Barbary macaque (Macaca sylvanus), also known as Barbary ape or
magot, is a species of macaque unique for its distribution outside
Asia. Found in the
Atlas Mountains of
with a small population of uncertain origin in Gibraltar, the Barbary
macaque is one of the best-known
Old World monkey
Old World monkey species.
Skull and brain, as illustrated in Gervais' Histoire naturelle des
Barbary macaque is of particular interest because males play an
atypical role in rearing young. Because of uncertain paternity, males
are integral to raising all infants. Generally, Barbary macaques of
all ages and sexes contribute in alloparental care of young.
Macaque diets consist primarily of plants and insects and they are
found in a variety of habitats. Males live to around 25 years old
while females may live up to 30 years. Besides humans, they are
the only free-living primates in Europe. Although the species is
commonly referred to as the "Barbary ape", the
Barbary macaque is
actually a true monkey. Its name refers to the
Barbary Coast of North
Barbary macaque population of
Gibraltar is the only such
Northern Africa and the only population of wild
monkeys in Europe. The Rock of
Gibraltar is populated by approximately
1 Physical description
3 Social behaviour
3.1 Alarm calls
3.4 Interaction with the environment
5 Relationship with humans
Human use and tourism
6 See also
8 External links
The monkey is yellowish-brown to grey with a lighter underside. The
Barbary macaque has a mean body length of 556.8 mm (21.9 in)
in females and 634.3 mm (25.0 in) in males, and mean body
weight is reported to be 9.9 ± 1.03 kg (21.8 lbs) in
females and 14.5 ± 1.75 kg (32.0 lbs) in males. Its face
is dark pink and its tail is vestigial, measuring anywhere from 4 to
22mm. Males often have a more prominent tail. The front limbs of
this monkey are longer than its hind limbs. Females are smaller than
Barbary macaque is mainly found in the Atlas and Rif Mountain
Morocco and Algeria. It is the only species of macaque that
is distributed outside Asia. These animals can occupy a variety of
habitats, such as cedar, fir, and oak forests, or grasslands, scrub,
rocky ridges full of vegetation. Most Barbary macaques inhabit cedar
forests currently in the Atlas Mountains, however, this could reflect
the present habitat availability rather than a specific preference for
The diet of a
Barbary macaque consists of a mixture of plants and
insect prey. M. sylvanus consume a large variety of gymnosperms and
angiosperms. Almost every part of the plant is eaten, including
flowers, fruits, seeds, seedlings, leaves, buds, bark, gum, stems,
roots, bulbs, and corns. Common prey caught and consumed by Barbary
macaques are snails, earthworms, scorpions, spiders, centipedes,
millipedes, grasshoppers, termites, water striders, scale insects,
beetles, butterflies, moths, ants, and even tadpoles.
Their main predators are leopards, eagles, and domestic dogs. The
approach of eagles and domestic dogs is known to elicit an alarm call
Barbary macaque with young suckling
Barbary macaque is gregarious, forming mixed groups of several
females and males. Troops can have 10 to 100 individuals and are
matriarchal, with their hierarchy determined by lineage to the lead
female. Unlike other macaques, the males participate in rearing
the young. Males may spend a considerable amount of time playing
with and grooming infants. In this way, a strong social bond is formed
between males and juveniles, both the male's own offspring and those
of others in the troop. This may be a result of selectivity on the
part of the females, who may prefer highly parental males.
The mating season runs from November through March. The gestation
period is 147 to 192 days, and females usually have only one offspring
per pregnancy. Females rear twins in rare instances. Offspring reach
maturity at three to four years of age, and may live for 20 years or
Grooming other Barbary macaques leads to lower stress levels for the
individuals that do the grooming. While stress levels do not
appear to be reduced in animals that are groomed, grooming more
individuals leads to even lower stress levels; this is a benefit that
might outweigh the costs to the groomer, which include less time to
participate in other activities such as foraging. The mechanism for
reducing stress may be explained by the social relationships (and
support) that are formed by grooming.
Male Barbary macaques interfere in conflicts and form coalitions with
other males, usually with related males rather than with unrelated
males. These relationships suggest that males do so in order to
indirectly increase their own fitness. Furthermore, males form
coalitions with closely related kin more often than they do with
distantly related kin. These coalitions are not permanent and may
change frequently as male ranking within the group changes. Although
males are more likely to form coalitions with males who have helped
them in the past, this is not as important as relatedness in
determining coalitions. Males avoid conflicting with higher
ranking males and will more frequently form coalitions with the higher
ranking male in a conflict. Close grouping of males occur when
infant Barbary macaques are present. Interactions between males are
commonly initiated when a male presents an infant macaque to an adult
male who is not caring for an infant, or when an unattached male
approaches males who are caring for infants. This behaviour leads to a
type of social buffering, which reduces the number of antagonistic
interactions among males in a group.
An open mouth display by the
Barbary macaque is used most commonly by
juvenile macaques as a sign of playfulness.
The main purpose of calls in Barbary macaques is to alert other group
members to possible dangers such as predators. Barbary macaques can
discriminate calls by individuals in their own group from those by
individuals in other groups of conspecific macaques. Neither
genetic variation nor habitat differences are likely causes of
acoustic variation in the calls of different social groups. Instead,
minor variations in acoustic structure among groups similar to the
vocal accommodation seen in humans are the likely cause. However,
acoustic characteristics such as pitch and loudness are varied based
on the vocalizations of individuals they associate with, and social
situations play a role in the acoustic structure of calls.
Barbary macaque females have the ability to recognize their own
offspring’s calls through a variety of acoustic parameters.
Because of this, infant calls do not have to differ dramatically for
mothers to be able to recognize their own infant’s call. Mothers
demonstrate different behaviours on hearing the calls of other infant
macaques as opposed to the calls of their own offspring. More
parameters for vocalizations lead to more reliable identification of
calls in both infants and in adult macaques so it is not surprising
that the same acoustic characteristics that are heard in infant calls
are also heard in adult calls.
Barbary macaques mating
Although Barbary macaques are sexually active at all points during a
female’s reproductive cycle, male Barbary macaques determine a
female’s most fertile period by sexual swellings on the female.
Mating is most common during a female’s most fertile period. The
swelling size of the female reaches a maximum around the time of
ovulation, suggesting that size helps a male predict when he should
mate. This is further supported by the fact that male ejaculation
peaks at the same time that female sexual swelling peaks. There is not
a sufficient change in female sexual behaviour around the time of
ovulation in order to demonstrate to the male that the female is
fertile. The swellings, therefore, appear necessary for predicting
Barbary macaque females differ from other non-human primates in that
they often mate with a majority of the males in their social group.
While females are active in choosing sexual associations, the mating
behaviour of macaque social groups is not entirely determined by
female choice. These multiple matings by females decreases the
certainty of paternity of male Barbary macaques and may lead them to
care for all infants within the group. In order for a male to ensure
his reproductive success, he must maximize his time spent around the
females in the group during their fertile periods. Injuries to male
macaques peaks during the fertile period, which points to male-male
competition as an important determinant of male reproductive
success. Not allowing a female to mate with other males, however,
would be costly to the male since doing so would not allow him to mate
with more females.
Closeup of the face of a juvenile
Unlike other macaques where most parental care comes from the mother,
Barbary macaques from all age and sex groups participate in
alloparental care of infants. Male care of infants has been of
particular interest to research because high levels of care from males
is uncommon in groups where paternity is highly uncertain. Males even
act as true alloparents of infant macaques by carrying them and caring
for them for hours at a time as opposed to just demonstrating more
casual interactions with the infants. Female social status plays a
role in female alloparental interactions with infants. Higher ranking
females have more interactions whereas younger, lower ranking females
have less access to infants.
Interaction with the environment
Barbary macaques can cause major damage to the trees in their prime
Atlas cedar forests in Morocco. Since deforestation in
Morocco has become a major environmental problem in recent years,
research has been conducted to determine the cause of the bark
stripping behaviour demonstrated by these macaques. Cedar trees are
also vital to this population of Barbary macaques as an area with
cedars can support a much higher density of macaques than one without
them. A lack of a water source and exclusion of monkeys from water
sources are major causes of cedar bark stripping behaviour in Barbary
macaques. Density of macaques, however, is less correlated with the
behaviour than the other causes considered.
Barbary macaque was named by
Carl Linnaeus in 1758, along with
numerous other species named in that same year. The scientific name is
Macaca sylvanus. Phylogenetic and molecular analysis with other
primates has been done. Studies concerning interspecific DNA variation
within the genus Macaca show that the
Barbary macaque is most related
to the Asian macaques. Scientists have also studied the
Y-chromosome; however, this has proven unfruitful. One study
indicates that the
Barbary macaque has origins in
Algeria. The results of a phylogenetic analysis show that M.
sylvanus chromosomes resemble M. mulatta with the exception of
chromosomes 1, 4, 9, and 16.
Relationship with humans
Illustration from the 19th century
Wild populations of Barbary macaques have suffered a major decline in
recent years to the point of being declared an endangered species by
IUCN in 2009. Three-quarters of the world population is
located in the
Middle Atlas Mountains.
This species is also poached for live specimens as pets in the illegal
pet trade, and for clandestine collectors. Spain is the main entry
point in Europe. Today, no accurate data exist on the location and
number of individuals out of their habitat. An unknown number of
individuals are included in zoological collections, at other
institutions, in private hands, in storage, or waiting to be relocated
to appropriate destinations.
The habitat of the
Barbary macaque is under threat from increased
logging activity. As such, they are listed as endangered by the IUCN
Red List. Local farmers view the monkeys as pests, and engage in
extermination of the species. Once common throughout northern Africa
and southern Europe, only an estimated 12,000 to 21,000 Barbary
macaques are left in
Morocco and Algeria. Once, their distribution
was much more extensive, reaching Tunisia and Libya. Their range is no
longer continuous, with only isolated areas of range remaining. During
the Pleistocene, this species inhabited the Mediterranean coasts and
Europe, reaching Italy, Hungary, Spain, Portugal and France, and as
far north as
Germany and the British Isles. The species decreased
with the arrival of the Ice Age, becoming extinct in the Iberian
Peninsula 30,000 years ago.[clarification needed]
Barbary macaque is threatened by habitat loss, overgrazing and
illegal capture. In Morocco, tourists interact with Barbary macaques
in many regions. Information collected in the interviews with
inhabitants in the High Atlas of
Morocco indicated that the capture of
macaques occurs in these regions. Conflict between local people and
wild macaques is one of the greatest challenges to Macaca sylvanus
conservation in Morocco. The main threats to the survival of Barbary
macaques in this region have been found to be habitat destruction and
the impact of livestock grazing, but there are also increasing
problems of conflict with inhabitants due to crop raiding and the
illegal capture of macaques. One study[which?] has found that the
human–macaque conflict is mainly due to crop raiding. In the High
Atlas of Morocco, macaques attract a large number of tourists every
year, and they are favourable for their potential benefits to tourism.
In addition, macaques have some ecological roles, for example they are
the predators of several destructive insects and pests of plants and
participate in seed dispersal in many plant
In the Central High Atlas, the
Barbary macaque occurs in relatively
small and fragmented areas restricted to the main valleys at altitudes
of 700–2,400 m. In a 2013 study, researchers reported that they
found Barbary macaques in relatively small and fragmented habitats in
10 sites, and that that the species no longer occurred in four
localities. This could be attributed to habitat degradation, hunting
activities, the impact of livestock grazing, and disturbance by
people. As deforestation for agriculture and overgrazing continues,
the remaining forest becomes increasingly fragmented. Consequently,
Barbary macaque is now restricted to small, fragmented relict
Human use and tourism
Many of the mistaken ideas about human anatomy contained in the
Galen are apparently due to his use of these animals, the
only anthropoid available to him, in dissections. Strong cultural
taboos of his time prevented his performing any actual dissections of
human cadavers, even in his role as physician and teacher of
Morocco are frequently used as photo props, despite their
protected status. Tourists are encouraged to take photos with the
animals for a fee. Macaques are also sold as pets in
Europe to be used as pets and fighting monkeys.
Tourists interact with wild monkeys across the globe and in some
situations tourists may be encouraged to feed, photograph and touch
the monkeys. Although tourism has the potential to bring money in
towards conservation goals and provides an incentive for the
protection of natural habitats, close proximity and interactions with
tourists can also have significant psychological impacts on the
Barbary macaque. Fecal samples and stress-indicating behaviours, such
as belly scratching, indicate that the presence of tourists has a
negative impact on the macaques.
Human activities such as taking
photographs cause the animals stress, possibly because the people come
too close to the animals and make prolonged eye contact (a sign of
aggression in many primates). Macaques that live in areas close to
human contact have more parasites and lower overall health than those
that live in wilder environments, at least in part due to the
unhealthy diets they receive as a result of feeding from humans.
Several groups of
Barbary macaque can be found in tourist sites, where
they are affected by the presence of visitors providing food to them.
Researchers comparing two such groups in the central High Atlas
mountains in 2008 found that the tourist group of Barbary macaques
spent significantly more time engaged in resting and aggressive
behaviour, and foraged and moved significantly less than the wild
group. The tourist group spent significantly less time per day feeding
on herbs, seeds and acorns than the wild group.
Human food accounted
for 26% of the daily feeding records for the tourist group, and 1% for
the wild-feeding group. Scientists who collected data on the
seasonal activity budget and diet composition of the endangered
Barbary macaque group inhabiting a tourist site in
Morocco found that
activity budgets and diet of the study group varied markedly among
seasons and habitats. The percentage of daily time spent in foraging
and moving was lowest in spring, and the daily time spent in resting
was highest in spring and summer. The time budget devoted to
aggressive display was highest in spring than the other three seasons.
There is an increase in the daily feeding time spent eating flowers
and fruits in summer, seeds, acorns, roots and barks in winter and
autumn, herbs in spring and summer, and a clear increase in
consumption of the human food in spring. The tourist and the wild
groups did not differ in the proportion of daily records devoted to
terrestrial feeding, but the tourist group spent a significantly lower
percentage of daily records in terrestrial foraging, moving and
resting, while performing more terrestrial aggressive displays more
than the wild group. There was no significant difference between the
two groups in the proportion of terrestrial feeding records spent
eating fruits; but the tourist group had lower daily percentages of
terrestrial feeding on leaves, seeds and acorns, roots and barks, and
herbs, while it spent higher daily percentages of terrestrial feeding
on human food.
There is evidence that Barbary macaques were traded or perhaps given
as diplomatic gifts as long ago as the Iron Age. Their remains have
been found in such sites as
Emain Macha in Ireland, dating to no later
than 95 BC; an Iron Age hillfort, the
Titelberg in Luxembourg; and two
Roman sites in Britain.
Main article: Barbary macaques in Gibraltar
The last wild population in
Europe is that of Gibraltar, which, unlike
that of North Africa, is thriving. Currently, there are around 230
individuals living on the Rock of Gibraltar, and they form groups of
up to 75 and will occasionally enter the town.
Djebel Babor Nature Reserve
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Wikimedia Commons has media related to Macaca sylvanus.
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Barbary macaque (Macaca sylvanus)
Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Barbary Ape". Encyclopædia
Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press.
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Lesula (C. lomamiensis)
Barbary macaque (M. sylvanus)
Lion-tailed macaque (M. silenus)
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Kipunji (R. kipunji)
Olive baboon (P. anubis)
Yellow baboon (P. cynocephalus)
Hamadryas baboon (P. hamadryas)
Guinea baboon (P. papio)
Chacma baboon (P. ursinus)
Gelada (T. gelada)
Sooty mangabey (C. atys)
Collared mangabey (C. torquatus)
Agile mangabey (C. agilis)
Golden-bellied mangabey (C. chrysogaster)
Tana River mangabey
Tana River mangabey (C. galeritus)
Sanje mangabey (C. sanjei)
Mandrill (M. sphinx)
Drill (M. leucophaeus)
Fauna Europaea: 305552