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The Effect of Climatic Factors on the Activity Budgets of Barbary Macaques (Macaca sylvanus)

Abstract

Climatic conditions can significantly affect the behavior of animals and constrain their activity or geographic distribution. Barbary macaques (Macaca sylvanus) are one of the few primates that live outside the tropics. Here we analyze if and how the activity budgets of Barbary macaques are affected by climatic variables, i.e., air temperature, relative humidity, rainfall, and snow coverage. We collected scan sampling data on the activity budgets of four groups of macaques living in the Middle Atlas Mountains of Morocco from June 2008 to January 2011. This habitat is characterized by extreme seasonal changes, from cold and snowy winters to hot and dry summers. The activity budgets of the macaques differed across months but not across the time of day (with the exception of time spent feeding). The monkeys spent significantly more time feeding or foraging when there was no snow than when snow coverage was moderate or major. Daily rainfall was positively related to resting time and negatively to time spent moving or in social behavior. Air temperature was negatively related to time spent feeding or foraging. Finally, time spent on social behavior was significantly lower when relative humidity was high. These data indicate that environmental factors significantly affect the time budgets of endangered Barbary macaques, a species that has been little studied in the wild. Our findings support previous studies on temperate primates in showing that snow coverage can have negative consequences on the feeding ecology and survival of these species.

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Acknowledgments

We thank the Haut Commissariat aux Eaux et Forêts et à la Lutte Contre la Désertification of Morocco for research permission. We thank Marina Cords, Paul Garber, Joanna Setchell, and one anonymous reviewer for useful comments on an earlier draft of this manuscript. We also thank Laëtitia Maréchal, Pawel Fedurek, Paolo Piedimonte, Michael Madole, Dave Thomas, Sofia Santos, Maria Thunström, and Tom Smith for assistance in the field. We are grateful to Julia Ostner and Oliver Schülke for their valuable support to this study.

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Correspondence to Bonaventura Majolo.

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Majolo, B., McFarland, R., Young, C. et al. The Effect of Climatic Factors on the Activity Budgets of Barbary Macaques (Macaca sylvanus). Int J Primatol 34, 500–514 (2013). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10764-013-9678-8

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Keywords

  • Climate
  • Feeding
  • Morocco
  • Resting
  • Thermoregulation