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Seasonal variation in energy balance of wild Japanese macaques (Macaca fucata yakui) in a warm-temperate forest: a preliminary assessment in the coastal forest of Yakushima


Food scarcity is a major challenge for primates living in temperate forests, where food availability varies markedly among seasons. In Japanese macaques, which are exclusively distributed in temperate zones, the fat accumulation ability has been highlighted as an adaptation for survival during the lean season and for reproductive success. However, the knowledge of energetic strategies of Japanese macaques has been mainly derived from data on cool-temperate forests, where fallback foods comprise winter buds and bark. Data on Japanese macaques in warm-temperate forests where fallback foods comprise mature leaves are still lacking. We aimed to identify seasonal variations in energy balance and the relative importance of ingestion rates (dry matter intake per feeding time), energy content of the food, and feeding time in energy intake of Japanese macaques in the coastal forest of Yakushima. We estimated energy balance of 6–12 adult females from October 2012 to October 2013. We estimated energy intake based on the data on feeding behavior and energy content of the diet and calculated energy expenditure based on the previously established relationship between body mass and total energy expenditure. We also quantified urinary C-peptide, which is a non-invasive biomarker of energetic conditions. We demonstrated that energy balance was more positive in the fruit/seed-feeding period than in the mature-leaf-feeding and fruit/fungi-feeding periods and that ingestion rates were the most important component of energy intake. The present study suggests that the fat accumulation ability is an essential adaptation in Japanese macaques even in warm-temperate forests.

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We thank the Yakushima Forest Ecosystem Conservation Center and Kagoshima Prefectural Government for their permission to conduct behavioral data collection in Yakushima. We would like to express our gratitude to Drs. Hideki Sugiura and Mariko Suzuki for their warm support in the field, Dr. Shin-Ichiro Aiba for providing meteorological data, Mr. Toshihiro Saito for his help in identifying plant species, and Dr. Akiko Sawada and Ms. Yuki Shima for helping with food sample collection. We are grateful to the members of the Department of Ecology and Social Behavior in Primate Research Institute in Kyoto University for fruitful discussions. We also thank the editor, Dr. Cedric Girard-Buttoz, and the anonymous reviewer for their constructive comments, which improved our manuscript. This study was supported financially by the Cooperation Research Program of Wildlife Research Center, Kyoto University, and Daiko Foundation Scholarship to YK. Also this study was supported by Grant-in-Aid for JSPS Research Fellow and for Young Scientists (No. 16J01208 and No. 18K14490 to YK), Grant-in-Aid for Young Scientists (B) (No. 16K18482 to KK), and Grant-in-Aid for Scientific Research (B) (No. 23370099 to Dr. Naofumi Nakagawa, the Laboratory of Human Evolution Studies, Graduate School of Science, Kyoto University) from the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science.

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Correspondence to Yosuke Kurihara.

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Table 3 Ingestion rates and nutritional content for the food items of Japanese macaques in the coastal forest of Yakushima


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Kurihara, Y., Kinoshita, K., Shiroishi, I. et al. Seasonal variation in energy balance of wild Japanese macaques (Macaca fucata yakui) in a warm-temperate forest: a preliminary assessment in the coastal forest of Yakushima. Primates (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10329-020-00797-3

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  • Temperate forests
  • C-peptide
  • Food scarcity
  • Feeding rate
  • Energy
  • Nutrition