Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Study: Marijuana Slows SIV Disease Progression In Monkeys

monkeys marijuana
Monkeys infected with simian immunodeficiency virus (SIV) that were given chronic doses of the active ingredient in marijuana appeared to have slower SIV disease progression than monkeys given a placebo. These results, published in the June edition of the journal AIDS Research and Human Retroviruses, aren’t proof that marijuana will slow human HIV progression, but they do indicate that the drug does not increase disease progression, as had been feared by some.

HIV infection has been long associated with illicit drug use, including chronic use of marijuana. Moreover, given the results of studies showing that heroine, crack cocaine and methamphetamine could potentially speed HIV disease progression, some feared that the same might be true of marijuana.

On the other hand, many people with HIV turned to marijuana in the early days of the epidemic to combat wasting disease and to treat nausea and chronic pain. An early, but short study in people with HIV indicated that marijuana did increase appetite in people with wasting and appeared to be generally safe. What’s more, the synthetic marijuana alternative, Marinol, was tested more intensively and was found to be fairly safe and effective for pain relief, nausea and low appetite. Still, concerns have lingered about whether marijuana is safe during the long-term.

Full story here.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Monkey 'Witch' Burnt To Death By Community

vervet monkey
A Vervet monkey was burnt to death in Kagiso informal settlement, west of Johannesburg, after residents believed it was linked to witchcraft.

"In an incident described as 'barbaric' by the Community-led Animal Welfare (Claw), residents chanted 'kill that witch!'," The Star newspaper reported on Monday.

It reported that the monkey wandered into the settlement last week Monday, May 23, and was pelted with stones, shot at by police, and then burnt to death.

The monkey fled the mob and temporarily found shelter in a tree, but was pulled out, put in a bucket and doused in petrol.

"Someone struck a match. (The monkey) got out of the bucket and dropped down dead. They continued throwing stones at it," Kagiso resident, Tebogo Moswetsi was reported as saying.

Moswetsi was woken up by friends on Monday morning and told about the monkey. They said it was going around Kagiso "talking to people".

He said he joined in the case as he was curious. He was the resident that climbed the tree and brought the monkey down.

"I feel guilty, I shouldn't have taken it down from that tree. I dropped it down after someone poured petrol on it. I had no choice," Moswetsi said.

Claw manager, Cora Bailey, arrived at the scene and said she was devastated.

"I felt devastated. You could barely tell it had been a living creature. There were very small children who looked very confused and frightened."

Bailey explained animals fell victim to superstition, especially because they did not understand that such animals wander into townships because their natural habitat was destroyed or it was separated from its troop.

Full story here.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Study: Monkeys Capable Of Regret, Abstract Thinking

Like humans, monkeys also wonder about what might have been, according to a new study by Yale researchers.

The study, to be published Thursday in the journal Neuron, suggests monkeys experience regret and can learn by imagining alternative outcomes to their actions. More important, the researchers said, it could shed light on the physiological activity of human brains when it comes to depression and schizophrenia.

The general assumption has been that animals learn only by their direct experiences, or trial and error. But Daeyeol Lee, a professor of neurobiology at the Yale School of Medicine, said he has had a hunch that animals have the capacity to imagine alternative outcomes without having experienced them.

"When people have regret, they're thinking about what could have happened; it's about imagining what could have happened," said Lee, co-author of the study. "The reason you do this is because it actually broadens the potential for learning tremendously. It seems like such a fundamental question that I would be surprised if it were exclusive to humans."

To test the theory, the researchers monitored the brain activity of monkeys as they played a computer simulation of the game "rock, paper, scissors." The monkeys received large juice rewards for winning a game, a smaller amount of juice if they tied and nothing if they lost. Most of the monkeys, they observed, would pick whichever symbol they would have won with in the previous game. In other words, Lee said, they were able to think abstractly and imagine an alternative outcome.

With brain imaging technology, Lee and his co-researcher, Hiroshi Abe of Yale University's department of neurobiology, pinpointed the activity in the brain triggered by this kind of thinking, and the different forms that it takes.

Full story here.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Rare Lion Tamarin Monkey Born At Durrell

Tamarin baby
One of the world's most endangered primates has been born at the headquarters of the Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust.

The male baby black lion tamarin monkey is the first born outside of Brazil for eight years.

The species of monkey is critically endangered in the wild, with fewer than 1,000 black lion tamarins remaining.

Named Francisco, the baby's arrival will help efforts to reintroduce the species to its native habitat.

Francisco was born on 22 March this year by Caesarean section. Durrell delayed announcing his birth until keepers were confident he had made it past his potentially risky early few weeks of life.

"This birth is great news; monitoring and successfully delivering the baby has been a very tricky event to manage," says Mark Brayshaw, head of Durrell's animal collection.

He is the first healthy baby born to his mother, named Roxanne, who has previously lost two babies and suffered several miscarriages.

Due to her previous problems the Durrell staff decided to monitor her four-and-a-half month pregnancy and deliver the baby by Caesarean at the appropriate time.

Full story here.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Anthropologist Discovers New Primate Fossil In West Texas

Physical anthropologist Chris Kirk has announced the discovery of a previously unknown species of fossil primate, Mescalerolemur horneri, in the Devil's Graveyard badlands of West Texas.

Mescalerolemur lived during the Eocene Epoch about 43 million years ago, and would have most closely resembled a small present-day lemur. Mescalerolemur is a member of an extinct primate group – the adapiforms – that were found throughout the Northern Hemisphere in the Eocene. However, just like Mahgarita stevensi, a younger fossil primate found in the same area in 1973, Mescalerolemur is more closely related to Eurasian and African adapiforms than those from North America.

"These Texas primates are unlike any other Eocene primate community that has ever been found in terms of the species that are represented," says Kirk, associate professor in the Department of Anthropology at The University of Texas at Austin. "The presence of both Mescalerolemur and Mahgarita, which are only found in the Big Bend region of Texas, comes after the more common adapiforms from the Eocene of North America had already become extinct. This is significant because it provides further evidence of faunal interchange between North America and East Asia during the Middle Eocene."

Full story here.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Tragedy At London Zoo As Baby Gorilla 'Tiny' Killed

The little western lowland gorilla sustained a badly broken arm and suspected internal injuries and could not be revived after surgery.

Nicknamed 'Tiny', the seven-month-old was involved in a fracas after he and his mother were introduced to Kesho - a new silverback male - for only the second time.

The first meeting between the two had gone well, but it is thought Kesho took exception to the child of another male being in his presence when they were reintroduced on Thursday (May 12th).

'We knew this was going to be an extremely difficult situation for the gorillas and their keepers and we've always been open about the challenges we would face introducing a new male in such difficult circumstances,' explained Zoological Society of London director David Field.

'Everyone here is utterly devastated. Although we had tried to be prepared for the worst, we are all completely heartbroken by this.'

Adult male gorillas regularly attack the offspring of their rivals in the wild, but it was hoped that Kesho could make the group at London Zoo more cohesive after the previous male gorilla died.

Full story here.

Monday, May 09, 2011

Study: Monkeys Born With AIDS-Blocking Gene

A certain gene in some monkeys can help boost vaccine protection against simian immunodeficiency virus (SIV), a trait that could help researchers develop better AIDS vaccines for humans, suggested a study out Wednesday.

Researchers vaccinated a large group of rhesus monkeys and then exposed them to SIV repeatedly over the course of two weeks. Half became infected, but the other half did not.

Those who resisted infection were more likely to express a certain gene, identified as TRIM5.

The findings could help researchers in the elusive search to develop a vaccine against human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), which causes AIDS, said lead author Norman Letvin.

"It tells us -- probably much to our surprise -- that there will likely be in humans certain genes expressed by some people but not in others that may well be contributing to protection," said Letvin, a Harvard Medical School professor.

"So that we not only have to look at vaccine-induced antibody responses but we also have to look at the genetic makeup of the individuals who are being vaccinated because these data in monkeys suggest that both of these can be contributing."

Full story here.

Friday, May 06, 2011

Birth Control Prescribed For Wild Hong Kong Monkeys

Wild monkeys don't seem to care that Hong Kong is a concrete jungle -- they thrive so well on its fringes that the government has introduced birth control to curb a population boom.

Easy food handouts from some of the city's seven million humans helped push macaque numbers to more than 2,000 in recent years -- and a rise in nuisance complaints about monkeys that have lost a natural fear of people.

"I think we still have plenty of space for wildlife. But the countryside and the city are adjacent to each other and sometimes there is conflict," said Chung-tong Shek of the government's conservation department.

Reports of aggressive monkeys chasing hikers for food, grabbing bags and reaching for pockets surfaced in recent years as the macaque population grew.

Stray monkeys with an acquired taste for human food still occasionally run about the crowded shopping districts of the city.

In April, one found its way to central Kowloon, near a strip of camera shops, hotels and fashion boutiques known locally as the Golden Mile.

"There is plenty of food inside the city in the garbage. Some of them get lost in the city...from time to time," Shek told AFP.

Full story here.

Baby Snow Monkey Gets Warm Reception At Minnesota Zoo

One of the Minnesota Zoo's more popular exhibits just got a little more populated.

The zoo in Apple Valley announced Wednesday the birth of a snow monkey late last month.

The Minnesota Zoo is just one of nine in the United States with snow monkeys.

The mother, Yumoto, is keeping her baby close, so a determination of the newborn's gender has yet to be made.

This is the zoo's eighth successful snow monkey birth since 2005. There are now 20 in the exhibit.

Full story here.

A Moment Of Baby Spider Monkey Zen...

A baby Spider Monkey named Estela plays with her grandmother Sonya at Melbourne Zoo on May 6, 2011.

Full story here.

Monkey Attacks Couple After Man Rolls Over Him In His Sleep


Would you share your bed with a monkey like this?

This is a photo of an adult java macaque, two of which now have a new home near Franklin after attacking their owners.

"I know his nose was messed up pretty bad and his wrist," said Debbie Jeter, owner of Bear Path Acres.

They will soon join "Isaac," who is the same species and around the same size, in a cage at Bear Path Acres.

The owner of the farm, Debbie Jeter, says they came here after Sammy, a thirty pound male, went bananas on his owner after he accidently rolled over on him in bed while they were sleeping.

"Its just a natural reflex for anybody. If my husband rolled over on me, I probably wouldn't bite him, but I would smack him, ya know?" said Debbie.

She says Sammy and Tara's owners thought of the monkeys more like their children rather than wild animals, and let them share the bed with them every night.

Debbie says while these monkeys seem like nice pets when they are young, you can never take the 'wild' out of a wild animal.

Full story here.

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

Study: Self-Awareness In Chimps

Chimpanzees are self-aware and can anticipate the impact of their actions on the environment around them, an ability once thought to be uniquely human, according to a study released Wednesday.

The findings, reported in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B, challenge assumptions about the boundary between human and non-human, and shed light on the evolutionary origins of consciousness, the researchers said.

Earlier research had demonstrated the capacity of several species of primates, as well as dolphins, to recognize themselves in a mirror, suggesting a fairly sophisticated sense of self.

The most common experiment consisted of marking an animal with paint in a place -- such as the face -- that it could only perceive while looking at its reflection.

If the ape sought to touch or wipe off the mark while facing a mirror, it showed that the animal recognised itself.

Full story here.

Grass-Eating Hominid Was The Primate Equivalent Of A Cow

Nutcracker Man didn't eat nuts after all. After a half-century of referring to an ancient pre-human as "Nutcracker Man" because of his large teeth and powerful jaw, scientists now conclude that he actually chewed grasses instead.

The study "reminds us that in paleontology, things are not always as they seem," commented Peter S. Ungar, chairman of anthropology at the University of Arkansas.

The new report, by Thure E. Cerling of the University of Utah and colleagues, is published in Tuesday's edition of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Cerling's team analyzed the carbon in the enamel of 24 teeth from 22 individuals who lived in East Africa between 1.4 million and 1.9 million years ago. One type of carbon is produced from tree leaves, nuts and fruit, another from grasses and grasslike plants called sedges.

It turns out that the early human known as Paranthropus boisei did not eat nuts but dined more heavily on grasses than any other human ancestor or human relative studied to date. Only an extinct species of grass-eating baboon ate more, they said.

Full story here.

Monday, May 02, 2011

Monkeys Show Signs Of Advanced Memory Powers

Monkey see, monkey recall – at least for a couple minutes.

Ben Basile of Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia, placed five rhesus monkeys in front of a touchscreen that briefly showed a blue square and two red ones. After an interval of up to 2 minutes, the blue square reappeared in a different place, and the monkeys had to replicate the pattern in its new position by tapping the screen to place red squares.

Their success rate was significantly better than chance, showing for the first time that they are able to recall things from memory. This is more advanced than recognising a familiar object, and could be a precursor to long-term memory.

The study could help resolve a long-standing question, says Howard Eichenbaum of Boston University in Massachusetts. "There is a big controversy over whether recollection and familiarity are [run by] different processes, or just reflect the strength of the memory," he says.

Full story here.