Saturday, August 28, 2010

Help Name The Prospect Park Zoo Baby Baboons

Congratulations to Bole for being the father to two healthy and beautiful babies! Born on July 23rd and July 28th respectively, these two babies are a bundle of joy for mothers Kaia and Rebecca. The last time Prospect Park Zoo had a baboon birth was 6 years ago, a male baboon named Kito to mother Matara and father Simen.

Kaia and Rebecca (both 7 years old) were sent from Bucknell University to breed with Bole, a longtime resident of the hamadryas baboon exhibit at Prospect Park Zoo. For now, the babies are referred to #1 and #2 but that will change come September 24th. Prospect Park Zoo is asking you to submit names for these two fur balls no later than September 21st. Then, on September 24th, the zoo will announce the winning names. To suggest names, please visit Prospect Park Zoo's website here.

Photographs by Julie Larsen Maher ©WCS

Baby hamadryas baboons are born with black fur (pelage). As they mature, their fur changes from black to olive brown. Adult hamadryas baboons are grayish (males) or brownish (females). Hamadryas baboons were once considered sacred by the ancient Egyptians because these baboons were the attendant of the god Thoth.

Personally, the birth announcement was an exciting news because I've come to "know" Bole after spending almost a year observing him at Prospect Park Zoo. The 18 year-old Bole were especially closed to one of his three females, Zula. Together with Zula, Bole can been seen obsessively grooming each other up to the point where both of them had bare patches of skin. That, my friend, is one extreme PDA!

Without a doubt, the introduction of Kaia and Rebecca into Bole's group will change the troop's dynamics but I am very curious to see what the changes are to Bole's group. What will happen with the relationship between Bole and his three original females (Zula, Mekele and Kobo)? My recent observations suggest that Mekele and Kobo had moved from Bole's group into Simen's group. While I probably won't know the exact reasons why they would do so, I'm guessing that these lower ranking females are joining a much more dominant group for better access to food resources (higher ranking members get access to more preferable pieces of fruit, etc.).

Read more about the baby baboon here.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Macaques and Their "Pet" Kittens

Do you remember a post last month on pet keeping in animals? If you don't remember or never read it, here's the link (Do animals keep pets?). I just received a link from a friend of mine (Thanks Kristen!) about a long tailed macaque adopting a kitten in Ubud, a town in Bali, Indonesia. Below is a YouTube video of said macaque with his "pet" kitten taken in 2008. Read more about this story on Treehugger and on Telegraph.

There is also another "documented" incident of a macaque adopting a kitten in the city of Jhansi, India. This video was taken in 2007.

Do you think that these two incidents provide enough evidence that animals (primates) are capable of pet-keeping? Or is this merely nurturing instinct that is hardwired into some animals? Again, what is your take on pet-keeping and how would you define it? Are pet-keeping unique to humans? 

In a glance, I personally think that these two incidents merely shows a more nurturing side of the macaques than pet-keeping. Although, since this is not a longitudinal study, I can't extrapolate much from a few minutes of footage. What do you think? 

And to end this post, here's a gratuitous picture of a nurturing primate and his pet kitten.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

The Menstruation Story

In keeping with yesterday's post on sexual maturation, here's an interesting find from YouTube. The Menstruation Story was produced by Disney circa 1946. Quite an interesting video, I might say. With interesting take on the video by Shameless and NYmag.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Having Brothers Delays Menstruation and Sexual Activity in Sisters

Hey girls, your brother will not only pull out your Barbie's head but he will also delay your sexual maturation as well ... allegedly. A interesting study by two behavioral ecologists (Milne & Judge, 2010) on contemporary western society of Australian adults found that:

Girls with older brothers experience a delay in menstruation.
Girls with older brothers (but with no older sisters) started their menstruation at a mean age of 13.6 years while girls with older brothers and older sisters started their menstruation at a mean age of 13.3 years. Girls with no older brothers (with or without older sisters) started their menstruation at a mean age of 12.7 years. The more older brothers the girls had, the older they were when they started their periods. However, the age of the brothers does not effect the results.

Girls with younger brothers experienced a delay in first sexual activity.
Girls with one or more younger brothers experienced their first sexual activity up to two years later than girls without any younger brothers.

Neither younger nor older brothers influenced the fitness of their sisters. 
Brothers do not affects number of pregnancies, number of children, age at first pregnancy or the firstborn of their sisters.

It is thought that having boys in subsistence and preindustrial societies require more resources than girls, therefore imposing a constraint on lifetime reproductive success. Results from Milne & Judge (2010) were unusual for a society that has plenty of resources because it shows evidence that having brothers negatively affect their sister's sexual maturation. However, having brothers do not influence the reproductive fitness of their sisters. The authors posit that brothers in contemporary Australian are not associated with reproductive fitness due to their sisters having a long period of independence before child bearing. Dr. Judge said that she prefer not to speculate too much of the study as the study was very basic and straightforward. She emphasized that the delay in sexual maturation should not be interpreted as something negative.

Possible reason why younger sisters are experiencing a delay in first sexual activity.

Important to note that the study interviewed only 273 (n) adults between the age of 18 - 75. Out of the total 197 are females and 76 are men. It would be interesting to see results of the study from a bigger sample size because the study essentially represents the western society of Australia (N) as a whole, so the sample size (n) should be bigger. I don't know off hand the population size of western society of Australia, but the Australian population is currently 22,434,156 (current as of August 24, 2010 from Australian Bureau of Statistics). So I would be interested to see if the trend holds up to a bigger sample size, where (n) is at least over 1000. Also, would sisters of twins (with younger twin brother or older twin brother) exhibit the same delay in sexual maturation as well?

Milne, F.H. Judge, D.S. 2010. Brothers delay menarche and the onset of sexual activity in their sisters. Proceedings of The Royal Society B DOI: 10.1098/rspb.2010.1377

Edwards, L. 2010. Having brothers delays sexual maturation in women. Retrieved August 23, 2010

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Cheek Pouches: Cercopithecines' Arsenal for Global Domination

Cheek pouches are bilateral sacs on the lower cheek wall where food moves between the oral cavity and pouches through a slit-like opening (Lambert & Whitham, 2001). Most of us are familiar with cheek pouches in rodents, such as chipmunks, squirrels and hamsters. The cheek pouch is also one of the most important and distinguishing physical characteristics of the cercopithecines.

The cheek pouches of a White-tailed Antelope Squirrel. Most of us are much more familiar with cheek pouches in rodents than in cercopithecines. Photo on Flickr by J.N. Stuart.

A subfamily of the Old World Monkeys, cercopithecines range from Asia to sub-Saharan Africa and as far north as Gibraltar. Baboons, mandrills and macaques are examples of cercopithecines. According to fossil records, cercopithecines and colobines split between 12.5 and 10 million years ago. This suggests that the cheek pouch probably evolved at least 10 million years ago (Lambert & Whitham, 2001). The cheek pouch is present in all members of the cercopithecines but not in the colobines. While the exact adaptive function of the cheek pouch is unknown, numerous behavioral studies have been done on different cercopithecines to understand what the cheek pouch is selected for.

A rhesus macaque storing its food inside its cheek pouches. Photo from Garlyn Zoo.

Reducing Intraspecific and Interspecies Competition: 
A study with red-tail monkeys (Cercopithecus ascanius) and grey-cheeked mangabeys (Lophocebus albigena) in the Kibale National Park, Uganda showed that they were significantly more likely to use their cheek pouches in the presence of their conspecific (the same species) (Lambert, 1998). A subsequent study by Lambert (2005) with red-tail monkeys and grey-cheeked mangabeys also shows that both species were more likely to use their cheek pouches in the presence of greater numbers of conspecific.

A study of blue monkeys (Cercopithecus mitis stuhlmanni) by Smith et al. (2008) in the Kakamega Forest, Kenya shows that individuals are more likely to use their cheek pouch when their nearest neighbor is higher ranking than them.

Lambert & Whitham (2001) observed a group of captive yellow baboons (Papio cynocephalus) at a zoo and found that cheek pouches are mostly used when there are intense competition with their conspecific during main feeding time. Higher ranking individuals are less likely to use their cheek pouches compared to lower ranking individuals. The authors posit that the cheek pouches is an anatomical solution to maximizing energetic input while mitigating competitive intraspecies and interspecies competition.

Red-tail monkeys, like the one above, are more likely to use their cheek pouches in the presence of their conspecific and more so when the number increases.

Predator Risk and Avoidance: 
Lambert's (2005) study also shows that both red-tail monkeys and grey-cheeked mangabeys retreated to the safety of dense vegetation to process foods that were stored inside their cheek pouches. Lambert posits that this is a predator avoidance strategy.

A study of polyspecific association between Campbell’s monkey (Cercopithecus campbelli), spot-nosed monkey (Cercopithecus petaurista), and Diana monkey (Cercopithecus diana) from Taï Forest, Côte d’Ivoire shows that cheek pouches might be used to mitigate interspecific competition (Buzzard, 2006). Diana monkeys are the most frugivorous (ate fruits) while spot-nosed monkeys are the least frugivorous. Campbell's monkeys are more frugivorous than spot-nosed monkeys but less frugivorous than Diana monkeys. By comparing the cheek pouch distension of all 3 species, Buzzard found that Campbell's monkeys have the most cheek pouch distension overall, but had more distended cheek pouch when not near the highly vigilant Diana monkeys. Buzzard posits that the cheek pouch of Campbell's monkeys were the most distended as a response to predator risk and avoidance. Without the warning calls of the highly vigilant Diana monkeys, Campbell's monkeys stuffed their cheek pouch with food and retreated to a safer environment before they process their food.

Smith et al. (2008) posits that blue monkeys were less vulnerable when emptying their cheek pouch than filling them, therefore supporting the hypothesis that cheek pouch is selected for predator avoidance and reducing exposure to aerial predation. These blue monkeys (and most arboreal primates) retrieve to an area with high-density foliage and closer to the trunk of the tree to reduce exposure to predators.

Blue monkeys are less vulnerable when processing food in high-density foliage.

Storing Food, Resource Distribution:
Lambert's (1998) study also showed that red-tail monkeys and grey-cheeked mangabeys were significantly more likely to use their cheek pouches when feeding in clumped and high-quality resources (such as fruits).

Lambert & Whitham (2001) posit that the cheek pouches is an anatomical solution to maximizing energetic input while mitigating competition over limited food resources.

Smith et al. (2008) posit that cheek pouches use could also reflect the differences in the distribution of food resources (such as leaf feeding sites). Cheek pouches can be used to maximize foraging on extremely competitive resources.

An olive baboon feeding on the fruit of a Sausage Tree (Kigelia) in Manyara, Tanzania. Notice that she is stuffing her cheek pouches with the fruit. Photo on Flickr by Kibuyu.

Overall, cheek pouches in cercopithecines are used for more than one function and most probably varied between different species. Whether it is for interspecies/intraspecies competition, predator risk and avoidance or resource distribution, cheek pouches provide an added advantage for survival and are probably the reason why they were selected.

Buzzard, P. 2006. Rank and age related feeding strategy observed through field experiments in the Koshima group of Japanese macaques. Primates 47(4): 336-341. DOI: 10.1007/s10329-006-0188-6.

Lambert, J.E. 1998. A field investigation into the adaptive function of the cercopithecine cheek pouch. American Journal of Physical Anthropology 25(suppl): 145–146.

Lambert, J.E. 2005. Competition, predation, and the evolutionary significance of the cercopithecine cheek pouch: The case of Cercopithecus and LophocebusAmerican Journal of Physical Anthropology 126(2): 183-192. DOI: 10.1002/ajpa.10440.

Lambert, J.E. Whitham, J.C. 2001. Cheek Pouch Use in Papio cynocephalus. Folia Primatologica 72(2): 89-91. DOI: 10.1159/000049928.

Smith, L.W. Link, A. Cords, M. 2008. Cheek Pouch Use, Predation Risk, and Feeding Competition in Blue Monkeys (Cercopithecus mitis stuhlmanni). American Journal of Physical Anthropology 137(3): 334-341. DOI: 10.1002/ajpa.20879.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Callicebus caquetensis: A New Species of Titi Monkey Discovered

An adult Caquetá titi monkey (Callicebus caquetensis)

A new species of titi monkey has been discovered in a Colombian Amazon expedition. Caquetá titi monkey or Callicebus caquetensis is about the size of a domestic cat with a bushy red beard. Totaling to only about 250 individuals, this newly discovered species is also critically endangered due to severe fragmentation of its habitat.

Along with the news of the discovery is the published paper by Defler et al. (2010), Callicebus caquetensis: A New and Critically Endangered Titi Monkey from Southern Caquetá, Colombia (free pdf). In it, they described the morphology and distribution of the Caquetá titi monkey.

When asked about the discovery, the spokesperson for the Caquetá titi monkey (above) said, "Oh noes, you found us! We can haz cookies now?". OK fine, maybe I made that up.

For more about the discovery, read Pictures: Bushy-Bearded Titi Monkey Discovered on National Geographic.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Four Stone Hearth #98

It's that time again! Welcome to another edition of Four Stone Hearth, hosted here at The Prancing Papio. Submissions for this edition poured in as early as two weeks ago so I wasn't worried about the lack of materials to cover. This is a good sign for Four Stone Hearth as it nears its 100th edition. A big thank you to Judith from Zenobia: Empress of the East for sending me blog posts that had missed her deadline a fortnight ago. I don't have to unleash my prancing baboons to fetch me articles this time! Without further ado, here's this edition of Four Stone Hearth.

Krystal from Anthropology in Practice explores the idea of public spaces and what can be considered as social norms inside these public spaces in her post, Hail Marys on the Subway. Are public spaces really public? What are acceptable behaviors in these public spaces. Why do loud cellphone users receive different treatment than loud religious preachers on the subway? Why is the former met with disapproval while the latter is tolerated?

Krystal also wrote an in-depth three part series on the anthropology of coffee. She blogged about the manufacturing of coffee culture, the history of the coffee beans and the social place of coffee in our lives. Read about it at Manufacturing The Coffee Culture, A Trail of Coffee Beans and Driven By Coffee: Creating a Culture of Productivity. (Photo by Ballistic Coffee Boy on Flickr.)

Over at A Primate of Modern Aspect, Zinjanthropus wrote about orangutans and their metabolic adaptation. Apparently, orangutans burn fewer calories than almost any animals that have been studied according to a recent PNAS study. The authors of the study suggest that orangutans might burn fewer calories as an ecological adaptation due to food scarcity, but Zinjanthropus thinks there might be alternative explanations. Read about it at Slow-burning Orangs. (Photo from DavidandBecky on Flickr.)

On Aardvarchaeology, Martin wrote about discarded mahjong tiles, soon-to-be artifacts, on a burnt and demolished house site in his post Future Archaeology of Gaming. What would archaeologists think of these tiles when they dig them up thousands of years from now?

Also on Aardvarchaeology, Martin ponders if this phallus artifact found in Motala, Östergötlandis is actually what we think it is. Is it a dildo, a pressure-flaker or is it both? Could it be something totally different? What do you think? Check out the post, Stone Age Dildo Found in Sweden.

Magnus from Testimony of the Spade blogged about (almost) permanently abandoned buildings, aptly named Tomorrow’s historic remains. He encountered these buildings while he was out on archaeological surveys for ancient monuments and historic remains. It's interesting to see abandoned houses with belongings left behind.

Recently, Hugo Chavez ordered the remains of Simón Bolivar to be exhumed in order to put an end to the speculation of Bolivar's death. Did Bolivar actually die from tuberculosis, or unintentional arsenic poisoning? While one ponders the real reason to Bolivar's death, one cannot resist to wonder if Chavez has an ulterior motive. Is this really all for science or is it really just a political move? Read about the post, Hugo Chavez and the Skeleton of Bolivar, by Bonn on his blog Time Travelling.

When put into perspective, games that children play prepare them for complex social skills when they grow up. This is the same in great apes. Eric blogs about great apes and the understanding of inequality in his post For Great Apes, Addressing Inequality is Child’s Play. (NOTE: Much like Superman's self-imposed exile, Eric is now guest blogging as part of his Primate Diaries in Exile blog tour. The above post can be found at David's blog, Neuron Culture.)

Read about the Amis culture from Taiwan, at Savage Minds. The post, Kapah (Young Men): Alternative Cultural Activism in Taiwan, is about an Amis artist, Suming, who is bringing his culture into the popular music market by combining Amis melodies with techno-trance, hip-hop, and Taiwanese folk music.

Here is one of the music videos by the Amis artist, Suming. The name of the song is "Kapah", which means "young men" in the Amis language.

From his self-titled blog Mick Morrison, Mick wrote about similarities between recent approaches to the idea of heritage and notions of country by Indigenous Australians. His post, Heritage and the Aboriginal philosophy of country, questions what "heritage" and "country" mean to the Aboriginal.

Thank you to everyone who contributed to this issue of Four Stone Hearth. The next Four Stone Hearth will be hosted by A Very Remote Period Indeed on August 18th. Please send your submissions to Julien or Martin.

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