Saturday, February 27, 2010

Friendship In Male And Female Baboons

Laelaps has an interesting post on friendship in male and female baboons. Check out the post, "You just call out my name...": Friendships in Male and Female Baboons. Insightful hypotheses explaining the friendship between male and female baboon. Would love to read more papers and data on this.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Innate Phobias: Fear Inheritance From Mother To Offspring


I find this article, Fear of Spiders Can Develop Before Birth, quite interesting. It seems that newborn crickets "inherit" the fear of spiders from their mother. Compared to newborn crickets whose mothers were not exposed to spiders, those whose mothers were exposed to spiders almost always try to seek shelter to avoid detection from the spiders (which also leads to a higher survival rate). The paper for this study is here (free abstract), Mothers Forewarn Offspring about Predators: A Transgenerational Maternal Effect on Behavior.

In humans, the fear of spiders (arachnophobia) and snakes (ophidiophobia) is widespread. It might also be innate, a survival mechanism we inherited from our primate ancestors. Anthropologist Lynne Isbell thinks that our relatively good vision evolved for spotting snakes, one of early primates' predators. Lynne has a book, The Fruit, The Tree, and The Serpent: Why We See So Well, that talks about our vision and fear. Another interesting article is Unlocking The Psychology Of Snake And Spider Phobias. The fear of snakes and spiders might seem unfounded in today's society but it is without a doubt a useful mechanism for our ancestors who live in wild. Do we inherit these fears from our mother like crickets do? Are phobias wired in our genes and can be passed down from parents to offspring?

Not all phobias are innate. Certain phobias, like mine, developed from inexperience parental care (and I still blame my parents for it). When I was a child, my parents made up stories of killer swines roaming the streets for their laziness to bring me to the playground. So, I grew up being afraid of pigs (everything and anything about pigs) and eventually succumbed to swinophobia.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Happy 1st Birthday, The Prancing Papio!

Exactly a year ago today, I had a brilliant idea of starting this blog. I figured if I write about the things I do and the things I like, then I wouldn't be bored about it. I was also reading massive amount of papers during that time, interesting papers nonetheless, so I figured I'd share those papers with others that share the same interests like me. Thus, The Prancing Papio was born.

While I'm busy celebrating this milestone, I cannot forget you, my readers, who had supported me (and hopefully will continue to support me). Thanks to Kambiz from and for giving me an opportunity to guest blog there. So here's a  HUGE THANK YOU to you, my reader. I owe you a grooming bout!

Here's to many more years to come!

Friday, February 19, 2010

25 Most Endangered Primate Species

Kipunji (Rungwecebus kipunji) Tanzania, Primates in Peril: The World’s 25 Most Endangered Primates 2008–2010 has been compiled by the Primate Specialist Group of IUCN’s Species Survival Commission (SSC) and the International Primatological Society (IPS), in collaboration with Conservation International (CI). © CI/Illustration by Stephen D. Nash

A list of the world's 25 most endangered primate species has been published by the IUCN report, Primates in Peril: The World’s 25 Most Endangered Primates, 2008–2010. Follow link to the full 90-page report in pdf. Here's the list, by region:

Greater Bamboo Lemur (Prolemur simus)
Gray-headed Lemur (Eulemur cinereiceps)
Sclater’s Black Lemur/Blue-Eyed Black Lemur (Eulemur flavifrons)
Northern sportive lemur (Lepilemur septentrionalis)
Silky Sifaka (Propithecus candidus)

Rondo Dwarf Galago (Galagoides rondoensis)
Roloway Guenon (Cercopithecus diana roloway)
Tana River Red Colobus (Procolobus rufomitratus)
Niger Delta Red Colobus Monkey (Procolobus epieni)
Kipunji (Rungwecebus kipunji)
Cross River Gorilla (Gorilla gorilla diehli)

Siau Island Tarsier (Tarsius tumpara)
Javan Slow Loris (Nycticebus javanicus)
Simakobu or Pig-Tailed Snub-Nose Langur (Simias concolor)
Delacour’s Langur (Trachypithecus delacouri)
Golden-headed Langur or Cat Ba Langur (Trachypithecus p. poliocephalus)
Western Purple-faced Langur Trachypithecus (Semnopithecus vetulus nestor)
Grey-shanked Douc Monkey (Pygathrix cinerea)
Tonkin Snub-nosed Monkey (Rhinopithecus avunculus)
Eastern Black Crested Gibbon (Nomascus nasutus)
Western Hoolock Gibbon (Hoolock hoolock)
Sumatran Orangutan (Pongo abelii)

Central and South America
Cotton-top Tamarin (Saguinus oedipus)
Variegated or Brown Spider Monkey (Ateles hybridus)
Peruvian Yellow-tailed Woolly Monkey (Oreonax flavicauda)

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

The "Baboon Syndrome"

Spending at least 4 hours per day in front of baboon enclosures when I was observing their grooming behavior means that I get to eavesdrop on what zoo goers have to say when they first see a baboon. The kids (who doesn't really hold back on anything) would usually yell out loud, much to the embarrassment of their parents "OMG look at that ugly red butt". I've been asked many times (they think I work for the zoo) why baboons have red behinds and why do some looks like red tumorous growth.Whenever someone sees a baboon, their immediate reaction is to comment on the butt. Always.

So, I was pretty surprised to learn that there is dermatitis problem call "baboon syndrome" in humans. You guessed right, the baboon syndrome is an allergic reaction that causes the butt to turn red! Neurotopia has a great write-up of what the baboon syndrome is, "Friday Weird Science: Redder than a baboon's butt".

Friday, February 12, 2010

Happy Lunar New Year, From The Prancing Papio

The Prancing Papio would like to wish its readers a happy and prosperous Lunar New Year. I will be gorging myself with cookies and holiday food for the next few days that I probably will be in a food coma for a while!

The Chinese Zodiac consists of twelve animals (pictured above). I'm sure some of you have seen them in your place mat in a Chinese restaurant. The Chinese Zodiac are based on astrological charts, most probably a mnemonic from observing the orbit of Jupiter (see Earthly Branches for more info). 2010 is the Year of the Tiger. Chinese New Year is a sixteen-day celebration, starting from Chinese New Year Eve to the fifteenth day.

The Lunar New Year is celebrated throughout China and other cultures whom the Chinese culture had interactions with (migration, trade, etc) such as Korea, Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia, Singapore, and Mongolia (hence Lunar New Year is more appropriate and inclusive of all the cultures that celebrate this holiday). Japan used to celebrate Lunar New Year prior to 1873 but after the Meiji Restoration, they adopted the Gregorian calendar and started celebrating new year on January 1st. Countries with large populations of ethnic Chinese also celebrate this holiday, like the United States, Indonesia and Australia. If you have a Chinatown in your city, chances are it's decorated with New Year decorations and abuzz with festivities. Hope this anthropological bit fascinate you!

Thursday, February 11, 2010

The Face Of A Paleo-Eskimo

The oldest genome to have been sequenced from modern human is a man who lives about 4,000 years ago in Greenland. DNA analysis from the man's hair suggest that he has brown eyes, thick dark hair, susceptible to baldness and whose ancestors migrated to Greenland from Siberia.

Inuk's face. Image by Nuka Godfredsen.

This man, name "Inuk" meaning "human" in Greenlandic language, belongs to the Saqqaq culture who were the first to inhabit Greenland. What's interesting is that Inuk had shovel-shaped incisors, the most common trait in Asian and Native American populations. Read more about Inuk, in Analysis of hair DNA reveals ancient human's face. The paper, published in Nature is by Rasmussen et al. (2010) is available online for free: Ancient human genome sequence of an extinct Palaeo-Eskimo.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Why Did Our Early Ancestors Ate Nuts And Seeds?

A team of researchers, led by Professor Gerhard W. Weber from the Department of Anthropology at the University of Vienna in Austria, thinks that our early ancestors (specifically the australopithecines) probably started eating nuts and seeds because they were hungry and that was the only food available.

These adaptations are important in an environment where food is scarce. While being able to adapt to new food source is important, it probably would not be possible if they can't process these foods mechanically (chewing and processing). Adaptations such as large molars, robust teeth or thick enamel (morphological adaptation) are also important. Read more here: European scientists crack the mystery of why we eat nuts.

Also read, The feeding biomechanics and dietary ecology of Australopithecus africanus by Strait et al. (2010)

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Life Is Good: Baby Gorilla Relaxing In Human-Like Pose

Yewande relaxing in human-like pose. Photo from Telegraph.

This photo was taken at Calgary Zoo, Canada by zoo visitor Nancy Chow. The baby lowland gorilla, a six month old female name Yewande, decided to "chillax" after playing with her favorite pink blanket. Struck by Yewande's pose, Chow took this picture. "When I took this shot I love it right away because the baby gorilla was so adorable, Yewande looks so human-like. It is easy to see how closely we are related to these great apes, Yewande's pose could be any one of us taking a well-earned break. Except I don't think I could do that with my feet", said Chow. Read more on Telegraph: Baby gorilla pictured 'relaxing' in human-like pose.

What a great photo. Thanks to my friend Kambiz for pointing it out that it's blog-worthy. This photo also reminds me of what Dr. Frans de Waal said, "Contrary to general belief, humans imitate apes more than the reverse". So, is this baby gorilla relaxing in human-like pose or are humans relaxing in ape-like pose?