Orangutans making musical instruments

This video is called Attenborough: Amazing DIY Orangutans – BBC Earth.

This is called Audio of Orangutan “Kiss Sqeaks”.

From LiveScience:

Orangutans Make Musical Instrument

By Andrea Thompson, Senior Writer

posted: 10 August 2009 10:29 am ET

The evidence is mounting that culture isn’t something unique to us humans: Orangutans in Borneo have developed and passed along a way to make a useful, improvised instrument, researchers report.

When in a tight situation, the orangutans will strip the leaves off a twig and make a crude musical instrument to alter the calls they use to ward off predators — not exactly a Stradivarius, but it seems to get the job done.

Several animals, particularly our primate cousins, have been found to use tools to aid in efforts such as foraging for food, a sign of culture, specifically the transmission of knowledge. This new finding marks the first time an animal has been known to use a tool to help it communicate, say the scientists who studied the behavior.

Kiss squeak

Wild Bornean orangutans (Pongo pygmaeus wurmbii) emit a particular call known as a kiss squeak — a sharp intake of air through pursed lips that makes a kissing sound.

Orangutans make this noise when they feel threatened, for example, when they fear a predator — such as a snake, clouded leopard, tiger or human — most likely to ward the predator off and not as a distress call. (Orangutans are somewhat solitary and it would take too long for the next nearest orangutan to respond.)

Kiss squeaks come in three different forms: unaided (lips only); with the hand in front of the lips; and with leaves in front of the lips. The leaves are stripped off a twig and held in a bundle in front of the orangutan’s mouth while the animal makes the kiss squeak.

When scientists first observed this behavior, they weren’t sure exactly why the orangutans used the leaves. The new study suggests that the tool lowers the frequency of the kiss squeak, making the orangutan producing the call sound bigger to their potential predator.

Frequency and size

The bigger an orangutan is, the lower the frequency of its unaided kiss squeak, for physiological reasons, said study team member Madeleine Hardus of the University of Utrect [sic; Utrecht] in the Netherlands. So when smaller orangutans clasp their hand or a bunch of leaves to their mouth, they’re likely doing it to artificially lower the frequency of their call and make themselves sound bigger.

Merely sounding bigger might do the trick to scare off a predator, because the jungles where the orangutans live are thick, which makes it difficult for the predator to actually see the primate and visually size them up.

The researchers recorded the leaf-altered kiss squeaks while they were observing orangutans who were not habituated to humans. …

The team’s findings are detailed in the Aug. 5 online edition of the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B.

A video is here (scroll down). See also here.

Monkey Drumming Suggests the Origin of Music: here.

Orangutans illegally killed in the past decade: 20,000–Prosecutions: 0: here.

A captive Bornean orangutan has been seen acting as a peacemaker, breaking up fights between other warring apes: here.

Paleontologists are overly possessive of human fossils. Science–and the public–suffers as a result: here.


Coral spawning blog

From the SECORE blog:

Great to meet you here at the SECORE weblog 2009!

Tune in and stay up to date about the coral spawning expedition on Curacao. We hope to show you all about the spawning activities of the Elkhorn and Staghorn coral on this island. And if all goes well about our successes in collecting coral spawn and producing lots of coral babies.

Click on the different menu bottons to read more about our arrival, our stay at Carmabi, the fieldwork and all participants.

So check in with us daily to see how we are doing!

A meeting of scientists organized by Conservation International to assess the impacts of climate change on the Verde Island Passage (VIP) – a narrow corridor of coral-filled tropical waters in the Philippines – called for immediate action from the global community to protect this hugely important site: here.

Five pristine coral reefs discovered off Scotland: here.

ScienceDaily (May 26, 2010) — Damselfish are killing head corals and adding stress to Caribbean coral reefs, which are already in desperately poor condition from global climate change, coral diseases, hurricanes, pollution, and overfishing. Restoring threatened staghorn coral, the damsels’ favorite homestead, will take the pressure off the other corals, according to a new study published in the online journal PLoS ONE: here.

Damselfish ‘garden’ algae: here.

BiologyCentric: Super-rare ‘elkhorn’ coral found in Pacific: here.

350 new Himalayan species discovered

From British daily The Independent:

Himalayan wilderness yields 350 new species

Smallest species of deer ever known among new forms of wildlife discovered

By Lewis Smith

Monday, 10 August 2009

One of the last frontiers of nature has yielded more than 350 new species of animals and plants in just the last 10 years. The eastern Himalayas contain vast tracts of remote and inaccessible terrain that few scientists have managed to reach and which provide a home for some of the planet’s most mysterious animals.

New species are turning up at a rate of 35 a year and highlights uncovered in the region since 1998 include the miniature muntjac (Muntiacus putaoensis), also known as the leaf deer, which at 60 to 80cm tall and 11kg is the smallest species of deer in the world, and the Arunachal macaque (Macaca munzala) – the first new monkey to be found in a century.

Among the most visually striking are the red-footed but otherwise bright green flying frog (Rhacophorus suffry) and Smith’s litter frog (Leptobrachium smithi), which boasts huge golden eyes and was described by the WWF, which has compiled a report on the region, as “among the most extraordinary-looking” frogs in the world.

Other new species include catfish with sticky stomachs, a luridly green pit viper, a freshwater beetle living at 5,100 metres above sea level – higher than any other beetle – and a bird restricted to a site less than a square mile.

Overall, from 1998 to 2008, two mammals, two birds, 16 amphibians, 16 reptiles, 14 fish, 244 plants and more than 60 invertebrates have been identified in the region, according to the WWF report, The Eastern Himalayas – Where Worlds Collide.

The area is already the stronghold of the Bengal tiger, the only home of the snow leopards and the last sanctuary of the greater one-horned rhino, but has so much unknown wildlife that researchers expect many more discoveries to be made in the future.

The eastern Himalayas – divided between Nepal, Bhutan and parts of China, India, Bangladesh and Burma – is regarded as one of the most rugged and beautiful areas of the world. …

Discoveries have also been made of species which lived in the region millions of years ago and were preserved when they became encased in amber resin.

Among the creatures preserved in amber was the earliest known gecko (Cretaceogekko burmae), from 100 million years ago which was identified in 2008. Others included the oldest known tick and the earliest recorded mushroom.

The region is a hotspot for wildlife and harbours a huge number of species including 10,000 plants, 300 mammals, 977 birds, 176 reptiles, 105 amphibians and 269 types of freshwater fish. WWF has launched the Climate for Life campaign to raise public awareness of environmental problems in the Himalayas and is working with local communities to help them cope with the impacts of climate change.

See also here.

Photos are here.

Cute Animal in Danger: Asian Babbler: here.

Snow leopards in Nepal: here.

October 2011. A major report has been published entitled State of Nepal’s Birds 2010. Produced by Bird Conservation Nepal (BCN; BirdLife in Nepal) and the Department of National Parks and Wildlife Conservation, it was officially launched by Parmanand Jha, the Right Honourable Vice President of Nepal, at a ceremony in Kathmandu: here.

The Nepalese Government has pledged that the country will lead the way in developing global standards to value ecosystem services; the processes supplied by healthy ecosystems that benefit humankind, such as clean drinking water and crop pollination: here.

WASHINGTON, DC, February 14, 2011 –The first ever snow leopard prey survey in Bhutan’s newest national park revealed astonishing footage of snow leopards scent-marking, a sub-adult snow leopard, Tibetan wolf, threatened Himalayan serow, musk deer and a healthy population of blue sheep, the main food source for snow leopards: here.

Crested black macaques of Sulawesi: here.

The tails of leopard geckos can stay active for 30 minutes after their owners have abandoned them: here.