaela Takeshita of Kyoto University.

The behaviour was first noted on a snowy day in 1963 when a young female monkey was found bathing in a nearby outdoor hot spring. The behaviour occurred mostly in winter months and both adults and juveniles were observed entering the water. Despite the tendency to bathe in the winter, no physiological data can confirm that the monkeys perform the act as a means of keeping warm.

From the spring birth season, April to June, and winter mating season, October to December, the study led by Dr. Rafaela Takeshita followed 12 adult female monkeys. Although dominant females were found spending more time bathing than subordinate females, there was a trade-off as these females often expended more energy in conflicts. Overall, the hot spring sessions were useful in reducing energy loss in the form of heat and levels of stress hormones in the subjects.

These results indicate that the bathing has a similar effect on stress as can be found in humans. Behavioural flexibility, as demonstrated in this habit, has allowed the Japanese Macaques to combat cold-climate stress, implicating improved chances for reproduction and survival.


View
Japanese Macaques bathing at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6FzrsIOnIpo

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