Apes can read minds

This video says about itself:

Testing whether apes can read minds

6 October 2016

In three trials from a new study, apes are shown at upper left watching trials in which an experimenter wearing a gorilla outfit steals a stone from a person behind a mesh screen and then hides the stone under one of two boxes or runs away with it. Red circles denote where each ape is looking during experiments. Looking patterns indicate to researchers that the apes understood when the person held false beliefs about where to find the stone.

Video: C. Krupenye, Fumihiro Kana, MPI-EVA, Kumamoto Sanctuary

From Science News about this:

Chimps, other apes take mind reading to humanlike level

Eye-tracking data shows animals can anticipate a person’s thoughts, actions

By Bruce Bower

2:10pm, October 6, 2016

Apes understand what others believe to be true. What’s more, they realize that those beliefs can be wrong, researchers say. To make this discovery, researchers devised experiments involving a concealed, gorilla-suited person or a squirreled-away rock that had been moved from their original hiding places — something the apes knew, but a person looking for King Kong or the stone didn’t.

“Apes anticipated that an individual would search for an object where he last saw it, even though the apes knew that the object was no longer there,” says evolutionary anthropologist Christopher Krupenye.

If this first-of-its-kind finding holds up, it means that chimpanzees, bonobos and orangutans can understand that others’ actions sometimes reflect mistaken assumptions about reality. Apes’ grasp of others’ false beliefs roughly equals that of human 2-year-olds tested in much the same way, say Krupenye of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany, and his colleagues.

Considering their targeted gazes during brief experiments, apes must rapidly assess others’ beliefs about the world in wild and captive communities, the researchers propose in the October 7 Science. Understanding the concept of false beliefs helps wild and captive chimps deceive their comrades, such as hiding food from those who don’t share, Krupenye suggests.

Experiments included 41 apes — 19 chimps, 15 bonobos and seven orangutans. These animals had been born in captivity and lived in open enclosures at research centers in Germany and Japan. Apes watched two short videos designed to grab their attention. In one, a person in a King Kong gorilla suit hides in one of two haystacks while a man watches. After the man leaves through a door, King Kong runs away. Then the man returns and looks for King Kong. In a second video, a man returns for a stone that King Kong stole from him and hid in one of two boxes while the man watched. During the man’s absence, however, King Kong runs off with the stone or, in another version, moves the stone from one box to the other.

A camera equipped with an eye-tracking sensor revealed that, when the man in these videos returned, apes usually looked first at where King Kong or the stone had initially been hidden. They also spent more time looking at those initial locations than at any other spots in the videos. Those behaviors indicate that the apes assumed the man would return to those same spots based on where he had last seen what he was looking for. Of 29 animals that viewed both videos, gazes of 23 indicated that they expected the man in one or both scenarios to hold a false belief, the researchers say.

Krupenye’s team shows for the first time that a nonhuman animal can track others’ false beliefs, agrees psychologist Amanda Seed of the University of St. Andrews in Fife, Scotland. But it has yet to be demonstrated that apes, like humans, can act on such knowledge, say by hiding food from others, she adds. It’s also unclear whether, aside from knowing where an observer will look for an item, apes truly know that the object is no longer there, Seed says. Further experiments could see if apes express surprise upon seeing an observer find an item hidden in its original location after it had been moved, she suggests.

An ability to infer what others are thinking, dubbed “theory of mind” by psychologists (SN Online: 3/27/13), likely evolved in ancient ancestors of humans and apes, writes primatologist Frans de Waal of Emory University in Atlanta in the same issue of Science. Those ancestors lived in increasingly complex communities where it paid to predict accurately how others would behave, he proposes.

Yale University psychologist Laurie Santos isn’t so sure apes track false beliefs. Previous research has consistently indicated that no nonhuman animals monitor others’ beliefs, even on tasks similar to those used by Krupenye’s team, Santos says. In the new study, she adds, apes may have realized that an observer was ignorant about an object’s new location but not that he had false expectations about where to find it.

Krupenye disagrees. “The apes specifically anticipated that the actor in the video would search for an object where we humans know the actor falsely believed the object to be,” he says.

Dr Leavens said: “The fault underlying decades of research and our understanding of apes’ abilities is due to such a strongly-held belief in our own superiority, that scientists have come to believe that human babies are more socially capable than ape adults. As humans, we see ourselves as top of the evolutionary tree. This had led to a systematic exaltation of the reasoning abilities of human infants, on the one hand, and biased research designs that discriminate against apes, on the other hand”: here.


Jane Goodall visits chimpanzees in Kenya

This video from Kenya says about itself:

Conservationist Jane Goodall visits Sweetwaters Chimpanzee Sanctuary

16 September 2016

British conservationist Dr Jane Goodall, known for her studies of chimpanzees in the wild, visits Kenya‘s only chimp sanctuary, urging more to be done to protect these animals.

Video by AFP Press.

The Chimpanzee Motorway – Connecting Forest Habitats in Western Tanzania: here.

Low-status chimps revealed as trendsetters. In experiments, apes were more likely to copy subordinates than alpha males. By Bruce Bower, 11:00am, February 21, 2017: here.

Saving chimpanzees in Kenya

This video from Kenya says about itself:

NTV Wild Talk S2 E10: Saving our cousins

15 September 2016

NTV’s Smriti Vidyarthi visits Sweetwaters Chimpanzee Sanctuary to learn about the plight of these endangered primates and Ol Pejeta‘s efforts to save this species.

Bonobos recognize old friends’ voices

This video says about itself:

Wild Wives of Africa – Bonobo Love

1 November 2011

One species seems to have found the perfect method for keeping everyone in a state of total harmony.

By the University of St. Andrews in Scotland:

Apes Remember Voices of Old Friends

Wed, 03/30/2016 – 9:31am

Humanity’s closest living relative, the bonobo ape, can remember the voices of old friends for several years, just as people can, researchers have shown.

An international research team from the Universities of St. Andrews and Saint-Etienne in France, made the discovery after recording the calls of individual bonobos and playing them to those they had known years before.

When it was a familiar voice in the recording, the bonobos became excited and would search for the individual, while the animals gave little reaction to hearing the calls of bonobos they had never known.

The team concluded that the primates are therefore capable of remembering the voice of a former group member, even after five years of separation.

“Members of a bonobo community separate regularly into small groups for hours or even days and often use loud calls to communicate with one another. Moreover, females leave their original community but may continue to interact with their old companions in subsequent meetings between communities,” said Sumir Keenan, of the School of Psychology and Neuroscience at the University of St Andrews. “So, effective social navigation depends on the ability to recognize social partners past and present.”

“It is fascinating to discover that this knowledge of familiar voices in the long term is another characteristic we share with our closest relatives,” added Keenan.

The researchers were able to use recordings of bonobos from zoos across Europe, taking advantage of the fact that some bonobos had experienced several zoos and had formed links past and present with members of their species in different places.

Mimicking the events characteristic of the arrival of a new bonobo – the scientists played the recorded bonobo calls using carefully hidden speakers.

Bonobos, like many other primate species, including human beings, form complex social networks where remembering “who is who” is important, sometimes vital. These social associations need recognition between members of the groups – usually via faces and voices. Human beings are experts when it comes to recognizing the voices of those closest to them and can recognize a voice many years after last hearing it.

The last common ancestors of bonobos, chimpanzees and humans lived 6-8 million years ago and shared numerous characteristics such as behaviors and genes.

In the natural environment, bonobos live in the Pacific Equatorial Forest in the center of Africa, where they live in large communities with complex social networks.

Old bonobos have bad eyesight — just like us, by Sarah Zielinski, 2:22pm, November 8, 2016: here.

Bonobo apes’ love life, video

This video says about itself:

Bonobo Loves Being Tickled – Animals In Love – BBC

15 January 2016

Bonobos are apes with a lot of love to give. They have an interesting matriarchal social structure which is run by females and they are very physical and good-humoured with each other.

Gigantopithecus, biggest ape ever, why extinct?

This video says about itself:

6 October 2015

The Largest Ape that Ever Lived, National Geographic documentary

The Gigantopithecus blacki stood up to 3 m (9.8 ft).

From Wildlife Extra:

Why Earth’s Largest Ape Went Extinct

Little is known about the mysterious Gigantopithecus blacki, a distant relative to orangutans that stood up to 10 feet (3 meters) tall and weighed up to 595 lbs. (270 kilograms).

However, a new analysis of its diet suggests it lived and ate exclusively in the forest. When its forest habitats shrank about 100,000 years ago, the enormous ape may not have been able to snag enough food to survive and reproduce, and went extinct as a result, said study co-author Hervé Bocherens, a paleontologist at the University of Tübingen in Germany.

Dragon teeth?

Scientists know almost nothing about the mysterious ape. The first hint of its existence came in 1935, when German paleontologist Gustav von Koenigswald happened upon Gigantopithecus molars in a pharmacy in China; the molars were labeled as “dragon teeth,” which practitioners of traditional Chinese medicine believe can heal a variety of maladies.

For years, that was the only trace of the greatest ape that ever lived. Since then, however, researchers have found dozens of teeth and a few partial jaws of Gigantopithecus in several spots in southern China, Vietnam and even India.

“There is no skull, no postcranial skeleton. Everything is very mysterious,” Bocherens told Live Science.

Based on fossils, researchers believe G. blacki roamed throughout Southeast Asia for at least 1 million years, going extinct around 100,000 years ago. Its morphology suggests its closest living relatives are orangutans, meaning that African primates such as chimps are more closely related to humans than to G. blacki, he said.

Overgrown pandas?

Scientists still knew relatively little about how the gigantic beast lived and why it died out, though theories abound. Noting the similarity between the large size of G. blacki’s molars and the overgrown chompers of giant pandas, some have argued G. blacki dined exclusively on bamboo. But wear and tear on the teeth of G. blacki suggested it ate a diet heavy on fruits, with leaves and roots in the mix, Bocherens said.

To get a better picture, Bocherens and his colleagues conducted a chemical analysis of a Gigantopithecus blacki tooth first uncovered in a cave in Thailand near a dam teeming with other fossils, including remnants of orangutans, deer, buffalo and porcupine.

Because grasses and leafy plants use slightly different chemical pathways for photosynthesis, grasses accumulate higher levels of carbon-13 (meaning carbon with seven neutrons) than carbon-12 (which has six neutrons). As animals up the food chain eat these plants, they retain the chemical signature of their diet in the ratio of these carbon isotopes present in their bones and teeth. As a result, the scientists were able to identify the diet and habitat of G. blacki based on the ratio of carbon isotopes in its tooth enamel. The team also analyzed the dietary signature of the other large mammals found at the Thailand site, as well as the diets of existing large mammals.

Doomed to extinction

It turned out that G. blacki ate, and presumably lived, exclusively in forested regions. But the carbon ratios in the other animals from the cave revealed they were eating a mix of foods from both the savanna and the forest. That suggests that at the time the gigantic ape lived, Southeast Asia was a mosaic of forest and savanna. So Gigantopithecus blacki lived near huge swaths of grassland, yet didn’t forage in the nearby grasslands.

The combination of this restricted diet and its huge size may have doomed the giant creatures, Bocherens said.

“Living in the forest was really the only option for Gigantopithecus. So if the forest disappears, there is no possibility to find another habitat,” Bocherens said.

It’s likely that each time the climate got cooler and drier at various points in the Pleistocene epoch, the forested region shrank and the population of G. blacki crashed. Sometime around 100,000 years ago, a cold snap occurred and there were simply too few of the giant beasts left to survive, the researchers speculate.

As supporting evidence for this hypothesis, Bocherens notes that similar “population bottlenecks” reduced the range of orangutans from almost all of Southeast Asia to their current tiny habitats in the rainforests of Sumatra and Borneo. However, orangutans have smaller bodies and can reduce their metabolism to very low levels during seasons when fruit is unavailable, which likely helped keep their population stable during periods when forest habitat was sparse. Gigantopithecus may not have had that option.

Still, the story doesn’t completely explain why G. blacki disappeared when it did, Bocherens said.

“There were a lot of fluctuations of climate, and there were also colder and drier conditions.” Bocherens said. “I see this as a beginning study. It’s putting a new piece in the puzzle, and the puzzle is not very complete.”

Save orangutans, video

This video says about itself:

9 November 2015

Help spread awareness about the plight of the Orangutan and the difference each of us can make to saving them and their rainforest home.