Rhesus macaque

Macaca mulatta

SUBFAMILY

Cercopithecinae

TRIBE

Papionini

TAXONOMY

Macaca mulatta (Zimmermann, 1780), Nepal Terai, India. The genus Macaca is the second most species-rich among the cheek-pouched monkeys, with at least 20 species. Within the species Macaca mulatta, six subspecies can be distinguished.

OTHER COMMON NAMES

English: Rhesus monkey; French: Macaque rhésus; German: Rhesusaffe; Spanish: Mono resus.

PHYSICAL CHARACTERISTICS

Fur medium brown dorsally, with a reddish tone on the hindquarters, and pale brown ventrally. The skin on the face and rump is red and in adult males the scrotum is also red. The tail is relatively short and there is moderate sexual dimorphism in body size. Head and body length: 21 in (53.0 cm) in males and 18 in (45.0 cm) in females; tail length: 10 in (24.5 cm) in males and 9 in (22.0 cm) in females. Body mass: 17 lb (7.70 kg) for males and 11 lb 13 oz (5.35 kg) for females.

DISTRIBUTION

Extremely wide geographical distribution, extending from eastern Afghanistan and northern India in the west to China and southern Vietnam in the east. In India, the southern limit lies some distance south of the River Godavari. The distribution of rhesus monkeys thus includes Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, Nepal, Bhutan, Bangladesh, Myanmar, China, Thailand, Laos, and Vietnam.

HABITAT

Live in a very wide spectrum of habitats, ranging from semi-desert scrub through dry deciduous and mixed deciduous forests and temperate cedar-oak forests to tropical forest and swamps.

BEHAVIOR

Diurnal and semi-terrestrial. Typically sleep in trees at night.

FEEDING ECOLOGY AND DIET

Broad diet includes fruits, seeds, gums, leaves, grasses, roots and invertebrates (mainly insects).

REPRODUCTIVE BIOLOGY

Polygamous. Single births are typical, although twinning occurs very occasionally. Females have no sexual swelling, but the perineal area shows cylical variation in color, becoming bright red around the time of ovulation. The average length of the ovarian cycle is 29 days and the gestation period is 167 days.

CONSERVATION STATUS

Listed as Near Threatened.

SIGNIFICANCE TO HUMANS

Rhesus macaques are protected by local custom in certain parts of their range, for example in much of northern India, and they play an important part in mythology. This species has become the standard laboratory primate for biomedical investigations and has hence been intensively studied in captivity. ♦

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