Medicine

Japanese Monkeys' Sexual Interaction With Deer Could Be For Practice Or Culture

Japanese Monkeys' Sexual Interaction With Deer Could Be For Practice Or Culture

But the only other known instance of it occurring between distant species is the sexual assault of king penguins by Antarctic fur seals.

A video showing a snow monkey humping a sika deer went viral, prompting a scientific inquiry into the unusual animal behavior. Gunst-Leca - who apparently doesn't have much of an imagination - said it wasn't clear at first what exactly was going on.

"They were dealing with a single anecdotal event between one individual monkey and one individual deer, and the description they provided was short, vague and out of context", she said.

In the latest study, published in the Archives of Sexual Behavior, Gunst-Leca and colleagues describe how they sought to unpick whether the intentions were indeed carnal.

These involved five female snow monkeys.

Based on researchers' observations, the monkeys were indeed engaging in sexual behaviors as evidenced by the mounting postures, which they also do during homosexual monkey-monkey interactions, as well as the vocalizations that they made.

Furthermore, the study documented interactions between snow monkeys and their mating partners of the same species, and found that snow monkeys have no specific preference between having sex with other monkeys or with other kinds of animals.

Researchers believed that the monkey-deer interaction was likely because of mate deprivation and unlikely because of copulation practice. In addition, deer and monkeys are too genetically diverse to produce any sort of hybrid. Although even at the time Japanese macaques were already known to ride deer for transport in return for favors such as grooming, the report gained traction because the behavior seemed more sexual than platonic, suggesting an inter-species sexual relationship.

But it now appears it's the female monkeys performing sex acts with the deer by mounting them and thrusting.

"It is maybe a new/innovative behaviour that can be socially transmitted and will spread", said Dr C├ędric Sueur of the University of Strasbourg, a co-author of the study released earlier this year.

"Also, heterospecific mounts between Japanese macaques and sika deer have not been observed outside their coinciding mating seasons", said Gunst-Leca.

It remains unclear why the snow monkeys engage in sexual interactions with deer, but scientists believe they could be practicing for sex with other monkeys or they could have been rejected by males, leaving them with no sexual partner.


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