Natural world: monkey business

Global warming could threaten the survival of endangered golden snubnosed monkeys in China, restricting the food supply needed for the animals to thrive in harsh winter months.

A unique study using thermal imaging to look at their diets has found that the monkeys consume approximately twice as many calories from fats and carbohydrates in winter as they do in spring.

That almost exactly matches the additional heat they lose during the colder months, with temperatures in their high-altitude forests in the Quinling Mountains often dipping below 0˚C.

However, cooler spells in late spring, caused by climate change, could restrict the availability of seeds – an important source of carbohydrates and lipids. Drier winters, meanwhile, may impact the nutritional balance in plants.

This would significantly affect the way the animals generate heat, altering the foraging strategy and habitat use of monkey populations, which have already seen their numbers threatened by habitat loss.

“The findings can help us understand the habitat needs of the monkeys as the climate changes, and predict changes in food choice and the food web,” commented the study’s co-author, Professor Baoguo Li of the Northwest University in China.

 

Image credit: Getty 

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