Friday, December 31, 2010

2010, the year that was ...

It's not New Year Eve without writing or at least talk about what you have accomplished throughout the year. I will spare you details of my personal life because I figure most of you probably doesn't really care that in 2010 I adopted a third cat (when she was 2 days old) and became her surrogate mother, sponsored a macaque named Kera at Primarily Primates, volunteered at Prospect Park Zoo and was accepted to Hunter for grad school. No, I won't bore you with that (Ha!).

Instead, I will just talk about my blog. 2010 was a good year in general for The Prancing Papio. Although I wasn't able to write more posts this year, I am glad that more people found their way to my blog and had expressed interested in some of my posts. Yay for more readers!

The Prancing Papio started hosting The Four Stone Hearth, a bi-weekly blog carnival that specializes in the four-field approach of Anthropology (Archaeology, Cultural, Biological and Linguistics). You can read all three editions that The Prancing Papio hosted, #93, #98 and #103. I will be hosting another edition of Four Stone Hearth again on January 19th. Be sure to come back and check out the carnival. If you would like to submit any blog posts for Four Stone Hearth, please email me at PrancingPapio at gmail dot com.

I have listed a few interesting posts that appeared on The Prancing Papio this year. Check them out!
  1. Luigi Fossati: A forgotten early primatologist
  2. What is Primatology?
  3. Do animals keep pets?
  4. Ape behavior inside the exhibit and holding area
  5. Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious Callitrichids!
  6. Are slow lorises really venomous?
  7. Philippine tarsiers: Not world's smallest primates, not marsupials
  8. Innate Phobias: Fear Inheritance From Mother To Offspring
  9. Using mice to assess the degree of relatedness in chacma baboons
  10. Sexual And Natural Selection: Why Humans Are Still Evolving
Happy New Year to all my readers. May all your new year resolutions and wishes come true. I promise that I write more interesting posts next year, though right now I am most excited about starting grad school in Spring (I am one step closer to being a REAL Primatologist!). Live long and prosper, my friends.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Hunter College it is then.

Some of you might remember that I was rather unsuccessful in securing a place for graduate school last year. Moving out of the Tri-State area is pretty much out of the question for me (personal reasons). This leaves me with only a handful of viable schools to apply to. The ambitious student that I am, I aimed high and applied to only well known universities. I had my eyes set for either UPenn, Stony Brook or Rutgers but unfortunately none of these universities were interested in me. It didn't help that I only applied for PhD programs (in hindsight, I really should have looked into a few Masters program). I realized now that you have higher chances of being accepted to a Masters program compared to most PhD program. Unless, of course, you have a 3.99 GPA or a perfect 4.0 GPA. That, I do not have unfortunately.

"You live and learn" they say, and true to that, this year's graduate school application process is far less stressful than the year before. I knew I should look into both PhD and Masters program again but since those three universities rejected me last year, I opted not to apply to them again. If they don't want you last year ... they probably still don't this year.

I also had pretty shitty GRE scores. I totally abhor standardized tests. I don't know why but I find it really hard to do well in those kinda tests. I took the GRE twice with almost the same results. I was livid. I firmly believe that those scores do not justify me as a student and in refuse to pay hundreds to take yet another stupid GRE exam that I will probably bomb again (Am I the only who thinks that GRE is a get rich scheme?) Anyway, instead of taking yet another GRE exam, I worked around my GRE scores. I looked into schools that's not too rigid with GRE score requirements but instead weigh in on all the achievements you've got as an undergraduate.

Once I got all those criteria straightened out, the only school in the Tri-State area viable for me to even apply to is Hunter College. So, I applied to their Animal Behavior and Conservation (ABC) program. While this is no Anthropology/Primatology program, it is the closest program I found that is still relevant to my interest. I am stoked that one of the faculty, Dr. Diana Reiss, studies self-recognition and theory of mind in animals.

So I got the official letter a few days ago from Hunter's Graduate Admission Office. I've been officially admitted as an MA student for Spring 2011. Huzzah! I can't wait to get back to class after almost 2 years in hiatus. Though I really don't know what to expect being a graduate student in a Psychology department. I have had pretty bad experience with Psychology professors, both at LaGuardia Community College and Queens College ... here's hoping that Hunter is different. - Welcome to grad school. Now bite your lip and grab your ankles.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Another addition to the Fork-marked lemur species?

Just in time to celebrate Monkey Day tomorrow, a new species of lemur is on the verge of being formally acknowledge in science. Primatologist Dr. Russ Mittermeien first spotted this species back in 1995 during one of his expedition to Daraina, Madagascar but said that he did not have any time to follow up with his discovery until now.

This "new" species belongs to the genus Phaner or the fork-marked lemur (the species is yet to be named since they are not formally acknowledge by science). This species, like all fork-marked lemurs, feeds on exudates and flower nectar. They are nocturnal and are arboreal quadrupeds. Photo from by Russ Mittermeien.

There are currently four species of fork-marked lemurs, making this new species the fifth if scientifically acknowledge. Fork-marked lemurs are endemic to Madagascar, like all lemur species. They get their name from the dark stripe that runs from their back and forks on their head to their eyes. Their face and stripe actually reminds me of slow lorises.

The most likely difference between this new species (besides their color) and the other four fork-marked lemurs is definitely in the genetics. This new species is likely endangered or critically endangered due to isolated or restricted range.

On a personal note, I am truly digging the language used by the media. Instead of saying "new species discovered", they actually wrote "new species to science". I prefer the latter description as it is non-ethnocentric since most "newly-discovered" species are already known to the natives in the area.

For more about this news, read New lemur found in Madagascar on BBC and New lemur: big feet, long tongue and the size of squirrel on

Sunday, December 5, 2010

These primates are busy!

I realized I have not updated my blog for almost a month now, so first and foremost, apologies to my avid readers. I know I have left you high and dry without any post! Since my last post, I have started volunteering at Prospect Park Zoo. The zoo has a special place in my heart (especially the hamadryas baboons) because it is there that I did my research for my Honors Thesis. I never thought I would enjoy working with kids but they DO ask the darndest things. Of all the kids that had asked me questions or talked to me, one really stood out. The kid asked if I know who Steve Irwin is and that he (the kid) enjoys his (Irwin's) work. Can you believe it? The kid even recited how primates are different than other mammals. I think he's gonna grow up to be me. I'm cereal.

Have you seen the new ASP website? It's quite spiffy. I actually contributed some photos to the site ... can you spot them?

The annual Monkey Day is fast approaching. Celebrated annually on December 14th, Monkey Day not only celebrates the simian that lend its name to the festival, it also celebrates anything primate (prosimians, monkeys and apes). Over at Serious Monkey Business, Ashlee is starting a Monkey Day Blog Carnival. If you are interested in contributing to the carnival, please contact her.

A friend of mine started a new blog, The Primate Chronicles. Kayley is a graduate student at University of Calgary and does her fieldwork in Belize. Check it out.

Call for submissions: The next edition of Four Stone Hearth will be hosted by Archive Fire on December 8th. If you have wrote or saw interesting Anthropology posts around the web, please send it to ambientdisorder at gmail dot comAfarensis, current host of the blog carnival, needs hosts for future editions. If you are interested, please email Afarensis, afarensis1 at sbcglobal dot net.

All over the blogosphere and Twitter-land, Anthropological primates are choosing sides. Are you "Team Jacob" or "Team Edward"? Errr .... I mean, are you "for" or "against" removing the word "science" from  American Anthropological Association (AAA)'s mission statement. The controversy with removing the word "science" from mission statement even reached CNN. Some of the interesting blog posts on this subject matter includes:

What's your stand? I don't really have a strong reaction to this, probably because I am not an AAA member. I understand the initial shock of disbelieve or just a general WTF to the decision. But seriously, are they just fishing for publicity? Those damn non-science Anthropologist!

Last but not least, to my Jewish readers, Happy Hanukkah. Chag Sameach!

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Legopithecus rosalia kenneyi

Wordless Wednesday are, well, meant to be "wordless" but I've gotten a lot of questions about my Wordless Wednesday post yesterday so I've decided to include more photos and write a little bit about these cute critters.

I was up in Philadelphia for the Halloween weekend and no trip to Philadelphia is complete without me going to The Philadelphia Zoo. While there, I managed to catch the Creatures of Habitat exhibit. The exhibits are made from LEGO bricks (OMG childhood memories) and my favorite were definitely the ones I've posted on my Wordless Wednesday post yesterday. 

They are, of course, the Golden Lion Tamarins (Leonpithecus rosalia) but the folks that made them did have a sense of humor. If you actually read the signs posted by the exhibit, you'll realize that the Latin name for these critters are Legopithecus rosalia kenneyi. Hah! Legopithecus (Lego ape). Brilliant. Although, for argument sake, Golden Lion Tamarins are not apes but monkeys

But why the kenneyi subspecies name? One of the artists that made these Lego sculptures is Sean Kenney, in which I would think where the subspecies name comes from (It's probably an Easter egg). I wonder what they plan to do with these sculptures when the exhibition is done. I'd love to get my fingers on one (maybe two). Here are more Lego Golden Lion Tamarin pictures from the Creatures of Habitat exhibit. Enjoy!

Only 12 individuals of this subspecies left!

 HAHAHA! Brilliant.


 Pirate tamarin. Yarrr!

 Golden Lion Tamarin using a tool (stick). Not sure they do though ...

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Rhinopithecus strykeri: Hunted and eaten by locals

With the announcement of the newly discovered Rhinopithecus strykeri yesterday, we were only given a glimpse of this new species through an illustration and a computer modified image (Photoshopped none the less). I bet everyone was wondering why aren't there any pictures of these snub-nosed monkeys.

Ponder no more. Here's a photo from National Geographic showing local hunters with a dead R. strykeri that's about to be dinner (photo by Ngwe Lwin). The researchers (Geissmann et al., 2010) were not able to procure a photo of any live R. strykeri. Supposedly, they captured some wild ones but they had escaped before pictures were taken. R. strykeri are threatened by hunting and habitat destruction due to logging.

Geissmann. T, Lwin. G, Aung. S, Naing Aung. T, Aung. Z M, Hla. T, Grindley. M, Momber. F, “A new species of Snub-nosed monkey, Genus Rhinopithecus Milne-Edwards, 1872 (Primates, Colobianae), From Northern Kachin State, Northeastern Myanmar”, American Journal of Primatology, Wiley-Blackwell, October 2010, DOI: 10.1002/ajp.20894

Edit: To request a copy of the paper by Geissmann et al. (2010), click here.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

New snub-nosed monkey from Northern Myanmar: Rhinopithecus strykeri

As if fate is testing me, I just had a Facebook conversation yesterday about new species "discoveries" and how ethnocentric they are. I mean, really ... do you really think that until these new species are "discovered" by scientists, no one (even people that lives in the area) knew of these animals? Probably not. Using the word "discovered" to formally acknowledge a species seems antediluvian.

While there are currently no images of living specimens of this new species available Fauna & Flora International has commissioned an artists impression of the new species in its habitat, based on field sightings and a carcass of the newly discovered species. Image from Martin Aveling/Fauna & Flora International.

Anyway, a team of primatologists supposed discovered a new species of snub-nosed monkey in Northern Myanmar during their Hoolock Gibbon Status Review early this year. The new species was formally named  Rhinopithecus strykeri, after the President and Founder of the Arcus Foundation Jon Stryker. The locals do have a name for these snub-nosed monkeys. They call them "mey nwoah" or "monkey with an upturned face".

This primate reported has an upturned nose which, according to the locals, made them sneeze when it rains. Locals observed that to avoid getting rain water into their nose, R. strykeri would sit with their heads tucked in between their legs. Their pelage is entirely black except for a white tuft on their ears, chin beard and the perineal end. It has a relatively long tail, about 140% of its body. R. strykeri is the first species of the Rhinopithecus genus to be found in Myanmar. The other four species (R. roxellana, R. bieti, R. brelichi and R. avunculus) are found in China and Vietnam. R. strykeri's range is limited only to the Maw River area. There are estimated about 260 to 330 individuals of R. strykeri left in the wild, making them Critically Endangered according to IUCN.

Read more at New Snub-Nosed Monkey Discovered in Northern Myanmar.

Geissmann, T. Lwin, G. Aung, S. Naing Aung, T. Aung, ZM. Hla, T. Grindley, M. Momber, F. A new species of Snub-nosed monkey, Genus Rhinopithecus Milne-Edwards, 1872 (Primates, Colobianae), From Northern Kachin State, Northeastern Myanmar. American Journal of Primatology, Wiley-Blackwell, October 2010, DOI: 10.1002/ajp.20894

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

[UPDATED] Are slow lorises really venomous? (Yes they are. And poisonous too!)

Tickling is torture. Please do not share and "like" pet loris videos.

EDIT: Recent studies by Dr. Anna Nekaris and her team have shown that slow lorises are both poisonous AND venomous (how interesting!). It has came to my attention that this blog post is being used by those to argue for the suitability of slow lorises as pets. I concluded that slow lorises are not poisonous, but could be venomous, citing lack of evidence. However, this has since been proven incorrect with evidence to support that slow lorises are BOTH poisonous and venomous. Just to make one thing very clear, I do not condone keeping nonhuman primates as pets.

I passionately plea that you do not purchase or keep slow lorises as pets. Slow lorises do not make good pets and the pet trade that brought these lorises to you are cruel and unsustainable. Please read this post on why we need to not support slow loris pet trade.

- Prancing Papio 


Slow loris by Frans Lanting. Photo from The Guardian.

I must say, the idea of venomous primates never crossed my mind. While venomous species do exist in mammals, it is much more common in insects, reptiles and fishes. In primates, slow lorises (genus Nycticebus) are thought to be venomous in Thai folklore (Wilde, 1972) but are they really?

As of 2010, the genus Nycticebus consists of four species: Pygmy slow loris (Nycticebus pygmaeus), Javan slow loris (Nycticebus javanicus), Sunda slow loris (Nycticebus coucang) and Bengal slow loris (Nycticebus bengalensis). The Javan slow loris was previously recognized as a subspecies but has since been elevated to species status. These prosimians are found in different parts of Southeast Asia. Nycticebus range, in red. Illustration from Primate Info Net.

Slow lorises are arboreal primates that move quadrupedally between branches. They are nocturnal and omnivorous, feeding on plant matter and insects. Slow lorises sleep during the day, curled up like a ball in hidden parts of trees above ground. Their predators include pythons (Python reticulatus), hawk-eagles (Spizaetus cirrhatus) and orangutans (Pongo pygmaeus). Slow lorises have a relatively low metabolism compared to similar-sized mammals (Gron, 2009). Sunda slow loris (Nycticebus coucang). Photo from Primate Info Net.
Colors and markings in Nycticebus species and subspecies. Illustration from Loris Conservation.

Venomous vs. Poisonous
Although the words "venomous" and "poisonous" are used interchangeably in everyday speech, they are actually fundamentally different. By definition, venom has to be injected into the body, introduced by a bite or a sting. Poison, on the other hand, is ingested or inhaled  into the body by the victim. Thus, venomous and poisonous animals are altogether different.

The blue dart frog (Dendrobates azureus) is a poisonous animal while the Indian cobra (Naja naja) is a venomous animal.

Brachial gland of slow lorises
The flexor surface or the ventral side of the elbow has a slightly raised but barely visible swelling termed the brachial gland (Hagey et al., 2006; Krane et al., 2003). Observations from captive slow lorises show that when the animal is disturbed during handling, they secrete about 10 microliters (μL) of clear, strong-smelling fluid in the form of an apocrine sweat (exudate) from their brachial gland . Usually, male and female slow lorises assume a defensive stance when disturbed. They bend their heads downwards between uplifted forelegs, rubbing the brachial gland exudate onto their head and neck. Slow lorises frequently lick their own brachial gland regions and also wipe their brachial gland against their head. The brachial gland is active in lorises as young as 6 weeks old (Hagey et al., 2006). Illustration shows the brachial gland (dark patch) on the ventral side of a slow loris. Drawing by Helga Schulze (Krane et al., 2003).

Brachial gland exudate and Fel d 1
The brachial gland produces exudate with an allergen that is similar to the Fel d 1 cat allergen (Hagey et al., 2006; Krane et al., 2003). This brachial gland exudate shares a high degree of similarity in sequence, as well as unusual disulfide-bridged heterodimeric structure similar with Fel d 1. Fel d 1 is an allergen found mostly in saliva and the sebaceous glands (glands found inside the skin) of domestic cats, Felis catus. Humans with a cat allergy are allergic to five known allergen produced by domestic cats, Fel d 1 being one of them. However, the biological function of Fel d 1 is still currently unknown (Grönlund et al., 2010).

So are slow lorises venomous or poisonous?
To answer this, let's revisit the definitions of venomous and poisonous. A venomous animal injects toxins into its victim's body by bite or sting. A poisonous animal, on the other hand, produces toxins that are poisonous once inhaled or ingested. Medical literature shows that human - slow loris injuries come from slow loris bites and not from ingesting their toxins. So are slow lorises venomous? Well, not quite.

Slow lorises have needle-like teeth called dental combs or tooth combs on their lower jaw. Paired with the constant licking of the brachial gland, it is not surprising that one would assume the dental comb plays a part in injecting brachial gland exudate into unsuspecting victims (Hagey et al., 2006). However, this is not the case.

Used for grooming, dental combs might look menacing to some but their function is less sinister than one might conjure up. A bite from a slow loris is painful due to their sharp pointed teeth. Illustration of slow loris teeth from Loris Conservation. The dental comb is on the lower jaw, shape like a spade.

Wilde (1972) reports that the victim of a slow loris bite immediately succumbs to anaphylactic shock (extreme allergic reaction) followed by hematuria. In spite of that, the victim fully recovered. There is no clinical evidence of toxic substances in slow loris saliva to support the notion that they are venomous (Wilde, 1972).

Another incident involves a 34 year-old woman who is 19 weeks pregnant. She was bitten by a pygmy slow loris at the zoo she works in. The patient only complained about an acute pain at the location where she was bitten. She did not go into anaphylactic shock (Kalimullah et al., 2008).

Slow loris bite. Photo by Helena Fitch-Snyder from Loris Conservation.

Reports of slow loris bites are rare in literature. However, based on these published reports, it seems that slow loris bites are not venomous (Kalimullah et al., 2008; Wilde, 1972). Due to the high degree of similarity between the brachial gland exudate of slow lorises and the Fel d 1 allergen in domestic cats, the anaphylactic shock expressed by victims is probably just a reaction to the exudate's allergen.

What is the function of the brachial gland exudate?
Hagey et al. (2007) posit that the brachial gland exudate is used as olfactory signalling to broadcast individual home range and territories. Most nocturnal primates rely on olfaction -- slow loris included. Since brachial gland exudates are not an immediate response to stress or pursuit, their function might be to deter predators, warn other slow lorises of danger or even both (Hagey et al., 2006).

I'm looking forward to more studies on these prosimians and the properties of their brachial gland exudates. More research, as well as slow loris bite records, are needed to elucidate the effects of brachial gland exudates on humans.

Gron, KJ. 2009. Primate Factsheets: Slow Loris (Nycticebus) Taxonomy, Morphology & Ecology. Primate Info Net Retrieved October, 19 2010

Grönlund, H. Saarne, T. Gafvelin, G. van Hage, M. 2010. The Major Cat Allergen, Fel d 1, in Diagnosis and Therapy. International Archives of Allergy and Immunology 151(4): 265-274.

Hagey, LR. Fry, BG. Fitch-Snyder, H. 2007. Talking Defensively: A Dual Use for the Brachial Gland Exudate of Slow and Pygmy Lorises. Primate Anti-Predatory Strategies 2: 253-272 DOI: 10.1007/978-0-387-34810-0_12.

Krane, S. Itagaki, Y. Nakanishi, K. Weldon, PJ. 2003. "Venom" of the slow loris: sequence similarity of prosimian skin gland protein and Fel d 1 cat allergen. Naturwissenschaften 90: 60-62.

Kalimullah, EA. Schmidt, SM. Schmidt, MJ. Lu, JJ. 2008. Beware the Pygmy Slow Loris? Clinical Toxicology 46(7): 602.

Wilde, H. 1972. Anaphylactic Shock Following Bite by a 'Slow Loris', Nycticebus coucang. The American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene 21(5): 592-594.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Interspecies grooming at The Bronx Zoo

Interspecies grooming between Bonnet macaques (Macaca radiata) and Gray langur (Semnopithecus entellus thersites) at Kalakkad and Mundanthurai Tiger Reserve, India. Photo from TrekNature by Gopi.

Interspecies grooming is not unheard of and does occur naturally. While grooming can be dyadic and triadic (or even more), it can also be one-directional. Since grooming is central to primate sociality, there are reported instances of grooming between two different species of primates or even between a primate and non-primate. Grooming has many functions: hygiene, social bonding and even gaining favor.

I found this video yesterday (above) on Youtube by thekingchivas. I could not believe my eyes with what the camera caught. It shows a Malayan tapir (Tapirus indicus) being groomed by a White-cheeked gibbon (Nomascus leucogenys). After doing a Google search, I realize that this is not an isolated incident. Apparently The Bronx Zoo is also aware of this behavior and had posted its own video, which seems to be a separate incident from the one caught by thekingchivas.

I'm not going to definitively say that the tapir will not reciprocate in this grooming but chances are highly unlikely. I wonder what makes these gibbons (there were two females in the exhibit, The Bronx Zoo currently has a mated pair) groom their fellow exhibit-mate. While this might not be an altruistic exchange, we can view it as a mutual symbiotic relationship. Neither animal had its fitness reduced, so it is not altruism. Instead, both individuals benefit from this interaction so it is symbiotic.

The gibbons meticulously groom the tapir to remove insects, which in turns become a tasty snack for these gibbons. The tapir on the other hand, benefits by having pesky insects removed off its body. Is it significant that both animals are female? Is this behavior natural? There are recorded accounts of interspecies grooming between primates and non-primates, so it is quite likely.

A macaque grooming a goat on the streets of Chilkur, India. An example of mutual symbiosis between a primate and a non-primate. Photo by Libran Lover from A Lover's Journal.

A langur grooming a pig in Jaipur, India. Somehow nature managed to put two animals that I have polar opposite feelings together (one I love, the other I hate). Another example of mutual symbiosis between a primate and a non-primate. Photo by Christa Kate Hyland from Laddus and Langis.

The range of both Malayan tapirs and White-cheeked gibbons does not overlap. Malayan tapirs occur in Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand and Myanmar while White-cheeked gibbons are found in Vietnam, Laos and the Yunnan province of China. Therefore, interspecies grooming between Malayan tapir and White-cheeked gibbon is probably a novel behavior that cannot be observed in the wild.

Map shows the current and historic range of Malayan tapir, as of 2003. Notice that Malayan tapirs do not occur in Vietnam, Laos nor China (Yunnan province) where White-cheek gibbons occur. Illustration by Sasha Kopf from Wikipedia.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Four Stone Hearth #103

The Four Stone Hearth is back for yet another exciting edition. Before we begin, I would like to thank Afarensis once more for taking on the ownership of Four Stone Hearth. Thanks for keeping the blog carnival momentum going. I'm happy to host Four Stone Hearth for the third time. It gets better every time I host it! Thanks to those that submitted their entries early, you totally made my life easier.

Our first submission comes from Somatosphere, whose blog post is a book review about Claude Levi-Strauss (1908 - 2009). In the post, Leo reviewed the book "Claude Levi-Strauss: The Poet in the Laboratory", an autobiography by author Patrick Wilcken. This is the first English-language biography of Levi-Strauss, the French anthropologist and ethnologist who's sometimes referred to as the "father of modern anthropology".
Next is a submission from Digging The Dirt, with an interesting article on commercial archaeology. The post "How the west was won (by commercial archaeology)" puts archaeology in the terms of the "good", the "bad" and the "ugly".

Krystal from Anthropology in Practice wrote about how we access and process information via digital media on her post "Digital Literacy at What Price?". (Photo from Chris Madden Cartoons).
Still on his self-imposed exile tour, Eric's submission comes from his guest post on Sex at Dawn. In his post, "Sex, Evolution, and the Case of the Missing Polygamists", Eric wrote about the origins of our sexuality.

Bonn submitted an interesting post on the anthropology of animal superstition in his blog, Time Travelling. I must say that after reading his post, it reminded me of my own childhood in Malaysia where animal myths are the central theme for disasters and good luck. Read Bonvito's post, "Animal Lores: Myths, Disasters, and Animals".

Ashlee has an insightful write up on the effects of feeding wild macaques on her blog This Is Serious Monkey Business. In "Provisioning Macaques in an Ecotourism Setting", she wrote about provisioning for Formosan Macaques in a nature park in Taiwan.

Linguistics blogs tend to be under represented on Four Stone Hearth. Fortunately, I was able to find this post. On Transient Languages & Cultures, Jane wrote about the use of Íslenska on an Icelandic airline in her post "Small languages flourishing (2) - Íslenska".

Daniel from Neuroanthropology submitted his entry just in time before I publish this post. In his blog post, "Terry Deacon, Relaxed Selection, and the Evolution of Language", he explains the evolution of language in terms of natural selection.
For those who are into primate anatomy, check out Darren's post "Pouches, pockets and sacs in the heads, necks and chests of mammals, part I: primates" on his blog Tetrapod Zoology. Patty makes an appearance in his post too ;)

Today is National Fossil Day (October 13th) and what's better to celebrate this day than to reflect on our hominin fossil record. On Laelaps, Brian wrote about how primate fossils from Kenya came to be thanks to the creodonts. Read Brian's post, "Hungry Carnivores Helped Create Kenya’s Primate Fossil Record". (Photo of reconstructed Proconsul skeleton from Wikipedia).

On Sorting Out Science, Sam posted an interesting petroglyph picture. Read about the story of the petroglyph in his post, "The scientific tourist #144 — Newspaper Rock National Historical Site".

Before I end this edition of Four Stone Hearth, I'd like to share a video with you of Betty White (the last surviving Golden Girls) as an Anthropology professor on the NBC sitcom "Community". Those that know me knows I love Betty White but her playing an Anthropologist is this gay boy's dream come true! White plays Prof. Bauer and the clip below is her explaining the movie "Inception" to two indigenous men. Be aware that she is dropping spoiler bombs (which is why she is speaking English instead of the tribe's language).

Thank you everyone for contributing to this edition of Four Stone Hearth. The next edition of Four Stone Heart will be hosted over at Sorting Out Science on October 27th. Please send your submissions to Sam or Afarensis.

NOTE: Unless otherwise stated, photos are from blogs cited.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Call for submissions: Four Stone Hearth #103

The Prancing Papio will be hosting the next edition of Four Stone Hearth next Wednesday (October 13th, 2010). The Four Stone Hearth focus on four subfields: archaeology, socio-cultural anthropology, bio-physical anthropology and linguistic anthropology.

The Four Stone Hearth is a blog carnival that specializes in anthropology in the widest (American) sense of that word. Here, anthropology is the study of humankind, throughout all times and places, focussing primarily on four lines of research:

  • Archaeology
  • Socio-cultural anthropology
  • Bio-physical anthropology
  • Linguistic anthropology

Each one of these subfields is a stone in our hearth. Four Stone Hearth is published bi-weekly, Wednesdays in odd-number weeks.

If you would like to submit content to the next issue of the carnival, please write to the keeper of the blog in question or to Afarensis. You are encouraged to submit other bloggers' work as well as your own. If you would like to host the carnival, please write to Afarensis. Please email me on PrancingPapio at gmail dot com for entries.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Ape behavior inside the exhibit and holding area

An insightful paper published by Ross et al. (2010), compares zoo-living ape behavior inside their holding and exhibit areas in Lincoln Park Zoo, an accredited member of Association for Zoos and Aquarium (AZA). Zoo animals usually have at least two areas where they are housed (excluding some aquatic animals): the holding area and the exhibit area. During visiting hours and at night, zoo animals are housed in their exhibit area. In the morning, before the zoo opens, they move into the holding area to receive husbandry care and their morning food ration.

The gorilla exhibit area in Lincoln Park Zoo. Photo from Things You Should Do.

One of the chimpanzee from the study, Kipper (now deceased), from Lincoln Park Zoo interacting with a child. Photo by Chicago Tribute.

Holding and exhibit areas differ in size, design and functionality. A study by Ross and Lukas on 11 AZA-accredited zoos shows that holding areas are usually about 40 times smaller than exhibit areas (Ross et al., 2010). At the Lincoln Park Zoo, the holding area is about 9.3% of the size of the exhibit area (for both gorillas and chimpanzees). Whereas the exhibit area is designed for the complexity and to mimic the natural environment of its animal inhabitant, the holding area is usually designed for simplicity and functionality to meet husbandry needs.

Seven gorillas (2 males, 5 females; N = 7) and seven chimpanzees (3 males, 4 females; N = 7) were observed in this study. I should point out that the authors of the study is by no means criticizing Lincoln Park Zoo. It is an informal observation of behavioral changes for these animals in different environment. The result of the study shows that:

Inside the holding area - Increased locomotion and affiliative behavior. Also showed increased rates of aggression, self-directed behavior (subject touches, manipulates or examines the body, skin, or hair) and solitary play. Were in close proximity with each other.

Inside the exhibit area - Increased feeding and foraging behavior and also sexual behavior.

Inside the holding area - Increased aggression. Increased rate of scratching and self directed behavior (subject touches, manipulates or examines the body, skin, or hair). Were in close proximity with each other.

Inside the exhibit area - Increased feeding and foraging behavior.

Schematic representation of a typical holding area suite for an individual chimpanzee or gorilla social group at the Regenstein Center for African Apes. Shaded areas indicate animal enclosures; noncolored areas are sections of human activity (caretakers and data collectors). (Ross et al., 2010)

Both gorillas and chimpanzees showed increased aggression accompanied with self directed behavior when inside holding area. Increase in aggression can sometimes be attributed to overcrowding and self directed behavior generally means that an animal is nervous. Being constrained in a smaller space increases the chance of mixed-sex and mixed-dominance encounters thus resulting in agonistic and submissive observations. When inside exhibit areas, both apes exhibited an increase in feeding and foraging behavior. This presumably is due to their feeding and foraging habit in the exhibit area. If I remember correctly, one of the major breakthrough in exhibiting apes (and most animals) is to encourage foraging behavior throughout the day. It is no surprise that these apes exhibit these behaviors.

Chimpanzee subjects in a single enclosure in a holding area suite, during a period of free access (following training and research protocols). Photograph was taken from the central caretaker area. (Ross et al., 2010)

These apes reacted differently when inside their holding area than in their exhibit area because they are exposed to different sensory. Apart from the difference in size and complexity, these two areas also differ in the degree of human interaction, cross-species presence, environmental factors and time spent between these two areas. An understanding of these differences and motivational factors is important in promoting optimized environments for captive apes. The authors encourage that zoos would consider species-specific functional, physical and social preferences when designing enclosures for apes regardless of frequency of use.

Ross, S. Wagner, K. Schapiro, S. Hau, J. 2010. Ape behavior in two alternating environments: comparing exhibit and short-term holding areas. American Journal of Primatology 72: 951–959. doi: 10.1002/ajp.20857

Friday, September 24, 2010

Prospect Park Zoo's Baby Hamadryas Named Azizi and Jabari

After more than a thousand suggestions submitted by the public, the two baby hamadryas baboons at Prospect Park Zoo are given the name "Azizi" and "Jabari" respectively. Their names are in Arabic, the language spoken in modern day Egypt (where these baboons can be found). "Azizi" means precious while "Jabari" means brave. Both Azizi (mother, Rebecca) and Jabari (mother, Kaia) are on exhibit daily from 10 AM to 2 PM inside the Animal Lifestyles building.

More at:
Azizi and Jabari, Prospect Park Zoo's newest baboons, get monikers inspired by their ancestry by Daily News.

The Vote Is In: Meet Jabari and Azizi from Prospect Park Zoo.