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Keywords:

  • Macaca fuscata;
  • hot-spring bath;
  • thermoregulation;
  • age-sex bias

Abstract

Japanese macaques (Macaca fuscata) in a free-ranging group in Jigokudani valley, Nagano prefecture, are known to bathe in a hot spring. We used scan sampling in a study aimed at elucidating the causal factors and possible social transmission of this behavior. From 1980–2003, 31% of a total 114 females in the group habitually bathed in the hot spring. The habit was more widespread in dominant matrilines than in subordinate matrilines. Infants whose mothers bathed were more likely to bathe than infants of mothers who did not bathe. The number of monkeys bathing was clearly influenced by ambient air temperature. More monkeys bathed in the hot spring in winter than in summer. The results support the thermoregulation hypothesis of hot-spring bathing. Bathing behavior varies among age and sex categories of monkeys, with adult females and juveniles bathing more often than adult males and subadults. We compared hot-spring bathing with other thermoregulatory behaviors in various primate populations. Am. J. Primatol. 69:1425–1430, 2007. © 2007 Wiley-Liss, Inc.