Primate of the Week: Pigtail Macaque

Macaca nemestrina


  • Taxonomy
  • Suborder: Haplorrhini
  • Infraorder: Simiiformes
  • Superfamily: Cercopithecoidea
  • Family: Cercopithecidae
  • Subfamily: Cercopithecinae


The pigtail macaque varies slightly in color by region. Southern pigtail macaques are olive brown on their entire bodies except for the white on their undersides. Their top of their heads was dark brown/black (Rowe, 1996; Groves, 2001). Northern pigtail macaques are golden brown and brown fur at the top of their head. They also have red streaks of fur from the corner of their eyes and towards their ears (Crocket & Wilson, 1980). Infants of both regions are born black and gain the adult pelage as they age (Crocket & Wilson, 1980). Pigtail macaques are sexually dimorphic with males being larger than females (Fa, 1989).


Males also have far larger canine teeth than females and are used for aggressive interactions (Rowe, 1996). They also have a tail however it is less than the length of the body from head to rump, and it is often bare (Rowe, 1996).


They move quadrepedally on the ground and trees (Rowe, 1996) They tend to be more terrestrial then arboreal. Northern pigtail macaques tend ot be more arboreal in comparison to the southern species (Crocket & Wilson, 1980). Pigtail macaques are located within lowland and primary rainforests. However they have also been found in secondary forests and swamps (Crocket & Wilson, 1980).


Pigtail macaques are frugivorous along with insects, seeds, young leaves, leaf stems, dirt and fungus (Crocket & Wilson, 1980; Caldecott, 1986).


Group sizes vary from between 9 to 81 individuals. They will split into foraging groups and travel in subgroups of two to six monkeys (Crocket & Wilson, 1980; Caldecott, 1986). They live multimale/multi female groups (Dittus, 2004). Females are philopatric (Caldecott, 1985). Males migrate from their natal group at five to six years of age. Males will often range solitarily or join temporarily to other social groups before permanently immigrating to a group (Oi, 1990a). Males when joining a social group will attempt to move up the dominance hierarchy in order to gain the position of alpha male. Generally if a male is successful in becoming the alpha male, he may kill some of the infants within the group (Clarke et al. 1995).


Males are out rank females and will often displace females when feeding (Oi, 1990b). Groups of females can often attack adult males and females will initiate agonism against males with the help with female relatives (Oi, 1990b).


Pigtail macaques mate year round but generally have a peak from January to May (Crocket & Wilson, 1980). Females will generally reach sexual maturity at approximately three years of age. Males mature approximately three to four and half years of age (Sirrianni & Swindler, 1985). Females present to males by approaching him from behind and then presenting her rump while looking over his shoulder. Females will generally mate with multiple males regardless of rank (Oi, 1996).


Adult-male-Sunda-pig-tailed-macaque-sitting.jpgPigtail macaque mothers are the primary caregivers (Maestripieri, 2004). Oi (1990a) described as one year and juvenilehood as one to 3.5 years. Infants are born with natal coats, which will begin to change at the third month of life (Maestripieri, 1994b). Females in pigtail macaque groups are incredibly interested in infants and will often grab infants. Higher ranking females will often grab lower ranking females infants (Maestripieri & Wallen, 1995).



Caldecott JO. 1986. An ecological and behavioural study of the pig-tailed macaque. In: Szalay FS, editor. Contributions to primatology, Vol. 21. Basel (Switzerland): Karger. 259 p.

Crockett CM, Wilson WL. 1980. The ecological separation of Macaca nemestrina and M. fascicularis in Sumatra. In: Lindburg DG, editor. The macaques: studies in ecology, behavior and evolution. New York: Van Nostrand Reinhold. p 148-81.

Dittus W. 2004. Demography: a window to social evolution. In: Thierry B, Singh M, Kaumanns W, editors. Macaque societies: a model for the study of social organization. Cambridge (UK): Cambridge Univ Pr. p 87-112.

Fa JE. 1989. The genus Macaca: a review of taxonomy and evolution. Mammal Rev 19(2): 45-81.

Groves C. 2001. Primate taxonomy. Washington DC: Smithsonian Inst Pr. 350 p.

Maestripieri D. 1994b. Mother-infant relationships in three species of macaques (Macaca mulattaM. nemestrinaM. arctoides). II. The social environment. Behaviour 131(1-2): 97-113

Maestripieri D. 2004. Maternal behavior, infant handling, and socialization. In: Thierry B, Singh M, Kaumanns W, editors. Macaque societies: a model for the study of social organization. Cambridge (UK): Cambridge Univ Pr. p 231-4.

Maestripieri D, Wallen K. 1995. Interest in infants varies with reproductive condition in group-living female pigtail macaques (Macaca nemestrina). Physiol & Behav 57(2): 353-8.

Oi T. 1990a. Population organization of wild pig-tailed macaques (Macaca nemestrina nemestrina) in west Sumatra. Primates 31(1): 15-31.

Oi T. 1990b. Patterns of dominance and affiliation in wild pig-tailed macaques (Macaca nemestrina nemestrina) in west Sumatra. Int J Primatol 11(4): 339-56.

Rowe N. 1996. The pictorial guide to the living primates. East Hampton (NY): Pogonias Pr. 263 p.




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