The tendency of primates to stay for the geysers in Central Japan has long puzzled researchers, who believed that they just did so to keep warm.
A new study by scientists from the research Institute of the Kyoto University for the study of Primate and research center wildlife found that the macaques that bathe in the hot springs of Jigokudani in Nagano Prefecture will do so partly to keep stress levels in check.
Their study entitled “beneficial effect of bathing in hot springs to the level of stress in Japanese macaques,” was published in the scientific journal primates, and explains that the ritual of primates has important and long-term health benefits. Biologists observed the behavior and rituals of bathing macaques 12 females aged 5 to 24 genera in the spring and winter breeding season, and collected samples of feces to measure glucocorticoid (stress hormone) in the blood.
“…[A]with people, hot springs has anti-stress effect snow monkeys,” the study’s lead Author Rafaela Takeshita explained.
According to the biologist, “this unique habit of bathing in the hot springs the snow monkeys illustrates the behavioral flexibility may help fight cold climate stress, with likely implications for reproduction and survival.”
Japanese macaques, also known as the snow monkey, the world’s northernmost species of monkeys, and live in Central Japan, and Peninsula Shimokita in the Island of Northern Honshu in areas where the winter temperature reaches below zero. Unusual macaque’ love to the geysers, long thought to be based on their desire to stay warm during the cold winter months.