Tuesday, 23 February 2010

Rethink our positions on animal intelligence.

Chimps are intelligent enough to appreciate a full pint
By Matt Walker
Editor, Earth News

Panzee goes with the flow

Chimpanzees are intelligent enough to appreciate how big a pint of liquid is, or the volume of any other measure.

That shows they have an ability to gauge the difference between continuous quantities, such as a pint or half pint of non-alcoholic fruit juice.

Previously, apes have only been known to differentiate discrete quantities, such as eight sweets over five.

That mean chimps are more intelligent than we thought, and shows they have a basic grasp of the physics of liquids.

Details of the discovery are published in the journal Animal Cognition.

In some sense, this is a kind of folk understanding of the physics of liquids

Dr Michael Beran
Georgia State University
Comparative psychologist Dr Michael Beran of Georgia State University, Atlanta, US has spent over decade researching animal intelligence, in particular the mental abilities of monkeys and apes, including people.

In the past he has shown primates are able to keep track of how many sweets are in a container: by performing simple addition and subtraction calculations they can keep count of how many treats are added or taken away.

Knowing that eight sweets are more than five shows an ability to distinguish between discrete quantities.

However, liquids pose a different challenge. Because a liquid flows, it forms one continuous quantity, that gets larger as more liquid is added.

"So I wanted to know whether they would perform as well when they had to judge two poured amounts of juice," says Dr Beran.


The world's first film shot entirely by chimpanzees was broadcast by the BBC last month as part of a natural history documentary: watch it here
Chimpanzees have been seen using tools to chop up and reduce food into smaller bite-sized portions
Chimpanzees are biologically programmed to appreciate pleasant music: watch a video of a baby chimp enjoying a tune
Watch more videos of chimpanzee behaviour here
He tested three chimps, a 37-year-old female called Lana, a 21-year-old female called Panzee and a 34-year-old male called Sherman.

In the first experiment, Dr Beran poured quantities of fruit juice from a 600ml syringe into a clear cup and opaque cup.

The chimps watched as he did so, and then choose the larger to drink.

It did not matter if Dr Beran poured 100ml, 200ml, 300ml or so on up to 600ml into either cup (one UK pint = 568ml).

More than three quarters of the time, the chimps would select the larger volume.

Crucially, by pouring the liquid into opaque containers, the chimps could only see how much was being poured, not how much had accumulated in the measuring cup.

That means the chimps could accurately visualise or understand how much liquid was being poured, rather than collected.

"They had to watch juice pour into containers and once the juice was there, it was out of sight. So they had to remember how much juice is there, just from seeing it fall," Dr Beran told the BBC.

Overcoming an illusion

In a second set of experiments, the chimps had to choose between a clear cup already containing a certain volume of juice, and another they couldn't see, but into which was poured a drink.

That meant the chimps could not take the relatively easy option of timing the pouring events, and choose whichever cup had liquid poured into it for longer.

"This is a complicated feat because there are no cues such as duration of pouring or height of the liquid that can be used," explains Dr Beran.

Panzee passes another test with flying colours
"They must represent and compare the poured amount to the visible amount, and estimate which is larger."

Again the chimps easily appreciated the difference.

In a third set of experiments, Dr Beran then varied the height from which the liquids were poured.

That creates a perceptual illusion that might confuse the chimps.

"I wanted to see whether the chimps overestimated the amount of juice if it was poured from higher up," says Dr Beran.

"This is an old favourite of the experienced bartenders of the world, where the patron gets the impression of getting more alcohol than is really true because of varying the height of the pouring."

However, it made little difference to all three chimps, who picked the largest amount over 80% of the time, with Panzee scoring a high of 86%.

"The results support the position that chimpanzees are good mental accountants who judge various forms of quantities," says Dr Beran.

"They can track quantities in ways not previously demonstrated.

"In some sense, this is a kind of folk understanding of the physics of liquids."

The experiments also suggest the chimpanzees use the same mechanism to gauge discreet and continuous amounts.

Rethinking intelligence

Dr Beran, whose research is supported by the US National Institutes for Health and National Science Foundation, believes such intelligence could help chimpanzees in their natural environment.

"I have no doubt such skills would prove valuable in the wild," says Dr Beran.

"Chimpanzees make many decisions regarding how to spend their time foraging, and where to forage, and also they must attend to who else is around them in terms of the number of individuals.

"In many of these cases, quantity offers valuable information, and so sensitivity to quantity and the ability to judge quantities and use forms of mental accounting would be adaptive."

Such findings may also force us to think again about how clever animals really are.

"Certainly, these kinds of capacities, like many others that we continue to find in nonhuman animals, require rethinking our positions on animal intelligence.

"The results also support the position that there is psychological as well as biological continuity across species, at least for many cognitive and intellectual abilities," says Dr Beran.

Thursday, 20 November 2008

Females are definitely the chattier sex, even in monkeys!

London, Nov 20 (ANI): Women might be tired of carrying the load of being stereotyped as the talkative sex, but according to a group of researchers, the label might indeed be true at least in the case of female-centric monkey groups.

The research team at Roehampton University in London, who observed a female-centric group of macaques, noticed that the gossipy nature of the monkeys might add weight to the theory that human language evolved to forge social bonds.

A large number of scientists reckon that language replaced grooming as a less time-consuming way of preserving close bonds in ever-growing societies.

Researchers Nathalie Greeno and Stuart Semple hypothesised that if this was true then in species of animals with large social networks, such as macaques, vocal exchanges should be just as important as grooming.

The scientists listened to a group of 16 female and eight male macaques, the most widespread primate genus apart from humans, living on Cayo Santiago island off Puerto Rico for three months.

They counted the grunts, coos and girneys friendly chit-chat between two individuals while ignoring calls specifically used when in the presence of food or a predator.

Female macaques were found to make 13 times as many friendly noises as males. They were also more likely to chat to other females than males.

“The results suggest that females rely on vocal communication more than males due to their need to maintain the larger social networks,” New Scientist quoted Greeno, as saying.

The study has been published in the journal Evolution and Human Behavior.

The scientists believe this is because female macaques form solid, long-lasting bonds. They stay in the same group for life, and rely on their female friends to help them look after offspring.

In contrast males who rove between groups throughout their life chatted to both sexes equally.

Tuesday, 11 November 2008

Stem Cells from Monkey Teeth Can Stimulate Growth and Generation of Brain Cells

By Yerkes National Primate Research Center, Emory University
Nov 11, 2008 - 11:43:31 AM

Rhesus monkey dental stem cells show the ability to produce different types of cells, illustrating the potential for cell therapy and regenerative medicine.

(HealthNewsDigest.com) - ATLANTA — Researchers at the Yerkes National Primate Research Center, Emory University, have discovered dental pulp stem cells can stimulate growth and generation of several types of neural cells. Findings from this study, available in the October issue of the journal Stem Cells, suggest dental pulp stem cells show promise for use in cell therapy and regenerative medicine, particularly therapies associated with the central nervous system.

Dental stem cells are adult stem cells, one of the two major divisions of stem cell research. Adult stem cells have the ability to regenerate many different types of cells, promising great therapeutic potential, especially for diseases such as Huntington’s and Parkinson’s. Already, dental pulp stem cells have been used for regeneration of dental and craniofacial cells.

Yerkes researcher Anthony Chan, DVM, PhD, and his team of researchers placed dental pulp stem cells from the tooth of a rhesus macaque into the hippocampal areas of mice. The dental pulp stem cells stimulated growth of new neural cells, and many of these formed neurons.

“By showing dental pulp stem cells are capable of stimulating growth of neurons, our study demonstrates the specific therapeutic potential of dental pulp stem cells and the broader potential for adult stem cells,” says Chan, who also is assistant professor of human genetics in Emory School of Medicine.

Because dental pulp stem cells can be isolated from anyone at any age during a visit to the dentist, Chan is interested in the possibility of dental pulp stem cell banking. “Being able to use your own stem cells for therapy would greatly decrease the risk of cell rejection that we now experience in transplant medicine,” says Chan.

Chan and his research team next plan to determine if dental pulp stem cells from monkeys with Huntington’s disease can enhance brain cell development in the same way dental pulp stem cells from healthy monkeys do.

For more than seven decades, the Yerkes National Primate Research Center, Emory University, has been dedicated to conducting essential basic science and translational research to advance scientific understanding and to improve the health and well-being of humans and nonhuman primates. Today, the center, as one of only eight National Institutes of Health–funded national primate research centers, provides leadership, training and resources to foster scientific creativity, collaboration and discoveries. Yerkes-based research is grounded in scientific integrity, expert knowledge, respect for colleagues, an open exchange of ideas and compassionate, quality animal care.

Within the fields of microbiology and immunology, neuroscience, psychobiology and sensory-motor systems, the center’s research programs are seeking ways to: develop vaccines for infectious and noninfectious diseases, such as AIDS and Alzheimer’s disease; treat cocaine addiction; interpret brain activity through imaging; increase understanding of progressive illnesses such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s; unlock the secrets of memory; determine behavioral effects of hormone replacement therapy; address vision disorders; and advance knowledge about the evolutionary links between biology and behavior.


Saturday, 23 February 2008

Nepal's Shame

Animal welfare campaigners staged demonstration outside the Nepali Embassy in London on Friday as part of their campaign against Nepal government's involvement in the breeding of rhesus monkeys for biomedical research in America.

Protesters gathered outside the embassy at 10:30 am GMT, with posters showing a suffering lab monkey and the heading “Nepal's Shame”, a statement issued by the Stop Monkey Business Campaign said.
Campaigners display pamphlet during the protest in front of the Nepali Embassy in London, demanding ban on export of rhesus monkey from Nepal on Friday Feb 22.
Campaigners display pamphlet during the protest in front of the Nepali Embassy in London, demanding ban on export of rhesus monkey from Nepal on Friday Feb 22.

The protest was the first in the UK in support of the global Stop Monkey Business Campaign.

Two representatives of the campaigners talked with Jhabindra Aryal, Counselor/Deputy Chief of Mission of the Embassy, and conveyed their concerns regarding the trade of monkeys for export to American 'research' companies. Aryal on his part promised to pass on the campaigners’ concerns to the Nepal government, the statement added.
“According to the British campaigners, Nepal should be ashamed of providing monkeys for biomedical research, especially in the past the country has built a reputation of protecting wildlife species such as the tiger, rhino and elephant,” the statement read, “They note that monkeys are considered sacred both by Hindus and Buddhists.”

The campaigners have urged the Nepal government to stop the export of monkeys for experimentation, which causes great suffering. They say that exposes of animal ‘research’ companies, including the ones on Washington and San Antonio which have established offices in Nepal, have shown time and time again of the untold suffering and fraudulent research that goes on in the name of science.

“Researchers tend to treat monkeys as disposable tools and consider proper animal care to be too expensive.”

The London demonstration was part of a growing global campaign pressurizing the Nepal government to ban the export of rhesus monkeys for commercial or scientific use. Earlier this month, campaigners protested at the Nepali Consulate in Amsterdam, Holland.

Similar demonstrations will be held in France and other European countries in March.

Sunday, 13 January 2008

Make a monkey of the boss and succeed in business

Jan 14 2008 by Emma Johnson, Liverpool Daily Post

THE politics of the office are thought to be a matter peculiar to western culture. For the office politician to be able to deploy his or her Machiavellian tactics and chicanery, it is necessary to have a large corporate setting to manoeuvre among staff and management.

After all, in small organizations, everyone is busy actually doing things to achieve their goals, otherwise matters grind to a halt.

But clich├ęs that the office is a jungle appear to be fact. Big companies are not necessary for office politics to thrive. Behavior patterns of jockeying for preferment are replicated among monkeys and chimps in the wild. Understanding their strategies is as useful as any insight into climbing up the corporate ladder or holding onto your job.

In the US, a study reported by the New Scientist magazine sets out “five rules of the jungle” that we would all be wise to assimilate for our corporate survival.

“The office and the jungle are surprisingly similar,” write the psychologists who undertook the research. It makes sense, really. Both social groups are ruled by stringent hierarchies, but both have to find a balance between the natural drive for competition and simultaneous need for co-operation to ensure the group’s successful continuation.

To this already complicated and often contradictory mix, there is the risk of hostile takeovers, a marketplace of favours and favourites, brazen opportunism. And – let’s not forget it – the long and ignominious tradition of brown-nosing.

What this means in totality, say the scientists, is that “you can’t tell the savanna from a forest of cubicles.”

Monkeying around takes on a more serious meaning with New Scientist summarizing five basic jungle rules that have emerged from the research that are applicable to the office.

We’d all do well to adhere to these guidelines if we want to learn how to cope with aggressive colleagues and over-demanding bosses. In other words, we do much worse than to make a chimp of ourselves.

Apparently monkeys, just like human beings, bridle at being treated unfairly. Trust is everything: it can be quickly established, but is difficult to retrieve if relations break down.

The monkeys even go on strike if they feel they are being let-down or short-changed by those in charge.

The researchers trained the monkeys to trade pebbles for food, which could be a commonplace piece of cucumber, or the much more valued grape. In a communal situation, if the researcher gave one monkey a grape and another a cucumber piece for doing the same task, the one that received the cucumber would down tools and refuse to take any further part in the experiment.

Apart from the blatant unfairness of the work/reward equation, the lesson that carries over to the office situation is that a single person should avoid taking credit for work that is done collectively.

Office relationships collapse when workers hijack their colleagues’ efforts; it is also unwise for individuals to brag about their salaries.

The second monkey rule of office behaviour is not only to have colleagues on your side, but also the boss (which could well be the more important). Other studies already indicate that primates who spend time currying favor with their superiors receive more backing when any arguments or fights occur.

But as important – and one often forgotten by the so-called superior human beings – is the third rule: the need for reconciliation and to avoid bearing a grudge.

Chimps embrace and even kiss after a fight, dolphins rub alongside each other and goats nuzzle. This magnanimity reduces stress and prevents the dispute re-igniting.

Team playing underpins the fourth rule, as chimps and humans prefer the company of co-operative fellows. Show your kind and caring side, even simple activities like making tea and buying buns for the department can repeat multiple benefits.

Finally, the fifth rule is probably the hardest: be a good boss. An acutely difficult act of balancing leadership, control and motivation. The failure of those in charge is also replicated in the wild, with insensitive chimps having to fight constantly to maintain their status, while their group becomes increasingly stressed.

It’s a wonder that any work gets done at all, isn’t it?

Sunday, 16 December 2007

Crack down on New Delhi monkeys

NEW DELHI, India (CNN) -- Monkey handler Ramal Lala strolls along New Delhi's streets, a leash on his monkey named Mungle. The local government has hired the two to chase down thousands of smaller monkeys known to roam this mega-city of 13 million people, hopping on just about anything, breaking into houses and occasionally biting spectators.

Monkeys such as these hang out on New Delhi's street corners. The city's government is trying to round them up.

1 of 2 On this day, Lala bangs a large stick, yells at the monkeys and lets his partner off his leash. Mungle, a Langor monkey, jumps into the trees and hisses at his smaller monkey kin. Every once and a while, Lala whips out a slingshot and fires at the little menaces.

"They steal clothes, snatch food from inside the houses. They raid the houses in large numbers," he says. "Sometimes, the brave ones even bite."

Lala and Mungle are essentially the monkey police of New Delhi. The government wants men such as Lala to round up the wild monkeys and move them to the Bhati reserve on the edge of India's capital city. Watch "monkeys gone wild" »

Authorities have tried to prevent the animals from freely roaming the city for decades. But they've met resistance. The monkeys -- known as "hanuman" -- are revered in India and not everyone wants to see them go.

The latest roundup began after the city's deputy mayor fell and died. His son said he was fending off monkeys at the time -- although speculation in the streets doubts whether that was the case.

The New Delhi government says it has rounded up 600 monkeys in recent months and moved them to the reserve. Some estimates put the number of monkeys roaming the city as high as 10,000.

The whole thing has scientists such as Iqbal Maliq, the leading expert on primates in India, furious. She says she believes the roundup is a joke.

"It's a stupid plan," she says. "It is a ridiculous plan that is making the entire country look ridiculous in the eyes of the scientists of the world."

She questions putting the Langor monkey on a leash to intimidate the smaller ones. And the idea of brandishing a slingshot against a monkey is just too much to bear. "Stupid," she says.

Half-joking, she adds, "I say give the monkeys the power."

It's a controversy that's not about to go away. Monkeys can be seen throughout the city. They run across the top of the Indian Parliament, swarm across streets, slide down telephone poles and sit on the side of the road staring at bystanders. Sometimes they heckle tourists, snatching lunch as people look away.

The city is filled with tales of people having to beat off a crazed monkey with a broom on their porch.

At the reserve where the monkeys are taken, a green fence separates them from the city. They climb the fence and walk along it, keeping a keen eye on everything.

When they get bored, they just hop over and head back into the city, back home. E-mail to a friend

Wednesday, 31 October 2007

DeBrazza Monkey

Scientists Make Breakthrough Discovery of Monkey Population in Kenya
By Joe De capua
31 October 2007

After much news of late about how primates are being threatened across Africa, there’s good news from Kenya. A new population of an unusual species of monkeys has been found in a most unexpected location. Scientists are calling it a breakthrough discovery in primate research.

DeBrazza Monkey, Photo courtesy of Wildlife Direct
The De Brazza Monkey can grow up to five feet in length, counting its tail, and weigh more than seven and a half kilograms. But what really stands out is the De Brazza’s snowy white beard and mustache.

Up until recently, it was thought there were only 700 such monkeys in Kenya. Conservation officials say the discovery was made in an arid region of northern Kenya, in “one of the last intact indigenous forest ranges.”

Iregi Mwenja is a research scientist with the Institute of Primate Research. It’s a department of the National Museums of Kenya. He also works closely with the conservation group Wildlife Direct. He confirmed that the monkeys were indeed De Brazzas, not known to exist east of the Great Rift Valley.

“De Brazza Monkeys in Kenya, we say they are endangered. But in Africa, we have stable populations in Congo, which is in the central part of Africa, but Kenya being the easternmost range of the species. We have a very low population. They have been estimated to be less than a thousand. So, before the discovery it was estimated to be at least 700. So, at least an additional 25 percent is significant to the conservation of the species in Kenya,” he says.

The habitat of the new population – the Mathews Range Forest Reserve – is described as “an island of biodiversity.”

“First you must understand the nature of the De Brazzas. They are very shy. The habitat that they occupy is usually very dense riverine forest. So, it is difficult to just spot them, apart from just walking along a river. Unless you deliberately, you know, go for them. So, this particular case the habitat is isolated. It’s in a very remote part of Kenya where we have very low human traffic. Of course, the local people knew about it and they had already given it a name. So they knew about them. They knew it very well,” he says.

In other parts of Kenya where the De Brazzas live, deforestation is a threat, as humans make room for agricultural land.

Mwenja says, “They have been saying that in probably 40 or 50 years there would be no suitable habitat remaining for the De Brazzas. But in this case what we found is that this is a new habitat relatively safe from human degradation. And this offers new hope for the species. They are not under serious threat, so we’re sure they’ll be there for longer.”

Mwenja says scientists aren’t sure how or when the De Brazzas arrived in the northern party of Kenya, since none were thought to exist east of the Great Rift Valley. The valley was formed about two million years ago and separated some species. However, the primate expert theorizes that at some point in its history there was some “connectivity,” as he puts it, between the eastern and western parts of the valley. A connection – possibly a wet forest corridor - that no longer exists.

Dr. Richard Leakey, chairman of Wildlife Direct and well-known paleontologist and conservationist, writes, “It is a critical issue for study as it puts climate change again as the most critical consideration as we plan for the future.”

A recent study – Primates in Peril – warns that at least 25 species of primate are at risk of extinction around the world.