Friday, January 31, 2014

Genetically Modified Monkeys Created With Cut-And-Paste DNA

Researchers have created genetically modified monkeys with a revolutionary new procedure that enables scientists to cut and paste DNA in living organisms.

The macaques are the first primates to have their genetic makeup altered with the powerful technology which many scientists believe will lead to a new era of genetic medicine.

The feat was applauded by some researchers who said it would help them to recreate devastating human diseases in monkeys, such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's. The ability to alter DNA with such precision is already being investigated as a way to make people resistant to HIV.

But the breakthrough is controversial, with groups opposed to animal testing warning that it could drive a rise in the use of monkeys in research. One critic said that genetic engineering gave researchers "almost limitless power to create sick animals".

Full story here.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Spider Monkey That Bit Beachwood Man Euthanized; Rabies Test Negative

A YouTube video of Brodi the spider monkey adds the message, “RIP Brodi, 1/18/2014.” According to reports, the Erie County Health Department has euthanized a spider monkey that bit a Beachwood man on the hand at a Vermilion car dealership Tuesday.

Reports also indicate that health department officials confirmed the monkey did not have rabies. The monkey was taken late Friday night and was euthanized about midnight, according to reports. Bob England, Director of Environmental Health with the Erie County Department of Health, told NewsChannel5 that transportation of Brodi without the proper enclosure was one of the violations.

Jacob Ruehlman, 20, of Vermilion, is the owner of Brodi, a 10-pound White-bellied spider monkey that bit an employee at Pat O’Brien Chevrolet, 4545 Liberty Ave.

Ruehlman said he and his twin brother, Michael, brought Brodi with them to the car dealership because they did not want to leave the animal at home alone. Ruehlman said he went home to change Brodi’s diaper and had to go to Pat O’Brien to check on his car before the auto body shop closed. He said he didn’t want to leave Brodi at home, because the monkey gets upset when parted from his owner. Brodi was sitting on Michael Ruehlman’s lap in their rental car when a Pat O’Brien employee approached the car window. The employee asked to pet Brodi, whom Jacob Ruehlman said might have felt out of his element in a strange place. “He (the employee) reached his hand right in the car,” Ruehlman said. “It wasn’t a serious bite. It looked like someone had stuck a tiny pin in his thumb.”

Full story here.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Service-Monkey Bill Draws Opposition In Kentucky

A bill filed this week to allow primates to be used in Kentucky as service monkeys to aid paralyzed people is drawing opposition and — the sponsor says — jokes.

"Obviously there's a lot of jokes, but this isn't a joke," said a tearful state Sen. John Schickel, a Republican from Union.

Schickel said in an interview Friday that he filed the bill on behalf of a Kentucky family that wants to use a service monkey to assist a girl who was paralyzed from the neck down in an automobile accident. Schickel said he is friends with her father and planned to check with the family to see if they want to go public with their story. "This is a family looking for solutions," he said. "I don't know if this is one or not."

The bill is drawing criticism, however, from the Primate Rescue Center in Nicholasville, which says it is home to more than 50 "unwanted" monkeys and apes, including some that were used in programs like the one Schickel is proposing.

"The intentions of people who are in favor of this are honorable, but misguided," said April Truitt, the center's executive director. "Wild animals aren't suitable as companion animals. Having a wild animal in your home puts both the animal and the owner at risk of getting injured."

Full story here.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Study Finds Chimps Can Use Gestures To Communicate In Hunt for Food

Researchers at Georgia State University's Language Research Center examined how two language-trained chimpanzees communicated with a human experimenter to find food. Their results are the most compelling evidence to date that primates can use gestures to coordinate actions in pursuit of a specific goal.

The team devised a task that demanded coordination among the chimps and a human to find a piece of food that had been hidden in a large outdoor area. The human experimenter did not know where the food was hidden, and the chimpanzees used gestures such as pointing to guide the experimenter to the food.

Full story here.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Sluggish Metabolisms Are Key To Primates' Long Lives

We humans and our primate kin are weird mammals. We grow slowly, bear few young, and live exceptionally long lives. Now there's an explanation: primates simply expend less energy.

Herman Pontzer of Hunter College, New York, and colleagues have compared the average daily energy expenditure of primates with that of other mammals. His team studied animals living at the Lincoln Park Zoo in Chicago.

Pontzer found that primates expend 50 per cent less energy than other mammals of equivalent mass during an average day. "What's more, he says the difference is not easily explained by differing activity levels: a human would need to run a whole marathon every day to be on an even energetic footing with mammals that aren't primates.

Full story here.

Monkeys Banned From Eating Bananas At 2 British Zoos

Officials at Paignton and Bristol Zoos have pulled bananas and other fruits from simians diets. 'Giving this fruit to animals is equivalent to giving them cake and chocolate,' one said, citing research that shows bananas made for humans are packed with sugar and calories, causing monkeys to be hyper and aggressive.

Full story here.

Female Capuchin Monkeys Throw Stones To Attract Males

Female capuchin monkeys have been filmed throwing stones at potential mates as a form of flirtation.

The primates whine, pull faces and follow potential mates around in scenes reminiscent of the school playground.

But scientists say this is a serious business for female capuchins as it is their only chance to secure a partner.

The previously unrecorded behaviour was filmed for the BBC/Discovery Channel co-production series Wild Brazil.

Filmmakers captured the footage of bearded capuchins - a subspecies of tufted capuchins - in Serra da Capivara National Park, Brazil.

Full story here.