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Aging Monkeys

June 28, 2016

How do other primates’ social lives change as they age?

Transcript

an old female Barbary macaque at La Forêt des Singes in Rocamadour, France, being groomed. Julia Fischer German Primate Center 700

An old female Barbary macaque is groomed by younger monkeys at La Forêt des Singes (The Monkey Forest) in Rocamadour, France. (Julia Fischer/German Primate Center)

BOB HIRSHON (host):

Aging monkeys. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

In the Monkey Forest of Rocamadour, France, Barbary macaques live long lives, free from disease and predators. German Primate Center biologist Julia Fischer and her colleagues studied the social interactions of older primates and found that, like humans, they tend to reduce their social activity, becoming more choosy about how they spend their time.

JULIA FISCHER (German Primate Center):

They initiate fewer social contacts, but the others still come to the old monkeys and they sit together and hang out.

HIRSHON:

And, she says, the aging monkeys continue to take an interest in social information, such as photos of friends and baby monkeys. The researchers write in Current Biology that because it’s unlikely that the monkeys are aware of their own mortality, similar shifts in social focus among aging humans may indicate shared roots in the primate family tree. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.

Story by Susanne Bard

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