Fishing Monkeys: These Japanese Macaques Reportedly Survive on Brown Trout During the Winter

by Jonathan Howard
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Monkeys truly are humanity’s cousins in nature. Japanese macaques were recently observed fishing for trout. Fishing monkeys!

Japanese macaques are great! They are those fluffy little guys that hang out in the mountain snow and chill in hot springs. These monkeys have been featured in cartoons, films, and plenty of nature documentaries. Now, there is a new study that shows the animals fishing in the streams near their hot pools.

The volcanic activity under the ground that makes the pools of warmed water also helps to keep the streams flowing in the winter. So, these fishing monkeys wait on the edge of the streams and start to wait. Like any good angler, these monkeys will wait for just the perfect time to snatch these brown trout from the water.

While the macaques don’t rely on the fish year-round, in the wintertime, there are fewer food sources to be found. Vegetation and other resources are not as readily available in the cold winters. While conducting the study, researchers keyed in on macaques in the Chubu Sangaku National Park.

Here is what Alexander Milner, a professor of river ecosystems, said about the matter. “Japanese macaques have a wider winter home range when food resources are scarce,” Milner explained. Due to the region they live in, they are unable to cross the mountains in order to find other food.

“With high numbers of freshwater animals in its rivers and streams,” the professor continued. “The Kamikochi area may be the only environment in Japan where the topographical, geological, and meteorological conditions allow Japanese macaques to supplement their winter diet in this way.”

These fishing monkeys had kept their secret. That was until Milner was looking at some fecal samples. He and his team started digging into the diets of these wintery mammals.

Are These Fishing Monkeys Adapting?

For about 60 years, humans have been studying these Japanese macaques and their habits in the hot pools. These monkeys keep things tight. Only a select few are allowed in the warming pools. So, any new habit or discovery that researchers can make is helpful in understanding these creatures.

The peculiar thing about finding brown trout in the fecal samples is that it isn’t a native fish. That species along with rainbow trout came to the region from Europe some time ago. The brown trout have thrived, and now these fishing monkeys are making a snack out of them. While it is great to know that they eat the fish, there is one question.

How do these monkeys do what they do? Fishing monkeys don’t have fishing line and poles to use like their human counterparts. So, researchers know that the monkeys eat the fish, but have not yet observed them catching the fish. So, who is going to be the one to catch them snatching a trout from the warm streams?

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