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Coexisting after a disaster: what macaques have to teach us



Promote tolerance between individuals. Here is a little-known, and perhaps appreciable, consequence of climate change: that Science explore this week. On the front page, the American magazine included a photo of a group of rhesus macaques, with the title “Close ranks”. The choice fell on these monkeys, because their study on the island of Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria allowed us to observe a change in their relationships after a major environmental upheaval.

In 2017, Hurricane Maria devastated the Caribbean island and caused the deaths of 3,000 people. In an area where an isolated population of rhesus macaques lives, a large number of trees had been uprooted in its path. “With the decrease in forest cover, there has been less shade available,” explain Science. But monkeys are very sensitive to heat. A team of ethologists, scientists specializing in the study of animal behavior, observed what would happen in this population that they had already been studying for several years.

“In response (to this extreme weather event), there has been a general increase in tolerance between individuals,” noted Science. The researchers also observed a decrease in aggression. “And the most tolerant animals are the ones whose survival was most important.”

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