Ape, monkey evolution discoveries in Tanzania


Artist’s impression of the newly discovered Rukwapithecus, front, and Nsungwepithecus, right (Mauricio Anton)

From Big News Network (ANI):

Oldest evidence of split between Old World monkeys and apes uncovered

Thursday 16th May, 2013

Discovery of two fossils from the East African Rift has provided new information about the evolution of primates, according to a study.

The team’s findings document the oldest fossils of two major groups of primates: the group that today includes apes and humans (hominoids), and the group that includes Old World monkeys such as baboons and macaques (cercopithecoids).

Geological analyses of the study site indicate that the finds are 25 million years old, significantly older than fossils previously documented for either of the two groups.

Both primates are new to science, and were collected from a single fossil site in the Rukwa Rift Basin of Tanzania.

Rukwapithecus fleaglei is an early hominoid represented by a mandible preserving several teeth. Nsungwepithecus gunnelli is an early cercopithecoid represented by a tooth and jaw fragment.

The primates lived during the Oligocene epoch, which lasted from 34 to 23 million years ago. For the first time, the study documents that the two lineages were already evolving separately during this geological period.

“The late Oligocene is among the least sampled intervals in primate evolutionary history, and the Rukwa field area provides a first glimpse of the animals that were alive at that time from Africa south of the equator,” said Nancy Stevens, an associate professor of paleontology in Ohio University’s Heritage College of Osteopathic Medicine who leads the paleontological team.

Prior to these finds, the oldest fossil representatives of the hominoid and cercopithecoid lineages were recorded from the early Miocene, at sites dating millions of years younger.

The new discoveries are particularly important for helping to reconcile a long-standing disagreement between divergence time estimates derived from analyses of DNA sequences from living primates and those suggested by the primate fossil record, Stevens said.

Studies of clock-like mutations in primate DNA have indicated that the split between apes and Old World monkeys occurred between 30 million and 25 million years ago.

“Fossils from the Rukwa Rift Basin in southwestern Tanzania provide the first real test of the hypothesis that these groups diverged so early, by revealing a novel glimpse into this late Oligocene terrestrial ecosystem,” Stevens said.

The new fossils are the first primate discoveries from this precise location within the Rukwa deposits, and two of only a handful of known primate species from the entire late Oligocene, globally.

The scientists scanned the specimens in the Ohio University’s MicroCT scanner, allowing them to create detailed 3-dimensional reconstructions of the ancient specimens that were used for comparisons with other fossils.

“This is another great example that underscores how modern imaging and computational approaches allow us to address more refined questions about vertebrate evolutionary history,” said Patrick O’Connor, co-author and professor of anatomy in Ohio University’s Heritage College of Osteopathic Medicine.

The study was published online in Nature this week led by Ohio University scientists.

See also here. And here. And here.

In Tanzania, Nature Provides Unseen Value for Farmers: here.

Borneo orangutan discovery


This video says about itself:

Hercules the Orangutan – Orangutan Diary – BBC

Sep 20, 2012

Wildlife conservationist Lone Drøscher Nielsen interacts with Hercules, a rescued Orangutan who has been allowed to roam one of the river islands near Lone’s Orangutan sanctuary in Borneo.

From Wildlife Extra:

New population of 200 of world’s rarest orangutans discovered on Sarawak

Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) congratulates Government of Sarawak for protecting globally significant orangutan population

April 2013. A new population of rare orangutans has been found in an area of about 14,000 hectares (140 sq km) in Ulu Sungai Menyang, close to Batang Ai National Park in Sarawak. Local Iban communities had been aware of the existence of orangutans in this area, but until recently no major research had been conducted in Ulu Sungai Menyang.

Just 3 – 4,500 known to exist

The sub-species of orangutan, Pongo pygmaeus pygmaeus, is listed as the most severely threatened orangutan worldwide with a total of between 3,000-4,500 animals, of which 2,000 live in Sarawak in Batang Ai National Park and Lanjak-Entimau Wildlife Sanctuary.

The Wildlife Conservation Society congratulates the Government of Sarawak for protecting a globally significant population of up to 200 of the world’s rarest Bornean orangutans recently found by a team of conservationists in Sarawak, Malaysian Borneo.

Melvin Gumal, Director of Wildlife Conservation Society, Malaysia Program, said: “It is indeed wonderful to hear the Government’s initiative towards protecting these orangutan and their habitat especially when preliminary scientific data indicates the existence of a globally significant population.”

Central Borneo

Field surveys were conducted in February by staff from the Sarawak Forest Department, assisted by Sarawak Forestry Corporation, Wildlife Conservation Society and Borneo Adventure. The surveys covered 248 kilometres (154 miles) of transects in the hilly, undulating terrain in central Borneo. Ground surveys were supplemented by data from aerial surveys so that 80 percent of the study area was covered.

995 nests found

A total of 995 nests were found in the area. Fresh nests were found in all transects as well as in the remote areas covered by the aerial surveys indicating recent use of the area by these rare orangutans.

Highest level of protection

Upon confirmation that the area had a globally significant population of the rare sub-species, the Government of Sarawak officially indicated the need to protect this area in perpetuity. It is already a High Conservation Value Forest, considered to have an area of high biological, cultural, economic and livelihood significance.

The Sarawak Government intends to hold a dialogue with local communities and the other key stakeholders to discuss options and to involve them in any conservation effort in the area. The four organizations involved in the survey will conduct a follow-up study in the area to formulate strategic actions involving all stakeholders including the local communities.

WCS orangutan conservation work in the Batang Ai – Lanjak Entimau landscape is supported by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Great Apes Conservation Fund.

The population of the rarest sub-species of orangutans was found by a research team from Sarawak Forest Department, assisted by Sarawak Forestry Corporation, Wildlife Conservation Society, and Borneo Adventure.

Canada goose drives away gorilla, video


Jon Campbell, Christian Post Contributor in the USA, writes about this video:

Goose Attacks Gorilla: Video Stuns Viewers as Gorilla Runs From Canadian Goose

April 12, 2013|7:19 pm

A goose has attacked a gorilla at the Sedgewick County Zoo in Wichita, Kansas this week, in an extraordinary encounter that left eye witnesses amazed. The amazing attack was caught on camera and the video has since gone viral on the Internet.

Barney is the gorilla at Sedgewick County Zoo, and was the victim of the rare attack this week. He is a 20-year-old western lowland gorilla, and weighs about 450 pounds and stands at a height of about 6 feet.

The gorilla is a native of Africa and has been known to stand up fiercely to his gorilla brothers in his troop to exert his dominance and leadership over the group.

However, nothing he has encountered before could have prepared him for the attack he experienced this week, and he could not have expected the comparatively tiny goose to have gone after him.

But the unnamed Canadian goose, who was not even one of the zoo’s animals, did [not] allow let size restrict it and fearlessly attacked the gorilla.

It is believed that the goose probably had flown all the way from Canada to the zoo and after his long journey was in no mood to put up with any opposition, even from a nearly-500 pound gorilla.

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In the encounter Barney the gorilla was completely minding his own business when the goose went for him. it is believed that the goose had built a nest somewhere on Barney’s zoo turf, and when Barney innocently walked by, too close to the nest the goose attacked to protect what it believed was its territory.

“Keepers reckon the plucky birds have built their nest on Barney’s turf and don’t want some great ape messing with it,” MSN Now has reported.

Barney the gorilla can be seen backing away quickly from the goose attack and clearly did not want any beef with the Canadian.

It has been reported by some outlets that zookeepers do not plan to disturb the goose nest and so Barney and pals will have to beware of that area unless they want another run in with the fearless goose.

Animal photography competition


Gorilla. MONKEY SNAPPER. (c) Lucy Ray (c) ZSL

From Wildlife Extra:

ZSL Animal Photography Prize 2013

£10,000 prizes for ZSL photo competition

February 2013. The Zoological Society of London (ZSL) has launched the ZSL Animal Photography Prize 2013, a competition and prize fund set up to discover the world’s most amazing animal photography.

Returning after a great debut in 2012 which saw entries from all around the world, the competition is back with a fantastic line up of judges including ZSL Honorary Conservation Fellow and television presenter Kate Humble, environmentalist David Bellamy, and Dr Joseph Zammit-Lucia, one of the world’s leading animal portrait photographers.

£10,000 prize fund

Astounded by the calibre of the entries last year, including the captivating shot of an infant gorilla behind the camera, the judges are expecting another influx of breath-taking images in 2013. With a £10,000 prize fund and the chance for the images to go on display in a stunning exhibition at ZSL London Zoo in September, the competition aims to inspire amateur and professional photographers of all ages to get out and capture the magic of the animal kingdom.

ZSL Director General Ralph Armond said: “We were blown away by the quality of the images submitted for the ZSL Animal Photography Prize 2012 and cannot wait to see this year’s entries. Our lives revolve around animals at ZSL and we know just how captivating they are – every day we see visitors to our Zoos absolutely enthralled by them.

“But animals around the world are facing increasing threats to their existence and as an international conservation charity we know that raising their profile is vital to their survival. This competition gives us the chance to inspire people to help us protect amazing species around the world, and share our passion for wildlife.”

7 categories

The 2013 competition features seven categories in which to submit photographs, including Last Chance to See?, the Weird and Wonderful and The Birds and the Bees.

Visit www.zsl.org/photo-prize for more information or to enter images into the competition.