Posts Tagged ‘Primates’

Ever clever macacques learn to fish

June 13, 2008

From the Associated Press comes a fascinating story about a new behavior observed in long-tailed macaque monkeys. They fish.

Reporting out of Bangkok, Thailand, the AP says that macaques had been known to collect crabs and insects, but that fishing was new. True, the silver-haired primates weren’t exactly using rods and reels, but four times over the past eight years macaques have been seen scooping up fish with their agile hands along rivers in Indonesia.

News of this behavior comes from researchers with The Nature Conservancy and the Great Ape Trust. The AP notes:

“It’s exciting that after such a long time you see new behavior,” said Erik Meijaard, one of the authors of a study on fishing macaques that appeared in last month’s International Journal of Primatology. “It’s an indication of how little we know about the species.”

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Terry O’Neill on getting critters declared legal ‘persons’: Will animal rightists succeed where pro-lifers have failed?

June 3, 2008

If you’ve been to Olympic Plaza in Calgary or to Parliament Hill in Ottawa recently, you’ve probably come across an installation of five statues depicting the “Famous Five” — the five Canadian women whose lawsuit led to the historic declaration in 1929 that women are to be considered “persons” under Canadian law.

The sculptural tableau is a dramatic tribute to the accomplishments of Emily Murphy, Nellie Mooney McClung, Irene Marryat Parlby, Louise Crummy McKinney and Henrietta Muir Edwards. But on the heels of the last week’s news about a case currently making its way through the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, the question must be asked: Should the bronzes of Emily, Nellie and their friends now be accompanied by ones depicting Flopsy, Mopsy and Cottontail?

That’s certainly a possibility (albeit an intentionally flippant one) given the wide-ranging impact that will be felt should the European court agree with an argument being advanced by the Vienna-based Association Against Animal Factories, which is seeking to have a 26-year-old chimpanzee named Matthew declared a legal “person.”

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Did Walking On Two Feet Begin With A Shuffle?

May 29, 2008

Somewhere in the murky past, between four and seven million years ago, a hungry common ancestor of today’s primates, including humans, did something novel. While temporarily standing on its rear feet to reach a piece of fruit, this protohominid spotted another juicy morsel in a nearby shrub and began shuffling toward it instead of dropping on all fours, crawling to the shrub and standing again.

A number of reasons have been proposed for the development of bipedal behavior, or walking on two feet, and now researchers from the University of Washington and Johns Hopkins University have developed a mathematical model that suggests shuffling emerged as a precursor to walking as a way of saving metabolic energy.

“Metabolic energy is produced by what an animal eats, enabling it to move. But it is a limited resource, particularly for young-bearing females which have to take care of and feed their offspring. Finding food is vitally important, and an animal needs to save energy and use it efficiently,” said Patricia Kramer, a UW research assistant professor of anthropology and co-author of a recent study.

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Mind Over Matter: Monkey Feeds Itself Using Its Brain

May 28, 2008

A monkey has successfully fed itself with fluid, well-controlled movements of a human-like robotic arm by using only signals from its brain, researchers from the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine report in the journal Nature. This significant advance could benefit development of prosthetics for people with spinal cord injuries and those with “locked-in” conditions such as Lou Gehrig’s disease, or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.

“Our immediate goal is to make a prosthetic device for people with total paralysis,” said Andrew Schwartz, Ph.D., senior author and professor of neurobiology at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine. “Ultimately, our goal is to better understand brain complexity.”

Previously, work has focused on using brain-machine interfaces to control cursor movements displayed on a computer screen. Monkeys in the Schwartz lab have been trained to command cursor movements with the power of their thoughts.

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Six ‘uniquely’ human traits now found in animals

May 23, 2008

To accompany the article So you think humans are unique? we have selected six articles from the New Scientist archive that tell a similar story. We have also asked the researchers involved to update us on their latest findings. Plus, we have rounded up six videos of animals displaying ‘human’ abilities.

1. Culture

Art, theatre, literature, music, religion, architecture and cuisine – these are the things we generally associate with culture. Clearly no other animal has anything approaching this level of cultural sophistication. But culture at its core is simply the sum of a particular group’s characteristic ways of living, learned from one another and passed down the generations, and other primate species undoubtedly have practices that are unique to groups, such as a certain way of greeting each other or obtaining food.

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Surgeon Operates To Rescue Chimp With Rare Deformity

May 20, 2008

An orthopaedic surgeon at the University of Liverpool has performed a groundbreaking operation on a chimp in Cameroon to correct a deformity more commonly seen in dogs.

The three year-old chimp called Janet was rescued from the Cameroon pet trade last year and now lives in a chimpanzee reserve supported by the Cameroon Wildlife Aid Fund. Janet was unable to climb and had difficulty walking because a bone in her forearm – the ulna – had stopped growing.

It is thought that her condition, known as angular limb deformity, is a congenital problem, but could also have been caused or aggravated by being chained at the wrist by traders. This forced the arm’s radius to grow in a circular manner making her arm severely bent. Vets have seen the deformity in dogs before but never in chimpanzees and were called in to assess Janet’s condition.

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VIDEO: Monkey works in a Japanese bar

May 14, 2008

Why Face Symmetry Is Sexy Across Cultures And Species

May 9, 2008

In humans, faces are an important source of social information. One property of faces that is rapidly noticed is attractiveness. Research has highlighted symmetry and sexual dimorphism (how masculine or feminine a face is) as important variables that determine a face’s attractivenes

[…] In a study published in the May 7 issue of the journal PLoS ONE, Anthony Little of the University of Stirling and colleagues show that measurements of symmetry and sexual dimorphism from faces are related in humans, both in Europeans and African hunter-gatherers, and in a non-human primate. In all samples, symmetric males had more masculine facial proportions and symmetric females had more feminine facial proportions.

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The baby monkey that thinks its mommy is a teddy bear

May 7, 2008

This little monkey is missing her mummy so to make sure she’s not losing out zoo keepers have given her a teddy bear to cuddle.

Conchita is a three-week-old white-naped mangabey monkey who is being hand-reared at London Zoo.

The tiny primate keeps hold of her teddy bear companion while her mother recovers from a caesarean.

Click here for the full article and more photos!

Orangutan attempts to hunt fish with spear

April 28, 2008

A male orangutan, clinging precariously to overhanging branches, flails the water with a pole, trying desperately to spear a passing fish.

It is the first time one has been seen using a tool to hunt.

The extraordinary image, a world exclusive, was taken in Borneo on the island of Kaja, where apes are rehabilitated into the wild after being rescued from zoos, private homes or even butchers’ shops.

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Slowly-developing Primates Definitely Not Dim-witted

April 22, 2008

Some primates have evolved big brains because their extra brainpower helps them live and reproduce longer, an advantage that outweighs the demands of extra years of growth and development they spend reaching adulthood, anthropologists from Duke University and the University of Zurich have concluded in a new study.

The four investigators compared key benchmarks in the development of 28 different primate species, ranging from humans living free of modern trappings in South American jungles to lemurs living in wild settings in Madagascar.

“This research focused specifically on the balance between the costs and benefits of growing a large brain,” said Nancy Barrickman, a graduate student in Duke’s Department of Biological Anthropology and Anatomy, who is first and corresponding author of a report now posted online for a future print edition of the Journal of Human Evolution

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American Veterinary Medical Association testifies against keeping primates as pets

April 3, 2008

Citing concerns about the spread of disease and injury, inhumane treatment of animals, and ecologic damage, Dr. Gail C. Golab, director of the AVMA Animal Welfare Division, recently spoke before a House subcommittee on the dangers of private ownership of nonhuman primates by unlicensed individuals.

The House Committee on Natural Resources’ Subcommittee on Fisheries, Wildlife, and Oceans held a hearing March 11 on the Captive Primate Safety Act (H.R. 2964). The legislation would amend the Lacey Act Amendments of 1981, making chimpanzees, monkeys, and other nonhuman primates prohibited wildlife species, thus strictly limiting commerce in pet primates.

Persons or agencies licensed or registered by the government, such as zoos and research facilities, are exempt under the proposal.

Born Free USA and Captive Wild Animal Protection Coalition estimate that more than 15,000 primates are privately owned in the United States.

Between 1995 and 2005, there were 132 injuries or escapes by primates in the United States, according to the coalition. Also, some 80 percent of health and behavioral issues pertaining to primates involve those kept as pets.

Dr. Golab told subcommittee members that the evidence is clear that primates kept as pets are unsafe. Not only are these animals a physical threat, they may also be a source of the herpes B virus and other zoonotic pathogens. “Make no mistake about it,” Dr. Golab, said, “nonhuman primates kept as pets—while cute and often very entertaining—can also pose serious injury risks for their human caretakers and other domestic animals.”

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