How wild apes react to camera traps


This November 2013 video says about itself:

Apes of East Africa

Tracking chimpanzees in Tanzania and mountain gorillas in Rwanda.

From the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Germany:

Wild African ape reactions to novel camera traps

African wild apes notice and often react to novel items in their environment

March 14, 2019

An international team of researchers from the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany, analyzed video from remote camera-trap devices placed in ape-populated forests throughout Africa to see how wild apes would react to these unfamiliar objects. Responses varied by species, and even among individuals within the same species, but one thing was consistent throughout: the apes definitely noticed the cameras.

“Our goal was to see how chimpanzees, bonobos, and gorillas react to unfamiliar objects in the wild since novel object experiments are often used in comparative psychology research, and we wanted to know if there were any differences among the three great apes,” says Ammie Kalan, a primatologist at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology. “We were specifically surprised by the differences in reactions we observed between the chimps and bonobos. Since they’re sister species and share a lot of the same genetic makeup, we expected them to react similarly to the camera, but this wasn’t the case.”

“The chimpanzees were overall uninterested in the camera traps — they barely seemed to notice their presence and were generally unbothered by them,” Kalan says. “Yet the bonobos appeared to be much more troubled by camera traps; they were hesitant to approach and would actively keep their distance from them.”

Individuals within a species reacted differently to the cameras as well. For example, apes living in areas with more human activity, such as near research sites, can get desensitized to unfamiliar items and become indifferent toward such encounters in the future. However, another member of the same species who has had less exposure to strange or new items, might be more interested in them. The age of the ape plays a similar role. “Younger apes would explore the camera traps more by staring at them for longer periods of time,” Kalan says. “Like human children, they need to take in more information and learn about their environment. Being curious is one way of doing that.”

The range of responses shown by the apes, and the complex differences both between species and within a single species, demonstrates a need for scientists to consider how animals will respond to the presence of unfamiliar monitoring equipment in their natural habitats. “The within and between species variation in behavior towards the unfamiliar items might be problematic when trying to collect accurate monitoring data,” Kalan says. “To curb this effect, it would be worth having a familiarization period, where the wild animals can get used to the new items.”

Despite this potential complication, using camera traps to monitor populations of animals in the wild is still one of the most useful options. “Our knowledge tends to be limited by the number of groups or number of populations we’re able to study, but using monitoring technology like camera traps is an effective way of solving that problem,” Kalan says. “I think it’s really interesting from a behavioral flexibility perspective to consider how wild animals react to these new technologies. I would love for more researchers to investigate novelty responses while doing monitoring surveys.”

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Chimpanzee conservation also helps other animals


This 2015 video is about the Niokolo-Koba National Park in Senegal.

From Purdue University in the USA:

In developing nations, national parks could save endangered species

March 7, 2019

Summary: A new study of animal populations inside and outside a protected area in Senegal, Niokolo-Koba National Park, shows that protecting such an area from human interaction and development preserves not only chimps but many other mammal species.

The West African chimpanzee population has declined by nearly 80 percent in recent decades. Habitat loss is threatening their livelihoods across the continent, and especially in Senegal, where corporate mining has started eating up land in recent years.

The geographical distribution of West African chimps overlaps almost perfectly with gold and iron ore deposits, and unfortunately for the chimps, mining is a key piece of the country’s development strategy, said Stacy Lindshield, a biological anthropologist at Purdue University.

Extractive industries are already improving people’s livelihoods and promoting investment and infrastructure development, and researchers are trying to find a way to protect Senegal’s chimps without surrendering these benefits. Many of Earth’s animal species are now dying off at accelerated rates, but as human’s closest living relatives, they tend to tug at our heart strings. Chimps are scientifically important, too — because they participate in collective activities such as hunting and food-sharing, they’re often studied by social science researchers.

A new study of animal populations inside and outside a protected area in Senegal, Niokolo-Koba National Park, shows that protecting such an area from human interaction and development preserves not only chimps but many other mammal species. The findings were published in the journal Folia Primatologica.

“We saw the same number of chimpanzee species inside and outside the park, but more species of carnivores and ungulates in the protected area,” Lindshield said.

Although habitat loss is the biggest threat to West African chimps, they’re sometimes killed for meat. This is uncommon in Senegal, where eating chimpanzee meat is a taboo — people think chimps are too similar to humans to eat. But this isn’t the case in other West African countries, where researchers might see a bigger difference in chimp populations inside and outside protected areas. National parks could be especially effective at protecting chimps in these nations.

The difference in the number of species of carnivores and hooved animals (known as ungulates), inside and outside the park was stark — their populations were 14 and 42 percent higher in the park, respectively. This is in sharp contrast with what Lindshield was hearing on the ground in Senegal: There’s nothing in the park; all the animals are gone.

“There were qualitative and quantitative differences between what people were telling me and what I was seeing in the park,” she said. “Niokolo-Koba National Park is huge, and the area we study is nestled deeply in the interior where it’s difficult for humans to access. As a consequence, we see a lot of animals there.”

Hunting practices and human-carnivore conflict are two big reasons for ungulates thriving inside the park. These animals are frequently targeted by hunters, and some carnivore species turn to livestock as a food source when their prey species are dwindling, creating potential for conflict with humans. Because the two sites are relatively close geographically and have similar grassland, woodland and forest cover, the researchers think human activity is the root of differences between the two sites.

Lindshield’s team conducted basic field surveys by walking around the two sites and recording the animals they saw. They also installed camera traps at key water sources, gallery forests and caves to record more rare and nocturnal animals.

“We’re engaging in basic research, but it’s crucial in an area that’s rapidly developing and home to an endangered species,” Lindshield said. “This provides evidence that the protected area is effective, at least where we are working, counter to what I was hearing from the public. The management of protected areas is highly complex. Myriad challenges can make management goals nearly impossible, such as funding shortfalls or lack of buy-in from local communities, but I think it’s important for people to recognize that this park is not a lost cause; it’s working as it’s intended to at Assirik, especially for large ungulates and carnivores.”

Lindshield hopes her future studies will uncover not only which species exist in each site, but population sizes of each species. This metric, known as species evenness, is a key measure of biodiversity.

Data from the unprotected area in Senegal was collected by Jill Pruetz of Texas State University. Stephanie Bogart and Papa Ibnou Ndiaye of the University of Florida, and Mallé Gueye of Niokolo-Koba National Park, also contributed to this research. Funding was provided by the National Science Foundation, National Geographic Society, Leakey Foundation, Rufford Foundation, Primate Conservation Inc., Jane Goodall Research Center at University of Southern California, Purdue and Iowa State University.

Working memory is central to our mental lives; we use it to add up the cost of our shopping or to remember the beginning of this sentence at its end. Some scientists argue it is particularly developed in humans, but how do chimpanzees, one of our closest relatives, compare? Researchers set out to answer this question: here.

Scientists have developed new artificial intelligence software to recognize and track the faces of individual chimpanzees in the wild. The new software will allow researchers and wildlife conservationists to significantly cut back on time and resources spent analyzing video footage, according to the new article: here.

European apes, why extinct?


This 11 December 2018 video says about itself:

Today, our closest evolutionary relatives, the apes, live only in small pockets of Africa and Asia. But back in the Miocene epoch, apes occupied all of Europe. Why aren’t there wild apes in Europe today?

Special thanks to https://AfricanFossils.org for allowing us to use their images of Proconsul and Ekembo fossils.

Ancient ape fossil discovery in India


This 13 February 2018 video from India is called Ramapithecus: Phylogenetic and Taxonomic status.

From PLOS:

Late Miocene ape maxilla (upper jaw) discovered in western India

Discovery extends the range of ancient apes in the subcontinent

November 14, 2018

An ape maxilla (upper jaw) from the Late Miocene found in the Kutch basin, in western India, significantly extends the southern range of ancient apes in the Indian Peninsula, according to a study published in November 14, 2018 in the open-access journal PLOS ONE by Ansuya Bhandari from the Birbal Sahni Institute of Palaeosciences, Lucknow, India, and colleagues.

Apes, or hominoids, are a group of primates from Africa and Southeast Asia that includes the gibbons and the great apes: chimps, orangutans, gorillas, and humans. Ancient ape remains from Miocene deposits in the Siwaliks of India and Pakistan have been key for understanding the evolution of great apes and humans. In this study, the researchers examined an ape jaw fragment excavated from the Kutch basin, in the Gujarat state of western India, about 1000 km south of the Siwaliks deposits.

X-ray computed-tomography revealed details of the preserved canine and cheek teeth, such as the tooth enamel and root structure. The ape mandible belonged to an adult individual of the Sivapithecus genus, but the species could not be identified. The authors dated the specimen to the basal Late Miocene, around 11 to 10 million years ago based on previous mammalian fossil findings in the site. The new finding is the first Miocene ape fossil to be discovered so far south in the Indian peninsula, and extends the southern range of ancient apes in the subcontinent by about 1000 km.

The authors add: “This is a landmark discovery of 11 million-year-old human ancestors in Kutch, Gujarat.”

Chimpanzees, BBC video


This 7 November 2018 video says about itself:

Things to Know About Chimps | BBC Earth

Chimp behaviour can be surprisingly advanced, and sometimes incredibly violent: discover some of their impressive features with the best clip from our Natural History archive.

Chimpanzees have a more elaborate and diversified material culture than any other nonhuman primate. Their behavior varies across tropical Africa in a way that does not always correspond to ecology: for instance, only West African chimpanzees, but no others, use stone and wooden hammers to crack nuts in a number of populations, despite the wide availability of hammers and appropriate nuts across the species’ range. An understanding of the extent of this behavioral diversity is crucial to help researchers understand the likely incipient traditions of our own earliest hominin ancestors: here.

Wild chimpanzees share food with friends


This 10 October 2018 video from the Ivory Coast says about itself:

Honey sharing in wild chimpanzees of the Taï Forest – Taï Chimpanzee Project

From the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Germany:

Wild chimpanzees share food with their friends

October 10, 2018

Summary: Why share food with non-family members when there is no immediate gain? An international team of researchers conducted observations of natural food sharing behavior of the chimpanzees of the Tai National Park, Ivory Coast. They found that chimpanzees who possess large, desirable food items, like meat, honey or large fruit share food with their friends, and that neither high dominance status nor harassment by beggars influenced possessors’ decisions to share.

Sharing meat after hunting and exchanging other valued food items is considered key in the evolution of cooperation in human societies. One prominent idea is that humans share valuable foods to gain future favors, such that those we chose to share with are more likely to cooperate with us in the future. Despite regularly occurring in humans, sharing food outside of kinship or mating relationships is rare in non-human animals. Our two closest living relatives, chimpanzees and bonobos, are two of the rare exceptions, and because of the important role of food sharing in human evolution, examining the sharing patterns of chimpanzees can help to answer questions on how sharing food amongst adults evolved and how it may have shaped human cooperation.

Researchers from the MPI-EVA observed natural food sharing behavior of the chimpanzees of the Tai National Park, Ivory Coast, and found that chimpanzees are very selective in who they share desirable food items, like meat, honey or large fruits, with. They show that chimpanzees were more likely to share food with their friends, and that neither high dominance status nor harassment by beggars influenced their decision. This complements results from another study by the same team published last month that examined meat sharing after group hunting of monkeys. There they found that chimpanzees in possession of meat after successful hunts were likely to reward other hunters by sharing with them. “Collectively our research shows that the chimpanzees decide when to share food based on the likelihood that this favor will be returned in the future,” says Liran Samuni, first author of both studies. “Or, in case of sharing after group hunts, sharing of meat is returning the favor for helping out.”

Previous studies in another subspecies of chimpanzees have suggested that food sharing in chimpanzees mainly occurs because of harassment pressure from beggars. “This was not the case for the Tai chimpanzees”, Catherine Crockford, senior author on the studies, points out, “emphasizing the high variation in cooperation across chimpanzee populations.” Human populations also vary in how cooperative they are and research is ongoing in both humans and non-human animals assessing what might make some populations more cooperative than others. “The need to stay in a cohesive unit, because of high predation pressure, or the capability to exhibit strong cohesion, because of rich food sources, are two possible scenarios to promote the expression of cooperative acts”, suggests Roman Wittig, the second senior author of the studies.

Additionally, the researchers collected urine samples from chimpanzees after hunting and food sharing events and measured the hormone oxytocin. “We know that oxytocin plays a strong role in lactation, which you could look at as an example of food sharing between mother and infant, and is generally involved in social behavior and bonding”, Liran Samuni explains. The researchers found high levels of oxytocin after chimpanzees shared meat and other valued foods, and after chimpanzee participated in hunting with others. “That we found higher oxytocin levels after both hunting and sharing adds to the idea that oxytocin is a key hormone involved in cooperation in general”, Liran Samuni points out.

The researchers conclude that like humans, Tai chimpanzee sharing is selective, and that friends and others that helped acquiring the food benefit more. Emotional connection, as is obvious amongst friends, likely played a crucial role in the evolution of human cooperation.

Primates, including humans, are usually thought of as visual animals with reduced reliance on the sense of smell. In behavioral experiments, biologists have now found that chimpanzees use olfaction as a prime mode of investigation, and that they recognize group members and kin using olfactory cues: here.

Chimpanzees react faster to cooperate than make selfish choices: here.

Apes have ‘human’ muscles too


Figure showing the striking similarities between the head muscles of common chimpanzees, bonobos and humans: the very rare exceptions are those shown in colors and with text. Credit: © Rui Diogo

From ScienceDaily:

‘Uniquely human’ muscles have been discovered in apes

Apes also have muscles long-believed to be only present in humans and used for walking on two legs, using complex tools, and sophisticated facial and vocal communication

May 23, 2018

Muscles once thought ‘uniquely human’ have been discovered in several ape species, challenging long-held theories on the origin and evolution of human soft tissues. The findings question the anthropocentric view that certain muscles evolved for the sole purpose of providing special adaptations for human traits, such as walking on two legs, tool use, vocal communication and facial expressions. Published in Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution, the study highlights that thorough knowledge of ape anatomy is necessary for a better understanding of human evolution.

“This study contradicts key dogmas about human evolution and our distinct place on the ‘ladder of nature’,” says Rui Diogo, an Associate Professor in the Department of Anatomy at Howard University, Washington, USA. “Our detailed analysis shows that in fact, every muscle that has long-been accepted as ‘uniquely human’ and providing ‘crucial singular functional adaptations’ for our bipedalism, tool use and vocal and facial communications is actually present in the same or similar form in bonobos and other apes, such as common chimpanzees and gorillas.”

Long-standing evolutionary theories are largely based on the bone structures of prehistoric specimens — and, according to Diogo, also on the idea that humans are necessarily more special and complex than other animals. These theories suggest that certain muscles evolved in humans only, giving us our unique physical characteristics. However, verification of these theories has remained difficult due to scant descriptions of soft tissues in apes, which historically have mainly focused on only a few muscles in the head or limbs of a single specimen.

Diogo explains, “There is an understandable difficulty in finding primate, and particularly ape, specimens to dissect as they are so rare both in the wild and museums.”

To find enough data to complete this research, Diogo compiled all previous information on ape anatomy based on studies with colleague Bernard Wood. He also conducted anatomical research on several bonobos that died of natural causes, together with colleagues at the University of Antwerp under the Bonobo Morphology Initiative 2016 — looking for the presence of seven different muscles thought to have evolved only in our species.

Diogo discovered that these seven muscles were present in apes in a similar or even exact form. For example the fibularis tertius muscle, said to be uniquely associated with human bipedalism (walking on two legs), was present in half the examined bonobos. Similarly, both the laryngeal muscle arytenoideus obliquus and the facial muscle risorius — thought to have evolved for our uniquely sophisticated vocal and facial communication, respectively — were present in at least some chimpanzees and/or gorillas.

These findings open crucial new directions for research and question our understanding of human evolution. “The picture emerging from this research is that the origin and evolution of human soft-tissue is clearly more complex — and not as exceptional — as first thought”, says Diogo.

“We need a more thorough examination of why these muscles are present in apes and, in some cases, in just part of a population within a certain species”, he says. “Are these muscles essential for the apes that have them, as adaptationist evolutionary scientists would argue? Or are they evolutionary neutral features related to how their bodies develop, or simply by-products of other features?”

He concludes, “Most theories of human evolution give the impression that humans are markedly distinct from apes anatomically, but these are unverifiable ‘just-so stories’. The real evidence shows we are not so different overall. This study highlights that a thorough knowledge of ape anatomy is necessary for a better understanding of our own bodies and evolutionary history.”

Pregnant bonobos get a little delivery help from their friends. Observations of captive apes suggest they, like humans, have ‘social’ births. By Bruce Bower, 1:26pm, May 24, 2018.

While humans and other species share some of the same genetic information, new research found that humans are unique among mammals when it comes to the types and diversity of microorganisms on our skin. This difference could have implications for our health and immune systems: here.