Did Bonobos Actually Tame Themselves? Scientists Find That The African Apes Evolved To Become Gentler Creatures
Bonobo monkeys are the ‘nicer’ cousins of the chimpanzee. The African apes are less aggressive, and have shorter canine teeth than their evolutionary cousins.
But between one and two million years ago, bonobos and chimps had one common evolutionary ancestor - and bonobos appear to have evolved to become gentler, nicer creatures.
Scientists say that the differences between the aggressive chimps and their more playful, less violent cousins are very similar to the changes we ‘breed into’ tame animals.
Bonobos spend more time playing with each other and having sex.
The differences between the two make it seem as if bonobos are a tamed version of chimpanzees.
And the only candidate for having tamed them is the apes themselves, according to anthropologist Brian Hare of Duke University.
'Bonobo traits echo those of domesticated animals,' he writes in a paper published in Animal Behaviour.
'Self-domestication provides a plausible account of the origin of numerous differences between bonobos and chimpanzees.
The widespread differences between the two puzzle researchers, because the two populations were only separated by the Congo river a relatively short time ago in evolutionary terms.
Hare says that that evolution to become less aggressive can actually make sense - the bonobos were in an environment so different they ‘might as well have been on a different planet,’ he told Scientific American.
Life was violent for the creatures that would eventually become chimps. Cut off by the river, they were under constant attack from gorillas.
Violent, aggressive animals would have competed with each other for food and mates - and the most aggressive individuals would have fathered the most children.
'In bonobo-land in the south, the story was different,' says Hare. 'The river would have protected the ancestors of bonobos from gorillas.'
Freed from environmental pressures, female apes would have formed larger groups, and been able to pick and choose mates - and animals who opted to make alliances rather than fight would have been the evolutionary victors.
Over hundreds of thousands of years, the apes evolved to become nicer.
'These results raise the possibility that self-domestication has been a widespread process in evolution,' says Hare.
From The Daily Mail
Paradise Wildlife Park in Broxbourne, U.K. is proud to announce the arrival of a baby Lar Gibbon born to mother Mugwai and father Gremlin on Thursday 5th January 2012. Mother and Baby are doing very well. Section Leader of Primates, Steve Goodwin says, “This is the first baby for Mugwai, but she is proving to be a really good mum. We haven’t been able to get close enough to sex the baby yet, and we’re excited to find out if it is a boy or a girl.”
Also known as a White-headed Gibbon, this endangered species is threatened in the wild by habitat destruction, the illegal pet trade, and poaching.
The team from Dartmouth University in New Hampshire, US, wanted to investigate the surface temperature of sensitive structures.
The aye-aye’s unusual middle finger has already been found to be super-sensitive to vibrations, so provided the perfect subject for their study.
"It was striking to see how much cooler the third digit was while not in use and how quickly it warmed to [match] the other digits when engaged in an active foraging task," said graduate student Gillian Moritz, who carried out the study under the guidance of her supervisor, Dr Nathaniel Dominy.
When not in use, the finger appeared black on thermal images. This indicated a large difference in temperature between it and the white (hot) ears and eyes.
But when the animal was looking for food, the finger rose in temperature by up to 6C.
"We think the relatively cooler temperatures of the digit when not in use could be related to its [long, thin] form," said Ms Moritz.
"This form results in a relatively high surface-to-volume ratio [but] such a ratio is bad for retaining heat."
In order to sense the vibrations of beetle larvae through the bark of a tree, the finger is “packed with sensitive nerve endings”, the scientist explained.
Because of its specialist sense receptors, using this tapping tool is very costly in terms of energy.
"Like any delicate instrument, it is probably best deactivated when not in use," Ms Moritz told BBC Nature.
The question of how the lemur controls the heat of a single digit remains unclear.
Ms Moritz suggested two explanations. The first was simply that the blood vessels that supplied the digit could be constricted or dilated.
The second more unusual possibility, she said, was that the creature might employ temperature control method that was linked to the flexibility of its finger.
Ms Moritz explained: “Because the finger is fragile and vulnerable to injury, it is often extended back and out of the way during locomotion and periods of inactivity,” she said.
This extension could cause a “kink” in the artery that supplies warm blood to the digit.
In the same way a bent garden hose supplies less water, the artery could supply less blood, keeping the finger much colder than its fully supplied neighbouring digits.
Aye-ayes are the only primates known to have this strange adaptation.
The species is listed as Near Threatened by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), mainly because of threats to its habitat.
But the odd-looking primate also suffers direct persecution. Superstition in Madagascar describes the species as a bad omen. Those that are pointed at by the creature’s mysterious finger are said to meet their death.
From BBC Nature
A seven million year old pre-molar of a hominid discovered near the Bulgarian town of Chirpan documents that great apes survived longer in Europe than previously believed. An international team of scientists from the Bulgarian Academy of Science, the French Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, and Madelaine Böhme from the Senckenberg Center for Human Evolution and Paleoenvironment at the University of Tübingen was involved in the project. The new discovery may cause a revision in our understanding of some major steps in hominid evolution.
To date scientists have assumed that great apes went extinct in Europe at least 9 million years ago because of changing climatic and environmental conditions. Under the direction of Nikolai Spassov from the National Museum of Natural Science in Sofia, Bulgaria, the molar was discovered in Upper Miocene fluvial sediments near Chirpan. The morphology and the great thickness of the tooth enamel point to a hominid fossil. The age of the fossiliferous sands at 7 million years reveals the fossil to be most recent known great ape from continental Europe.
Twycross Zoo is pleased to announce the birth of an extremely important baby Bonobo! In the early hours of Friday 6th January 2012, Maringa gave birth to a baby girl weighing in at a very healthy 1.44 kilograms after an eight and a half month pregnancy.
Charlotte Macdonald, Living Collection Curator, said: “When keepers arrived at the enclosure to find Maringa had given birth, they noticed the baby was strong and alert but not actually on mum. She was being kept warm and safe by another female Bonobo within the group.
"Maringa has had difficulty raising her young in the past therefore we have been planning for this birth in conjunction with the European Endangered Species Programme (EEP) since last summer. Donna Smithson, one of our Bonobo keepers, visited Frankfurt Zoo last year to observe how they trained one of their female bonobos to be a foster mum, in the event that Maringa showed no interest in the newborn.” Charlotte said.
Diatou, the newborn’s auntie, has been specifically chosen to become the baby’s foster mum. Keepers have been training Diatou in the hope that she will hold the baby and look after the baby as the mother would do.
Charlotte added: “Keepers plan to care for the baby until she is a little bit older and not reliant on two-hourly feeds. When the newborn is returned to the group, Diatou will become the mother in all aspects but feeding - Diatou is being trained to bring the baby to the mesh of the enclosure in order for keepers to feed the baby.
"Although an anxious time for both keepers and staff at Twycross, following the months of preparation we have put into this birth we are very hopeful the introduction of the baby into the bonobo group will go smoothly."
The new arrival has been living behind the scenes within the bonobo enclosure since her birth and will remain off-show until she is ready to join the group. This arrangement was made to ensure the infant becomes familiar with the smells and the vocalisations of other bonobos. Her father, Kakowet, and soon-to-be foster mum, Diatou, have shown a great deal of interest in the baby girl and will sit and watch her for long periods of time. Maringa is also doing very well and suffered no complications from the birth.
It's A Girl! Baby Chimpanzee Born At North Carolina Zoo
A baby chimpanzee was born at the North Carolina Zoo Monday evening. The little female has been named Ebi. This is the second baby for Mom Tammy, a 41-year-old female, who had previously given birth to Maki in March 1994.
Both mother and daughter are doing fine. Tammy is caring for her infant without any intervention from zoo staff members. The two are not on exhibit and will not be in the foreseeable future due to the cold weather and the infant-rearing process. According to General Curator Ken Reininger, it will be at least summer before the two will be on exhibit.
Ebi’s arrival makes her the 12th chimp birth at the park since its opening in 1974 and the second since August 2010. The North Carolina Zoo’s chimp troop is one of the largest in U.S. zoos.
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Study Shows Early Primate Had A Transitional Lemur-Like Grooming Claw
Celebrities are channeling a distant relative with what Harper’s Bazaar describes as the latest trend in nail fashion for 2012: claws. But this may not be the first time primates traded their nails for claws.
A new study co-authored by a University of Florida researcher examines the first extinct North American primate with a toe bone showing features associated with the presence of both nails and a grooming claw, indicating our primate ancestors may have traded their flat nails for raised claws for functional purposes, much like pop icons Adele and Lady Gaga are doing today in the name of fashion.
The study appearing in the journal PLoS ONE Jan. 10 raises questions about a 2009 study documenting the lack of grooming claws in another primitive primate species said to be a link in the ancestry of apes, monkeys and humans.
Study co-author Jonathan Bloch, an associate curator of vertebrate paleontology at the Florida Museum of Natural History on the UF campus, said the 47-million-year-old primate, Notharctus tenebrosus, clearly had a grooming claw on its second digit. Surprisingly, the claw was somewhat flattened like a nail.
"Notharctus may provide evidence that nails did develop in this primate group, or it could be telling us that claws were developed from nails in this group, which would make them more lemur like," Bloch said.
Lead author Stephanie Maiolino, an anthropology graduate student at Stony Brook University, said the presence or lack of a grooming claw has previously been used to classify primate groups: humans, apes and monkeys have nails, while lemurs have grooming claws in their second digit.
"But it’s not clear that lacking a grooming claw means a species is related to anthropoids, which is the primate group that includes apes, humans and monkeys," said Maiolino, who has studied primates for six years while working on her doctoral dissertation.
The toe bone described in the new study has claw-like features near the base, but the tip is more flat, much like a modern monkey nail.
Study co-author Doug Boyer, an assistant professor of physical anthropology at Brooklyn College in New York, said the primate was “either in the process of evolving a nail and becoming more like humans, apes and monkeys, or in the process of evolving a more lemur-like claw.”
"I now believe it’s more likely that nails were the starting point and grooming claws developed as a functional trait," Boyer said.
The findings raise questions about a 2009 study describing the extinct primate species Darwinius masillae, which has been classified in the same group of extinct primates as Notharctus.
Darwinius was previously interpreted to have a nail on its second digit instead of the expected grooming claw, which led researchers to hypothesize the ancient primate and the group it belonged to were more closely related to monkeys, apes and humans than lemurs.
Wighart Von Koenigswald, professor of paleontology at the University of Bonn in Germany and a co-author of the 2009 study, said he disagrees with some findings in the current study, and his more recent research on Darwinius and related taxa shows it is likely Darwinius also had a grooming claw like lemurs.
"I don’t know whether one can call such a lemuroid grooming claw transitional," Von Koenigswald said. "There are quite a number of details I am careful to agree with in the final report and the cladistic analysis."
Boyer said the current study “demonstrates without a doubt that the shape of the digit is best described as intermediate” but points out the paper actually embraces the uncertainty about what type of evolutionary transition this may represent.
They reveal, the researchers say, the importance of friendship in complex societies, where animals live together and rely on one another.
"We [study these primates] to try to explain how our own social system evolved," explained lead researcher Jerome Micheletta from the University of Portsmouth.
"We want to know why we humans form groups and… social relationships."
Mr Micheletta, who is studying the behaviour of macaques as part of his PhD, said that previous research on social primates had already shown how important friendship was in terms of “fitness, reproductive success and the reduction of stress”.
"But there’s little evidence about how social relationships and friendship actually affect behaviour," he explained to BBC Nature.
To find this out, he and his colleagues studied the animals’ habit of following the gaze of another.
The team worked with captive monkeys at Marwell Wildlife Zoological Park in Hampshire.
During the experiments, the scientists had to wait for two macaques to sit together, facing one another.
"Then I would wave an interesting item - like a piece of fruit - [so that] the monkey that could see me looked towards the item."
The other macaque would naturally follow that animal’s gaze, turning to see what had distracted their partner.
The speed of the animals’ gaze-following reaction did not change if they were paired with a more socially dominant member of their group or if their partner was a relative.
But the animals did follow the gaze of their partner much more quickly if the two “shared a strong positive bond”, Mr Micheletta explained.
The scientists were able to “measure friendship” between two monkeys by recording how much time two macaques chose to spend in each others’ company, and how much time they spent grooming one another.
"Friendship is important for [these animals] to cope with day to day life and survival," Mr Micheletta told BBC Nature.
"In some species, friends are probably as important as family and dominance status.
"In some contexts - like gaze following - friendship can even be more important than family ties."
From BBC Nature
Camera traps in Burma capture the first-ever images of the Myanmar snub-nosed monkey, a primate species identified in 2010 when a local hunter produced a carcass. They are considered to be critically endangered, with a total population estimated at only a few hundred.
“Conservationists have made the orangutan a symbol of what will be lost if we do not halt tropical deforestation. But data tell a more nuanced story. In Kalimantan on the island of Borneo, humans murder so many orangutans each year (on average, between 1,970 and 3,100 annually) that this rate of killing is enough to tip the species towards inexorable extinction. These numbers are part of a new study just published in the journal PLoS One and co-authored by a group of Nature Conservancy scientists, who interviewed almost 7,000 people from 687 villages in Kalimantan.”
Is eye contact important for all great apes during social interaction, and if it is, is this just the greater apes, or do other primates also use eye contact in social interaction? x
Eye contact in social interaction amongst great apes is pretty similar to our own eye contact - if you’re a chimp, and you are pissed that this one chimp in your troop just stole your food, you’re going to look at him and make eye contact, so that any facial expressions and vocalisations you make are obviously directed to him; “Hey, I’m talking to you, and this is what I want to say.” However, the only apes with the most obviously conspicuous eyes are us - we’re the only ones with a dark iris on a white background, and our eyes are relatively the largest. This means we can follow each other’s gazes, or can use our eyes themselves to transmit messages and meaning. Apes rely not only on the eyes, but on other signals - such as a head tilt - to tell what the other apes are looking at/want them to look at. When teaching a young member of the troop to do something, an ape will accompany the eye’s gaze with head bobs, tilts, and hand movements.
During copulation, Bonobos are unusual in that they mate face to face, and during this, will make lots of eye contact, I assume to make some level of a partner bond, except Bonobos are hugely promiscuous, copulating with all members of the group, so a partner bond is not really important.
Amongst Gorillas, sustained eye contact is actually a dominance and threat behaviour - when Gorillas look at each other, it is in short glances, and they frequently look down or away and then back again. If you stare at the silverback, you either want to challenge his dominance or you’re a tourist. Staring at him like that will possibly end up with him chest thumping, vocalising and aggressively displaying. At this point you’ll need to make little submissive grunts and look at the floor, because a fight with a silverback won’t finish in your favour.
Orangutans rarely see each other in the wild, and most of their socialisation is through vocalisations, and even then thats a distant call to either ask for receptive females, or to reaffirm territory. When orangutans do meet, it’s a pretty short affair, either to mate, or to fight out territory and mating rights.
For Monkeys, eye contact doesn’t really have quite the same meaning. Eye contact occurs, sure, but much of the communication is through vocalisations. Monkeys will usually avoid eye contact with an individual they haven’t met, and within a troop or group, eye contact may not be made with the alpha male or female.
Highly social monkeys, for example, Baboons, will spend a large portion of their day grooming each other as one big group, during which they will make almost constant vocalisations, which enhance group cohesion and bonds.
I have worked with lemurs before - prosimians, rather than monkeys - and they rarely make eye contact with each other, but instead communicate with the tail and through frequent calls and vocalisations. The marmosets I worked with never made eye contact with one another.
It has been witnessed that macaque mothers will use huge amounts of eye contact with their young offspring, apparently to build a bond and communicate. They will also make little coo noises, smack their lips and even ‘kiss’ their baby, which has been analysed as their version of the instinctive, silly ‘baby voice’ female humans put one when a baby is in front of them. Yes, I do it too, I’m not ashamed, it’s evolution :P
So, really, amongst the great apes, eye contact is pretty similar to us in a social situation, except perhaps a little less. They’ll look at one another to get attention and focus, but then they may rely on gestures and sound to communicate. Other primates do make eye contact, but it may be accidental, rather than holding great social importance, or it may only be very briefly, just to look at who it is they’re talking to.
Ch4, 9pm tonight. Anatomical dissection of an alpha male Baboon. This particular male was especially intelligent, and organised his troop to strategically attack houses, people and buildings…Should be interesting!
What are your feelings on the way Dian Fossey worked?
That’s a complicated one. One of the main concerns and ‘rules’ of research with any type of animal is that you stay as far away from them as you can, you don’t interact, you don’t interfere with them…You have to remain the silent, hidden observer. Not only does that allow you to get the most accurate results (if you are doing research work or a study) as possible, because, of course, if you are studying the behaviour of wild animals and start to interfere, the behaviour they exhibit and you record isn’t ‘real’, but from an ethical viewpoint, pushing your way into a wild population can spread potentially fatal disease (amongst primates), cause terrific stress, upset the groups, etc etc.
However, Fossey did some incredible work. She very, very gradually got the Gorillas acclimatised to her presence, and eventually earned their trust; she didn’t just barge in. She developed some very strong bonds with ‘her’ Gorillas, and they saw her as one of them. She was respectful in her work. Of course, she did absolutely amazing things for global awareness of the plight and conservation of the Gorilla, as well as bringing our understanding and respect of these animals on leaps and bounds, in much the same way as Goodall and Chimpanzees.
She was aggressive in her anti-poaching efforts, and did get results. She helped to found areas of park for the Gorilla, with regular patrols, and her work is still underway now. If she hadn’t worked in the way she did, the Gorillas probably wouldn’t be here today. Or at least, they’d be in a worse state.
So, really, it depends on whether you are looking at her work from a very scientific, research etc view, or from a conservation one.
I think she did great things, which probably wouldn’t have been achieved had she worked in a more ‘hands off’ way. She devoted, and lost her life, in the observation, conservation and love of Gorillas.
So, overall, I have some very positive feelings about her work.
I study anthropology, specifically physical and biological anthro, but I love studying Primates and have heavily considered trying to go in to Primatology. You may have already answered this, but what are some opportunities for Primatologists after they get out of grad school? Thanks!
In all honesty, I don’t know, really! I’m hoping to go into zoo work, specifically in the husbandry of primates, so I haven’t really looked into any jobs other than those sorts of things. I’ve also looked at international volunteering and conservation work.
I guess there are tonnes of things you could get into…anything from zoo work, to lecturing and education, to field research, to museum work, to conservation, to science & lab work, to campaigning and activism… Just becuase you study Primatology doesn’t mean in any way whatsoever you’re limiting yourself to direct work with primates, I’m sure there are so many fascinating things you could do. With your background, perhaps you’d prefer something more academic to work in?
I’m really sorry I couldn’t be more help, but like I said, it’s not really something I’ve looked into extensively because I was already so sure I wanted to work in husbandry & conservation.
I found this site, though, that lists primatology related jobs all over the world, and at all levels, here. Or, I look at Zoo Jobs which just lists zoo vacancies.
I'll always have a special place in my heart for Gorillas, there's something in their eyes that make them so easy to connect with and love. But one of the most horrific pictures I have ever seen was of all that was left of one, once a poacher had slaughtered it. Just it's hands and head, with such a sad, painful look in its eyes. I'll never forget that photograph.
Oh, i know.
Gorillas, and apes, are some of the most incredible animals. I met a huge, old male Orangutan once, and as soon as I made eye contact, the connection was amazing. The thing about apes is that you can communicate with them so easily. I always think that they alone have that human trait of having eyes that are instant windows to their thoughts and emotions. At the end of the day, we’re close relatives. There will always be scope for recognition and understanding between us, because parts of us both will always be on the same wavelength.
I think poachers are some of the worst type of people, up with murderers (except I view the killing of animals as murder, anyway), rapists; poachers are right on their level as far as I’m concerned. It doesn’t matter what animal they’ve killed - the thought of it absolutely breaks my heart, and any pictures I see are as painful to me as seeing a dead person, and I mean that without exaggeration. Poaching apes is, if anything, even more horrific, because the poachers have taken something so wonderful and beautiful, something whose habitats and territories we’ve already destroyed and invaded, something whose populations we’ve already devastated, and butchered it for trophies and quick money. Humans never cease to disgust and infuriate me.
Wooly White Baby Colobus Arrives At Drusillas Park
The UK’s Drusillas Park is celebrating the arrival of a baby Colobus monkey - the first to be bred at the Zoo. The little scamp was born on November 18 and is looking extremely alert alongside parents, Elgon and Isis. Born covered in wooly white fur resembleing a lamb, it will be approximately six months before the baby develops the black and white color like the adults.
The new arrival is being closely guarded by mom but will become increasingly confident over the coming weeks. These large black and white monkeys live in family groups of up to 20, which often consist of a male and several females plus their young. They usually have one baby at a time.
This family group was re-homed to the zoo at the beginning of the year from Port Lympne Wild Animal Park in Kent. In the wild, they inhabit the forests of central Africa where they are threatened by habitat destruction and hunting. Colobus monkeys are highly arboreal, travelling through the treetops using their elongated arms and legs to spring from branch to branch. A long mane hangs from their shoulders like a cape as they perform hair-raising displays of jumps and lunges.
The colobus monkeys at Drusillas Park are part of a European breeding program. Hopefully, the family tree will continue to grow at the zoo for many years to come.
Critically Endangered Spider Monkey Born At Twycross Zoo
Born December 8, these are the early pictures of a new baby Veriegated Spider Monkey at the UK’s Twycross Zoo. This is the first Spider monkey baby born there in 10 years. And as you can see, the baby’s mum takes good care to cradle her baby when outdoors. At times, the whole family gathers round while the baby sleeps, secure on it’s mother’s shoulder.
Veriegated Spider monkeys are critically endangered due to habitat loss, hunting and the pet trade and are listed as one of the 25 most endangered primates by IUCW. It’s estimated that over 90% of their natural habitat in northern Columbia and north-western Venezuelais is already gone and of the approximately 60 Spider monkeys in Eurpoean zoos, there were no births in the year of May 2009-2010. That makes this baby a very valuable and important addition to the remaining population.
Chimpanzees Consider Their Audience When Communicating
Chimpanzees appear to consider who they are “talking to” before they call out.
Researchers found that wild chimps that spotted a poisonous snake were more likely to make their “alert call” in the presence of a chimp that had not seen the threat.
This indicates that the animals “understand the mindset” of others.
The insight into the primates’ remarkable intelligence will be published in the journal Current Biology.
The University of St Andrews scientists, who carried out the work, study primate communication to uncover some of the origins of human language.
To find out how the animals “talked to each other” about potential threats, they placed plastic snakes - models of rhino and gaboon vipers - into the paths of wild chimpanzees and monitored the primates’ reactions.
"These [snake species] are well camouflaged and they have a deadly bite," explained Dr Catherine Crockford from University of St Andrews, who led the research.
"They also tend to sit in one place for weeks. So if a chimp discovers a snake, it makes sense for that animal to let everyone else know where [it] is."
The scientists put the snake on a path that the chimps were using regularly, secreting the plastic models in the leaves.
"When [the chimps] saw the model, they would be quite close to it and would leap away, but they wouldn’t call," she told BBC Nature.
"It wasn’t a knee-jerk reaction."
After leaping away, each chimp immediately, very carefully, approached the snake again. And this time, they would make a soft “hoo” sound if they were close to a chimp that was not aware the snake was there.
"We monitored the snake all day, so we knew which animals had seen it and which hadn’t," Dr Crockford explained.
She added that when the primates called out, They were “very focused on their audience”.
"That’s not entirely new," she said.
"Lots of animals give alarm calls and are more likely to give an alarm call [when another animal is present]."
But what is new here, she continued, is that “they seem tuned, not into who the audience is, but to what the audience knows”.
These findings, Dr Crockford said, provide an important insight into a factor that may have “kick-started” complex communication.
She explained: “Why would I bother to communicate something to you unless I realised that you didn’t already know it?”
"Now we have seen that these chimps, human’s close relatives, seem to recognise ignorance and knowledge in others.
And they’re motivated to communicate missing and relevant information to that individual.
It’s one of the things that’s been missing from the evolution of language story.”
Matthew Cobb, professor of zoology at the University of Manchester, explained that “imagining what another individual is thinking” is a crucial part of human language.
"This study gives us some insight into how this amazing ability may have evolved," he told BBC Nature.
"In the wild, faced with a natural stimulus, our close cousins the chimps alter their communication depending on what other chimps know.
It appears that humans aren’t quite so unique, after all.”
From BBC Nature