Gibbon ape ancestor discovery in India


Map illustrating the location of Kapi ramnagarensis (black star) relative to modern (dark green) and historical (light green) populations of lesser apes (gibbons and siamangs) and the approximate distribution of stem hominoid sites in East Africa (blue triangles); green triangles mark the location of the lesser ape fossil species Bunopithecus and Yuanmoupithecus; yellow rectangles mark the location of the fossil catarrhine species Dionysopithecus sp. from Middle Miocene sites in Pakistan. Image credit: Luci Betti-Nash

This is a map illustrating the location of Kapi ramnagarensis (black star) relative to modern (dark green) and historical (light green) populations of lesser apes (gibbons and siamangs) and the approximate distribution of stem hominoid sites in East Africa (blue triangles); green triangles mark the location of the lesser ape fossil species Bunopithecus and Yuanmoupithecus; yellow rectangles mark the location of the fossil catarrhine species Dionysopithecus sp. from Middle Miocene sites in Pakistan. Image credit: Luci Betti-Nash.

From Arizona State University in the USA:

New fossil ape discovered in India

13-million-year-old gibbon ancestor fills major gaps in the primate fossil record

September 8, 2020

A 13-million-year-old fossil unearthed in northern India comes from a newly discovered ape, the earliest known ancestor of the modern-day gibbon. The discovery by Christopher C. Gilbert, Hunter College, fills a major void in the ape fossil record and provides important new evidence about when the ancestors of today’s gibbon migrated to Asia from Africa.

The findings have been published in the article “New Middle Miocene ape (primates: Hylobatidae) from Ramnagar, India fills major gaps in the hominoid fossil record” in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B.

The fossil, a complete lower molar, belongs to a previously unknown genus and species (Kapi ramnagarensis) and represents the first new fossil ape species discovered at the famous fossil site of Ramnagar, India, in nearly a century.

Gilbert’s find was serendipitous. Gilbert and team members Chris Campisano, Biren Patel, Rajeev Patnaik, and Premjit Singh were climbing a small hill in an area where a fossil primate jaw had been found the year before. While pausing for a short rest, Gilbert spotted something shiny in a small pile of dirt on the ground, so he dug it out and quickly realized he’d found something special.

“We knew immediately it was a primate tooth, but it did not look like the tooth of any of the primates previously found in the area,” he said. “From the shape and size of the molar, our initial guess was that it might be from a gibbon ancestor, but that seemed too good to be true, given that the fossil record of lesser apes is virtually nonexistent. There are other primate species known during that time, and no gibbon fossils have previously been found anywhere near Ramnagar. So we knew we would have to do our homework to figure out exactly what this little fossil was.”

Since the fossil’s discovery in 2015, years of study, analysis, and comparison were conducted to verify that the tooth belongs to a new species, as well as to accurately determine its place in the ape family tree. The molar was photographed and CT-scanned, and comparative samples of living and extinct ape teeth were examined to highlight important similarities and differences in dental anatomy.

“What we found was quite compelling and undeniably pointed to the close affinities of the 13-million-year-old tooth with gibbons,” said Alejandra Ortiz, who is part of the research team. “Even if, for now, we only have one tooth, and thus, we need to be cautious, this is a unique discovery. It pushes back the oldest known fossil record of gibbons by at least five million years, providing a much-needed glimpse into the early stages of their evolutionary history.”

In addition to determining that the new ape represents the earliest known fossil gibbon, the age of the fossil, around 13 million years old, is contemporaneous with well-known great ape fossils, providing evidence that the migration of great apes, including orangutan ancestors, and lesser apes from Africa to Asia happened around the same time and through the same places.

“I found the biogeographic component to be really interesting,” said Chris Campisano. “Today, gibbons and orangutans can both be found in Sumatra and Borneo in Southeast Asia, and the oldest fossil apes are from Africa. Knowing that gibbon and orangutan ancestors existed in the same spot together in northern India 13 million years ago, and may have a similar migration history across Asia, is pretty cool.”

The research team plans to continue research at Ramnagar, having recently received a grant from the National Science Foundation to continue their ongoing search for ape fossils.

Article co-authors include Chris Gilbert Anthropology, Hunter College, and the Graduate Center (both of the City University of New York); Alejandra Ortiz, New York University and the Institute of Human Origins, Arizona State University; Kelsey D. Pugh, American Museum of Natural History; Christopher J. Campisano, Institute of Human Origins and the School of Human Evolution and Social Change, Arizona State University; Biren A. Patel, Keck School of Medicine and the Department of Biological Sciences, University of Southern California; Ningthoujam Premjit Singh, Department of Geology, Panjab University; John G. Fleagle, Department of Anatomical Sciences, Stony Brook University; and Rajeev Patnaik, Department of Geology, Panjab University.

This research at Ramnagar was funded by the Leakey Foundation, the PSC-CUNY faculty award program, Hunter College, the AAPA professional development program, the University of Southern California, the Institute of Human Origins (Arizona State University), and the National Science Foundation. Indian colleagues are further supported by the Indian Ministry of Earth Sciences and Science and Engineering Research Board.

How chimpanzees use tools to eat termites


This 28 October 2016 video says about itself:

From the University of Miami in the USA:

Termite-fishing chimpanzees provide clues to the evolution of technology

August 19, 2020

Summary: Unlike chimpanzees in East and West Africa, who use a single tool to extract termites, chimpanzees in Central Africa’s Congo Basin use tool sets — puncturing sticks or perforating twigs plus fishing probes — to harvest the insects from underground nests or towering earthen mounds scattered across lowland forests.

Researchers, who remotely videotaped a generation of wild chimpanzees learning to use tools, gain insights into how technology came to define human culture.

Using the now-ubiquitous humanmade technology of motion-activated cameras, researchers who remotely watched 25 immature chimpanzees grow up have documented how humankind’s closest relatives living in the Congo Basin acquire their unique tool skills for harvesting termites, a favorite nutrient-rich element of the chimpanzee diet.

Unlike chimpanzees in East and West Africa, who use a single tool to extract termites, chimpanzees in Central Africa’s Congo Basin use tool sets — puncturing sticks or perforating twigs plus fishing probes — to harvest the insects from underground nests or towering earthen mounds scattered across lowland forests. Arguably, chimpanzees living in this region have the most sophisticated arsenal of tool-using skills documented in the animal kingdom. Not only do they use specialized tool sets to harvest termites, ants, and honey, but they customize the implements with different modifications to improve their efficiency.

Trying to untangle how chimpanzees in the Congo Basin acquire these complex tool tasks, University of Miami biological anthropologist Stephanie Musgrave screened thousands of hours of video that recorded visits to termite nests, including those by forest elephants, leopards, and gorillas, in the Republic of Congo’s Goualougo Triangle. Her reward was identifying more than 660 hours of periodic visits by 25 young chimpanzees belonging to a notoriously elusive subspecies of chimpanzee (Pan troglodytes troglodytes). Recorded over 15 years, this footage captured the development of their tool-using skills from birth until maturity.

Now, in the first study assessing when Central African chimpanzees learn to use and make their unique termite-extracting tool sets, Musgrave and fellow researchers with the Goualougo Triangle Ape Project provide novel insights into how chimpanzee cultures persist over generations — and perhaps how technology came to be a defining aspect of human evolution.

“Chimpanzees have the most complex tool behaviors of any animals outside of humans, so studying how their youngsters become proficient at these tasks can help us better understand how early humans might have acquired complex technological skills,” said Musgrave, an assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology and lead author of the study published in the American Journal of Physical Anthropology.

“Examining the development of these perishable tool kits is of particular interest because our ancestors likely also used perishable tools — made of plants rather than stone — but these tools are not preserved in the archeological record,” she added.

For their study, Musgrave and her co-authors — Elizabeth Lonsdorf, David Morgan, and Crickette Sanz — conducted the first, direct comparison of tool skill acquisition between two populations of chimpanzees, those at Goualougo and those more than 1,300 miles to the east, in Gombe, Tanzania.

Lonsdorf, a professor of psychology at Franklin & Marshall College, studies chimpanzees at Gombe, the oldest field study of wild chimpanzees established by renowned primatologist Jane Goodall 60 years ago. Morgan, of Chicago’s Lincoln Park Zoo, and Sanz, of Washington University in St. Louis, co-founded the Goualougo Triangle Ape Project — the longest-running behavioral study of wild Central African chimpanzees. And, in partnership with the Wildlife Conservation Society, they have studied this population of chimpanzees for more than 20 years. They also pioneered the use of remote video technology to study wild chimpanzee behavior.

For their current study, the research team adapted the methods developed at Gombe for studying the acquisition of tool skills. And, they found notable differences in the timing and sequence in which the chimpanzees in these two populations acquired their termite-gathering skills — differences that could relate to the challenges of using and making multiple tools at Goualougo.

While infants at both Goualougo and Gombe begin trying to use tools within their first two years, the Gombe youngsters learn to make their tools before or at the same time they become proficient at using them. In contrast, the Goualougo youngsters learn to termite fish before acquiring their tool-making skills. In early life, they typically use tools that have been discarded or transferred to them by other, older chimpanzees.

Unlike the Gombe chimpanzees, who use varied materials, the Goualougo chimpanzees also carefully select the materials for their tools, almost always from just a few species of plants. And they modify them to improve their efficiency.

“They have a mental template of the right tool for the job, and there’s no mistaking the different tool types,” Musgrave said. “Puncturing tools are made from a species of tree that’s very durable and resistant, while fishing probes are made from smooth, pliable stems of vegetation. In contrast to Gombe, the chimpanzees at Goualougo fray these probes with their teeth to manufacture a paint-brush-like tip, which makes the tool 10 times more efficient at capturing termites.”

After learning to make their own tools, Musgrave discovered, the Goualougo chimpanzees begin to employ them sequentially — using a perforating twig plus a fishing probe to harvest the termites that inhabit the above-ground nests and a puncturing stick plus a fishing probe to extract them from the much-harder-to-pierce underground nests. The latter task is so arduous that the researchers predicted it would be the last mastered and just by a few chimpanzees. They were right.

“I’ve observed chimpanzees make hundreds of attempts to puncture into a subterranean termite nest,” Musgrave said. “Not only does the skill require immense strength but also technical competencies that may continue to develop in adolescence.”

The findings underscore how the developmental trajectory of life skills can vary considerably depending on the task and across chimpanzee populations, which have unique local cultures. In the study, the researchers note that the variation in tool traditions between sites could be linked to differences in the role of social input from other chimpanzees.

“In previous research, we documented that mother chimpanzees at Goualougo play a more active and helpful role when compared to mothers at Gombe,” Musgrave said. “At Goualougo, mothers are more likely to transfer tools to their offspring. This enhanced assistance could be instrumental in the acquisition of skills over the longer time period.”

Figuring out how tool traditions are passed on and how this differs within and between species, Musgrave said, could help humans understand the emergence of cumulative culture during our own evolution.

“One of the key features of human culture is its remarkable complexity,” she said. “It’s what we call cumulative. Meaning that ideas and innovations accumulate over time, such that new generations inherit and learn to use technologies that are far more complex than any one individual could invent. Comparative studies give us insights into how technology came to be a defining aspect of human evolution.”

But, as Musgrave cautioned, the continuation and expansion of such research depends on the long-term preservation of wild chimpanzees and their cultures — which are increasingly endangered by human activities.

Grey-haired chimpanzees are not always old


This 2018 BBC video says about itself:

Chimpanzees show empathy and altruism just like humans do – we can even learn from how they behave, explains anthropologist Frans de Waal.

From George Washington University in the USA:

For chimpanzees, salt and pepper hair not a marker of old age

New GW study finds there is significant variation in how chimpanzees experience pigment loss

July 14, 2020

Silver strands and graying hair is a sign of aging in humans, but things aren’t so simple for our closest ape relatives — the chimpanzee. A new study published today in the journal PLOS ONE by researchers at the George Washington University found graying hair is not indicative of a chimpanzee’s age.

This research calls into question the significance of the graying phenotype in wild non-human species. While graying is among the most salient traits a chimpanzee has — the world’s most famous chimpanzee was named David Greybeard — there is significant pigmentation variation among individuals. Graying occurs until a chimpanzee reaches midlife and then plateaus as they continue to age, according to Elizabeth Tapanes, a Ph.D. candidate in the GW Department of Anthropology and lead author of the study.

“With humans, the pattern is pretty linear, and it’s progressive. You gray more as you age. With chimps that’s really not the pattern we found at all,” Tapanes said. “Chimps reach this point where they’re just a little salt and peppery, but they’re never fully gray so you can’t use it as a marker to age them.”

The researchers gathered photos of two subspecies of wild and captive chimpanzees from their collaborators in the field to test this observation. They visually examined photos of the primates, evaluated how much visible gray hair they had and rated them accordingly. The researchers then analyzed that data, comparing it to the age of the individual chimpanzees at the time the photos were taken.

The researchers hypothesize there could be several reasons why chimpanzees did not evolve graying hair patterns similar to humans. Their signature dark pigmentation might be critical for thermoregulation or helping individuals identify one another.

Dr. Brenda Bradley, an associate professor of anthropology, is the senior author on the paper. This research dates back to an observation Dr. Bradley made while visiting a field site in Uganda five years ago. As she was learning the names of various wild chimpanzees, she found herself making assumptions about how old they were based on their pigmentation. On-site researchers told her that chimps did not go gray the same way humans do. Dr. Bradley was curious to learn if that observation could be quantified.

There has been little previous research on pigmentation loss in chimpanzees or any wild mammals, Dr. Bradley said. Most existing research on human graying is oriented around the cosmetic industry and clinical dermatology.

“There’s a lot of work done on trying to understand physiology and maybe how to override it,” Dr. Bradley said. “But very little work done on an evolutionary framework for why is this something that seems to be so prevalent in humans.”

The researchers plan to build on their findings by looking at the pattern of gene expression in individual chimpanzee hairs. This will help determine whether changes are taking place at the genetic level that match changes the eye can see.

This study comes ahead of World Chimpanzee Day on July 14. GW’s faculty and student researchers make contributions to our global understanding of chimpanzees and primates as part of the GW Center for the Advanced Study of Human Paleobiology. Through various labs, investigators study the evolution of social behavior in the chimpanzees and bonobos, the evolution of primate brain structure, and lead on-the-ground projects at the Gombe Stream Research Center in Tanzania. Dr. Bradley’s lab is also currently working on research about color vision and hair variation in lemurs.

Chimpanzee and bonobo cooperation, new research


This 2015 video is called Chimpanzees & Bonobos – The Differences.

From the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Germany:

In the wild, chimpanzees are more motivated to cooperate than bonobos

When informing about a threat territorial chimpanzees are more motivated to cooperate than less territorial bonobos

June 24, 2020

Summary: Scientists investigated cooperation dynamics in wild chimpanzees (Tai, Ivory Coast) and bonobos (LuiKotale, DCR) using a snake model. While chimpanzees cooperate to defend their territory, bonobos do not. The study reveals no differences in both species’ social intelligence but supports theories linking territoriality and in-group cooperation in humans since chimpanzees were more motivated to cooperate by informing others of a threat as compared to bonobos.

We humans have unique cooperative systems allowing us to cooperate in large numbers. Furthermore, we provide help to others, even outside the family unit. How we developed these cooperative abilities and helping behaviour during our evolutionary past remains highly debated. According to one prominent theory, the interdependence hypothesis, the cognitive skills underlying unique human cooperative abilities evolved when several individuals needed to coordinate their actions to achieve a common goal, for example when hunting large prey or during conflict with other groups. This hypothesis also predicts that humans who rely more on each other to achieve such goals, will be more likely to provide help and support to one another in other situations.

“While we cannot study the behaviour of our human ancestors,” explains Roman Wittig, a senior author and head of the Taï Chimpanzee Project, “we can learn how relying on others may influence helping behaviour in our ancestors by studying our closest living relatives, chimpanzees and bonobos.” Chimpanzees are more territorial than bonobos and in some populations engage more frequently in group hunts. According to the interdependence hypothesis, chimpanzees should thus have evolved a higher tendency to cooperate and help others in the group.

To test this hypothesis, researchers from the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, Harvard University and Liverpool John Moores University, presented 82 chimpanzees and bonobos from five different communities with a model of a Gaboon viper, a deadly snake. During the experiment, the apes could cooperate with each other by producing alarm calls to inform conspecifics about the snake. This represents the first experimental study ever conducted in wild bonobos. “This experimental study is a novel and promising approach to probe bonobo’s mind,” says Gottfried Hohmann, a senior author on the study and head of the LuiKotale bonobo project. Martin Surbeck, co-author on the paper adds: “This study should stimulate several more experimental studies on wild bonobo cooperation, cognition, and communication.”

In this study, researchers show that both chimpanzees and bonobos can assess what others know, as they stopped calling when all individuals around had seen the snake. However, chimpanzees warned each other more efficiently: individuals arriving later at the snake were less surprised upon seeing it than late arriving bonobos. This suggests chimpanzees were better informed of the snake’s presence than bonobos. Indeed, late-arriving chimpanzees were more likely to hear a call before reaching the snake than bonobos in the same circumstance, suggesting that the motivation to help and warn others was higher in chimpanzees.

“Our findings support the theory that the extreme reliance on each other in humans, for instance during war and group hunting, may have promoted the evolution of some forms of help and support to others, even sometimes to complete strangers,” says first author Cédric Girard-Buttoz. The authors confirm that chimpanzees may have some awareness of others’ knowledge and demonstrate for the first time this ability in wild bonobos.

“How chimpanzees and bonobos apparently keep track of other’s knowledge, the specific cognitive skills to do this, are not clear,” adds Catherine Crockford, last author of the study, “we face a major challenge to understand which cognitive skills are unique to humans and which are shared with other apes.”

What mammals and birds believe


This February 2020 video says about itself:

Scrub jays are basically the west coast equivalent of blue jays in the United States (except one species does occur on the east coast…). There are multiple species of scrub jays and their relatives, and they may be found in Central America, as well.

Scrub jays are about the same size as blue jays and they love to eat acorns! Sometimes young scrub jays will stick around with their parents and help raise their siblings – other times they just leave as soon as they’re able. Join us on this episode of Animal Fact Files to learn more about these bright blue birdies.

From the Ruhr-University Bochum in Germany:

What it means when animals have beliefs

Chimpanzees, some dog species and even scrub jay and crows have beliefs.

June 17, 2020

Humans are not the only ones who have beliefs; animals do too, although it is more difficult to prove them than with humans. Dr. Tobias Starzak and Professor Albert Newen from the Institute of Philosophy II at Ruhr-Universität Bochum have proposed four criteria to understand and empirically investigate animal beliefs in the journal Mind and Language. The article was published online on 16 June 2020.

Flexible use of information about the world

The first criterion for the existence of beliefs worked out by the philosophers is that an animal must have information about the world. However, this must not simply lead to an automatic reaction, like a frog instinctively snapping at a passing insect.

Instead, the animal must be able to use the information to behave in a flexible manner. “This is the case when one and the same piece of information can be combined with different motivations to produce different behaviours,” explains Albert Newen. “For example, if the animal can use the information that there is food available at that moment for the purpose of eating or hiding the food.”

Information can be relinked

The third criterion says that the information is internally structured in a belief; accordingly, individual aspects of that information can be processed separately. This has emerged, for example, in experiments with rats that can learn that a certain kind of food can be found at a certain time in a certain place. Their knowledge has a what-when-where structure.

Fourthly, animals with beliefs must be able to recombine the information components in novel ways. This reassembled belief should then lead to flexible behaviour. Rats can do this too, as the US researcher Jonathan Crystal demonstrated in experiments in an eight-armed labyrinth. The animals learned that if they received normal food in arm three of the maze in the morning, chocolate could be found in arm seven at noon.

Crows and scrub jays meet all criteria

The authors from Bochum also cite crows and scrub jays as examples of animals with beliefs. British researcher Nicola Clayton carried out conclusive experiments with scrub jays. When the birds are hungry, they initially tend to eat the food. When they are not hungry, they systematically hide the leftovers. In the process, they encode which food — worm or peanut — they have hidden where and when. If they are hungry in the following hours, they first look for the worms they prefer. After the period of time has elapsed that takes worms to become inedible, they head for the peanut hiding places instead.

“What best explains this change in behaviour is the birds’ belief about the worms being spoiled and their beliefs about the location of other food items,” says Tobias Starzak. The animals also react flexibly in other situations, for example if they notice that they are being watched by rivals while hiding; if this is the case, they hide the food again later.

Flexible behaviour, which can be interpreted as caused by beliefs, has also been shown in rats, chimpanzees and border collies. “But probably many more species have beliefs,” supposes Albert Newen.

Chimpanzee and human speech, new research


This 9 May 2014 video from England says about itself:

How to Speak Chimpanzee | Extraordinary Animals | BBC Earth

Dr Katja Liebal is at Twycross Zoo in Leicestershire to study the chimps in their enclosure. She believes that the chimps have their own complex system of communication and hopes to compile the world’s first chimpanzee dictionary.

From the University of Warwick in England:

Chimpanzees help trace the evolution of human speech back to ancient ancestors

May 27, 2020

One of the most promising theories for the evolution of human speech has finally received support from chimpanzee communication, in a study conducted by a group of researchers led by the University of Warwick.

The evolution of speech is one of the longest-standing puzzles of evolution. However, inklings of a possible solution started emerging some years ago when monkey signals involving a quick succession of mouth open-close cycles were shown to exhibit the same pace of human spoken language.

In the paper ‘Chimpanzee lip-smacks confirm primate continuity for speech-rhythm evolution’, published today, the 27th May, in the journal Biology Letters, a consortium of researchers, including St Andrews University and the University of York, led by the University of Warwick, have found that the rhythm of chimpanzee lip-smacks also exhibit a speech-like signature — a critical step towards a possible solution to the puzzle of speech evolution.

Just like each and every language in the world, monkey lip-smacks have previously shown a rhythm of about 5 cycles/second (i.e. 5Hz). This exact rhythm had been identified in other primate species, including gibbon song and orangutan consonant-like and vowel-like calls.

However, there was no evidence from African apes, such as gorillas, bonobos and chimpanzees — who are closer related to humans, meaning the plausibility of this theory remained on hold.

Now, the team of researchers using data from 4 chimpanzee populations have confirmed that they too produce mouth signals at a speech-like rhythm. The findings show there has been most likely a continuous path in the evolution of primate mouth signals with a 5Hz rhythm. Proving that evolution recycled primate mouth signals into the vocal system that one day was to become speech.

African great apes, the closest species to humans, had never been studied for the rhythm of their communication signals. Researchers investigated the rhythm of chimpanzee lip-smacks, produce by individuals while they groom another and found that chimpanzees produce lip-smacks at an average speech-like rhythm of 4.15 Hz.

Researchers used data across two captive and two wild populations, using video recordings collected at Edinburgh Zoo and Leipzig Zoo, and recordings of wild communities including the Kanyawara and the Waibira community, both in Uganda.

Dr Adriano Lameira, from the Department of Psychology at the University of Warwick comments:

“Our results prove that spoken language was pulled together within our ancestral lineage using “ingredients” that were already available and in use by other primates and hominids. This dispels much of the scientific enigma that language evolution has represented so far. We can also be reassured that our ignorance has been partly a consequence of our huge underestimation of the vocal and cognitive capacities of our great ape cousins.

“We found pronounced differences in rhythm between chimpanzee populations, suggesting that these are not the automatic and stereotypical signals so often attributed to our ape cousins. Instead, just like in humans, we should start seriously considering that individual differences, social conventions and environmental factors may play a role in how chimpanzees engage “in conversation” with one another.

“If we continue searching, new clues will certainly unveil themselves. Now it’s a matter of mastering the political and societal power to preserve these precious populations in the wild and continue enabling scientists to look further.”

In humans, warfare and territoriality have traditionally been considered male “business.” Chimpanzees, with whom we share this propensity for out-group hostility and territoriality, are thought to follow the same gender difference. This vision may be too simplistic, as suggested by an international team of researchers from the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany. They extensively studied several neighboring groups of western chimpanzees and their findings reveal that females and even the entire group may play a more important role in between-group competition than previously thought. They found that even though adult males seem important in territory increase, territory maintenance and competitive advantage over neighbors act through the entire group in this population of chimpanzees in the Taï National Park: here.

Chimpanzees, new research


This 2015 video from Africa says about itself:

This amazing video documents the story of Wounda, one of the more than 160 chimpanzees living at the Jane Goodall Institute’s Tchimpounga Chimpanzee Rehabilitation Center in the Republic of Congo.

Thanks to the expert care provided at Tchimpounga, Wounda overcame significant adversity and illness and was recently relocated to Tchindzoulou Island, one of three islands that are part of the newly expanded sanctuary. Dr. Jane Goodall was on hand to witness Wounda’s emotional release, and now you can too.

Disclaimer: Please note, that Dr. Goodall and the Jane Goodall Institute do not endorse handling or interfering with wild chimpanzees.

Termite fishing by chimpanzees was thought to occur in only two forms with one or multiple tools, from either above-ground or underground termite nests. By carefully observing the techniques required to termite fish at ten different sites, researchers have created a catalog of behaviors for each chimpanzee in the study: here.

Researchers have systematically investigated developmental milestones in wild chimpanzees of the Taï National Park (Ivory Coast) and found that they develop slowly, requiring more than five years to reach key motor, communication and social milestones. This timeframe is similar to humans, suggesting slow maturation of the brain: here.

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.”

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.

Researchers report on the average life expectancy of chimpanzees in Japan. The average life expectancy of chimpanzees who reach adulthood — reported as 12-years-old in the paper — is 40 years: 41.5 years for males and 39.2 years for females: 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.