It’s really hard to beat the Christian Science Monitor’s headline on this story…. Monkeys hate flying squirrels, report monkey-annoyance experts:
“Human evolution occurred alongside primate evolution from a common mammalian ancestor,” [Kenji Onishi, an assistant professor of behavioral sciences at Osaka University,] told LiveScience. “Therefore, it is important to learn the evolution of primates in understanding the previous steps in human evolution.”
When Japanese giant flying squirrels glided over to a tree in the monkeys’ vicinity, adults and adolescent macaques started hollering at it threateningly, the researchers report. Young macaques screamed and mothers scooped up their infants, while adults and high-ranking males in particular went and physically harassed the offending squirrel.
Onishi said other researchers have observed macaques responding in a similarly aggressive manner to birds that prey on the monkeys, such as the golden eagle and mountain hawk eagle. These raptors glide and swoop much like the flying squirrels.
Upon closer inspection up in a tree or on the ground, however, the squirrel is clearly no bird of prey. Yet the animal still raises the hackles of the macaques.