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.