Wednesday, May 25

Wound Up

Big news in primatology, or well, there's always "big" news, I just seldom get around to talking about it until I simply can't keep track of all the stories because my firefox session becomes so slow due to all the tabs I have open. I'm not quite sure what that says about my work ethic.

First, the baboons:

‘Feeding stations’: an answer to conflict?

Baboons foraging in human areas leads to highly undesirable consequences
A question that is being asked of baboon management on a regular basis is whether using feeding stations (or provisioning) can be used to draw baboons away from human areas, where humans and baboons often conflict with one another. In this post we address the question, based on data we have collected . . .

This post is particularly notable because it utilizes some of the actual data that have came out of the BRU projects, in order to make informed recommendations about what to do about the Cape Town groups.

We spent so much time musing over the various proposals for how to keep the baboons apart, its great to see some facts coming to light. Even though the results aren't positive, its at least one option off the floor, narrowing the debate considerably.

The actual big news concerns the gorillas, and might be well known to everyone by now. I was a little slow on the uptake, though the difficulty I am having in finding the original story is making me feel a little better about myself. Oh, that's why, it was from theNewScientist. Shit. Fine, I'll give you the journal reference, none of their noise.

Local traditions in gorilla manual skill: evidence for observational learning of behavioral organization

Elaborate manual skills of food processing are known in several species of great ape; but their manner of acquisition is controversial. Local, “cultural” traditions show the influence of social learning, but it is uncertain whether this includes the ability to imitate the organization of behavior. Dispute has centered on whether program-level imitation contributes to the acquisition of feeding techniques in gorillas. Here, we show that captive western gorillas at Port Lympne, Kent, have developed a group-wide habit of feeding on nettles . . .

The premise here is pretty simple, if you're familiar with the related chimpanzee research. Chimps are known to be able to spread knowledge and techniques among groups, techniques like the famous Use-a-Stick-to-Fish-Some-Tasty-Bugs-Out-of-a-Hole approach. This is the first example of any such evidence in gorillas, which is good news for them, since as far as apes go, gorillas are not known for their intellect, much less tool use. This sort of research drives right at the heart of cultural foundations, one of the least understood concepts, from an ethological perspective, regardless of what a sociologist might tell you.

One of the advisors of one of my advisors worked on this research and paper, so that means it is much more believable research than most other stuff being published... in anything.

This next one bring me backs to my neuroscience days when I studied a fascinating behavior in rats, whereby they were able to transmit taste preferences between rats by breathing tastes and special signal chemicals at each other, in conjunction.

Bonobos 'chat' about good foods

In the first study of its kind, researchers in the UK found the apes gave each other specific details about food quality. The combination of five distinct calls into sequences allowed others to concentrate their foraging around areas known to contain preferred kiwi fruits.

Bononbos be smart. More and more, I get the feeling that if I had to choose between chimps and bonobos in a dream job, I would choose bonobos. I still have my reservations, but chimps often do not seem nearly as interesting when you take them out of the wild. These bonobos were studied entirely in captivity! What I really want to know now is the life history of the animals, and the results line up with that. Also what this Twycross Zoo is all about since it is apparently the World Primate Center.

To conclude, I have an amusing bit of research to share.

I can't wait to see how much (and what kind of...) mileage I can get out of these results.

Apparently women (but not men) like monkey sex… literally.

Previous research suggests that women’s genital arousal is an automatic response to sexual stimuli, whereas men’s genital arousal is dependent upon stimulus features specific to their sexual interests. In this study, we tested the hypothesis that a nonhuman sexual stimulus would elicit a genital response in women but not in men.

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