Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Chimpanzees Give Birth 'Like Humans'

Footage of a chimpanzee being born has shown that the animals give birth in a way that was thought to be unique to humans.

A team took close-up footage of captive chimps giving birth, which revealed that the newborn emerges from the birth canal facing away from the mother.

Scientists had believed that this birth position evolved in the primate ancestors of modern humans.

These findings could refute that theory.

The researchers filmed three live births for their study, which is published in the Royal Society journal Biology Letters.

Full story here.

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Caregivers Hand-Rearing Baby Orangutan At Houston Zoo

A team of trained and experienced caregivers is hand-rearing a baby Bornean orangutan at the Houston Zoo.

The humans stepped in when the female orangutan’s mother failed to take care of the baby after she was born.

"We were disappointed that the baby’s mother, Kelly, did not raise her baby as we had hoped," said Houston Zoo Curator of Primates and Carnivores Hollie Colahan. "However, we are very happy that Kelly and the baby are healthy. And we’re also very fortunate that we have a staff that is very experienced and accomplished in hand rearing newborns and reintroducing them to their mothers or to surrogate mothers."

The as-yet-unnamed orangutan was born at the Houston Zoo on Wednesday, March 2. She was the third orangutan born there in the past 14 years.

Full story here.

Study: Male Monkeys Improve Their Chances By Getting To Know Females

A new Yale study says that a male monkey greatly increases his chances of successfully courting a female monkey by taking some time to get to know her.

The study, published online Monday by the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B, considered a population of rhesus macaque monkeys on the island of Cayo Santiago off the coast of Puerto Rico.

They found that the more familiar a male monkey was with a female monkey, the more likely he was to recognize that she was ovulating. For instance, in the monkeys that they studied, some fertile females exhibited a darkened face. But not all females bore this trait. So the male monkeys who got to know an individual female monkey's signs were in better position to seize the opportunity.

The researchers showed male monkeys two pictures of the same female monkeys, one while she was ovulating and one when she wasn't. Male monkeys who were part of the same group as the female monkey showed a preference for the picture of the monkey while ovulating. Those who weren't part of the group showed no preference.

The study was led by Laurie Santos, an associate professor of psychology at Yale University. Santos has made a name for herself in recent years studying the behavior of monkeys. A few years ago, she coined the term "monkey economics" after studying the decision-making processes of monkeys, which suggested that our own money-handling behavior is highly ingrained.

Full story here.

Monday, April 04, 2011

Human Virus Linked To Mountain Gorilla Deaths

A virus that causes respiratory disease in humans has been linked to the deaths of critically endangered mountain gorillas in east Africa, a U.S. veterinary research group said on Wednesday.

Tissue samples from two gorillas that died in the forests of northern Rwanda in 2009 were infected with the human metapneumovirus (HMPV) virus, according to The Mountain Gorilla Veterinary Project.

The research also found that the frequency and severity of respiratory disease outbreaks among mountain gorillas straddling Uganda, Rwanda and Democratic Republic of Congo was increasing.

"We report conclusive evidence for association of a human virus with death in mountain gorillas. Viral RNA in multiple tissue samples from the adult female indicates that she was infected by an HMPV strain at the time of her death," it said.

With a total known world population of 786, the gorillas are one of the region's biggest tourist attractions. Visitors pay hundreds of dollars to trek through dense forest and get within metres of the great apes.

Full story here.

Proboscis Monkeys Found Chewing Their Food Twice

Pinocchio has nothing on the proboscis monkey. The fabled wooden boy's nose grew to extreme lengths only when he told lies, but this real-life primate has a big nose no matter what it does.

Combined with their pot bellies – the result of the complicated digestive system necessary to stomach their diet of leaves and fruit – their appearance could charitably be described as peculiar. But it now seems the proboscis monkey has a truly peculiar foible: it is the only primate known to chew the cud – it regurgitates its food and chews it a second time.

Ikki Matsuda of Kyoto University in Inuyama, Japan, and colleagues made two trips to the monkeys' habitat in Borneo in recent years. Watching from a boat while the animals perched in riverside trees, they were surprised to see them apparently regurgitating food and chewing it again.

Matsuda saw monkeys of both sexes and all ages doing this, chewing the regurgitated food for an average of 5 minutes. Monkeys spent longer feeding on days when they regurgitated.

He thinks the regurgitation helps clear large food particles from the monkeys' foreguts, allowing them to eat more. Large tree-living animals like proboscis monkeys are often forced to eat poorer-quality foliage because they are confined to big branches, so being able to eat more could be crucial.

Full story here.