Lion-Tailed Macaque: Adaptations & Conservation

Instructor: Lauren Posey

Lauren has taught intermediate reading in an English Language Institute, and she has her Master's degree in Linguistics.

In this lesson you will learn about one of the most endangered animals in the world: the lion-tailed macaque. We'll look at some of its adaptations, as well as efforts at conservation.

Seriously Endangered

Have you ever heard of Tobaccoville, North Carolina? If not, that's not surprising. It's a small town with roughly 2,500 people. Now imagine that those 2,500 people were the entirety of the human population. That is the problem facing the lion-tailed macaque, or Macaca silenus. With less than 2,500 still living in the wild, they are one of the most endangered species in the world.

Their endangered status is mostly due to habitat destruction. Though macaques live over a fairly wide area of Southern India, much of the forested area they use for habitat has been cut down. As a result, the macaques can only live in small pockets within that area. It's a definite problem, and serious efforts need to be made toward conservation in order to save this unique species.

Adaptations

Regardless of the issues it is facing from humans, the lion-tailed macaque is well-suited to its enviroment. It has a number of physical and behavioral adaptations that help it survive.

Physical Features

One of the lion-tailed macaque's most striking features is the large silver mane that frames its face. In addition to being visually interesting, the mane is also useful. Lion-tailed macaques live in forests prone to monsoons, or seasonal heavy rains. The mane helps keep the rain out of the macaque's face, which allows it to keep searching for food easily, no matter what season it is.

Lion-tailed macaques have a striking silver mane that protects them from rain
Lion-tailed macaque

Another adaptation is that these monkeys have cheek pouches, much like the ones chipmunks have. The pouches allow macaques to store food for later while they are out foraging, or finding food. They can gather a lot of food quickly and then retreat back to the safety of their trees to eat it, which means they are out in the open and exposed to predators for a shorter period of time. Their foraging is also helped by the fact that the monkeys have opposable thumbs, which makes it easier to climb trees and gather food.

In addition, lion-tailed macaques have well-padded bottoms. This is useful because they sleep wedged into trees in order to stay safe from predators. The padding allows them to do this comfortably, and fall asleep without falling out of the tree. In fact, their natural cushions even have a name: ischial callosities.

Behavioral Adaptations

Lion-tailed macaques also have some specific behaviors that help them in their environment. For one thing, they typically give birth at the same time that most of the trees are producing fruit. This way, there is plenty of food for both the adults and the babies.

They also have a wide range of sounds--at least 17 distinctly different ones. These sounds help them stake out their territory and also warn other macaques that there are predators nearby. They also use calls to communicate with other members of their group. Since the groups can have up to 100 members, loud sounds are a more efficient form of communication than body language alone.

Conservation

As you saw, there are less than 2,500 adult macaques living in the wild today. This is because large portions of their habitat have been cut down in order to plant coffee, tea, and other crops. In addition, they are sometimes hunted for their fur or to eat, and farmers will occasionally shoot the monkeys if they threaten crops.

One way to help protect the remaining lion-tailed macaques would be to place heavier penalties on killing them. Additionally, there could be an incentive for farmers who allow lion-tailed macaques to live peacefully on their land.

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