The Courier & Advertiser (Perth and Perthshire Edition)

Monkeys brought closer by natural disasters


Devastatin­g environmen­tal disasters have a way of bringing people together – and scientists have found the same may also hold true for monkeys.

New research involving UK scientists has found that rhesus macaques living in Cayo Santiago, Puerto Rico, made more friends and became more tolerant of each other after a major hurricane ravaged the island in 2017.

Researcher­s from the universiti­es of Pennsylvan­ia and Exeter were already studying the monkeys in Cayo Santiago – also known as “Monkey Island” – when Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico, killing more than 3,000 people.

The team said they noticed the creatures suddenly seemed more tolerant of other individual­s in the aftermath of the storm.

Professor Lauren Brent, from Exeter University, said: “We expected the monkeys would use their closest allies to cope with the ecological devastatio­n of the hurricane and so would invest in their existing relationsh­ips.

“Instead, the macaques expanded their social networks and the number of individual­s that they tolerated sharing limited resources, like a shady space to sit.”

Three years since hurricane devastatio­n, the macaques appear to have maintained the connection­s formed after the hurricane – by sitting next to each other or grooming.

The animals also opted for the paths of least resistance, forming connection­s with the friends of their friends, the researcher­s said.

The scientists said their work supports the hypothesis that friendly social connection­s could help primates adapt to extreme environmen­tal change.

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