Rhesus monkeys recognize themselves in mirrors


This video says about itself:

Monkeys May Be Able To Recognize Themselves In A Mirror With Training

8 January 2015

Researchers at the Chinese Academy of Sciences may have taught rhesus monkeys to recognize themselves in a mirror for the first time.

The team trained the monkeys to pass the “mark test”, considered to be the primary method of determining self-recognition.

For several weeks, training involved shining a laser light on seven monkeys in front of a mirror.

At the end of this period, they could touch the virtual mark by seeing it on a mirror image of themselves which was considered a passing of the mark test.

The monkeys also displayed self-directed behavior in the mirror to examine parts they couldn’t normally see like their mouths and genitals.

Previously, elephants, pigeons, dolphins, and apes were among the other animals which passed the test for self-recognition but not monkeys.

The monkeys that successfully passed the test retained the ability for one year.

However, they could not pass on the skill to their untrained peers.

Those that did not get trained by researchers failed to self-recognize.

Self-recognition is considered an important indicator of the brain’s capacity to empathize with others.

Despite the study’s success, Gordon Gallup Jr., developer of the mark test, blasts the results as “fundamentally flawed,” since they focus on training and do not prove an inherent understanding of behavior.

From Current Biology:

Mirror-Induced Self-Directed Behaviors in Rhesus Monkeys after Visual-Somatosensory Training

Liangtang Chang, Qin Fang, Shikun Zhang, Mu-ming Poo, Neng Gong

Highlights

•We developed a novel training strategy to study mirror self-recognition in monkeys
•Trained rhesus monkeys passed the conventional mark test in front of a mirror
•Trained rhesus monkeys exhibited spontaneous mirror-induced self-directed behaviors
•Rhesus monkeys may be useful for studying the origin of mirror self-recognition

Summary

Mirror self-recognition is a hallmark of higher intelligence in humans. Most children recognize themselves in the mirror by 2 years of age [ 1 ]. In contrast to human[s] and some great apes, monkeys have consistently failed the standard mark test for mirror self-recognition in all previous studies [ 2–10 ]. Here, we show that rhesus monkeys could acquire mirror-induced self-directed behaviors resembling mirror self-recognition following training with visual-somatosensory association. Monkeys were trained on a monkey chair in front of a mirror to touch a light spot on their faces produced by a laser light that elicited an irritant sensation.

After 2–5 weeks of training, monkeys had learned to touch a face area marked by a non-irritant light spot or odorless dye in front of a mirror and by a virtual face mark on the mirroring video image on a video screen. Furthermore, in the home cage, five out of seven trained monkeys showed typical mirror-induced self-directed behaviors, such as touching the mark on the face or ear and then looking at and/or smelling their fingers, as well as spontaneously using the mirror to explore normally unseen body parts. Four control monkeys of a similar age that went through mirror habituation but had no training of visual-somatosensory association did not pass any mark tests and did not exhibit mirror-induced self-directed behaviors.

These results shed light on the origin of mirror self-recognition and suggest a new approach to studying its neural mechanism.

Triassic flying fish discovery in China


This video is called BBC Life – Flying Fish.

From Biology Letters:

A Middle Triassic thoracopterid from China highlights the evolutionary origin of overwater gliding in early ray-finned fishes

Guang-Hui Xu, Li-Jun Zhao, Chen-Chen Shen

January 2015

Abstract

Gliding adaptations in thoracopterid flying fishes represent a remarkable case of convergent evolution of overwater gliding strategy with modern exocoetid flying fishes, but the evolutionary origin of this strategy was poorly known in the thoracopterids because of lack of transitional forms.

Until recently, all thoracopterids, from the Late Triassic of Austria and Italy and the Middle Triassic of South China, were highly specialized ‘four-winged’ gliders in having wing-like paired fins and an asymmetrical caudal fin with the lower caudal lobe notably larger than the upper lobe.

Here, we show that the new genus Wushaichthys and the previously alleged ‘peltopleurid’ Peripeltopleurus, from the Middle Triassic (Ladinian, 235–242 Ma) of South China and near the Ladinian/Anisian boundary of southern Switzerland and northern Italy, respectively, represent the most primitive and oldest known thoracopterids.

Wushaichthys, the most basal thoracopterid, shows certain derived features of this group in the skull. Peripeltopleurus shows a condition intermediate between Wushaichthys and Thoracopterus in having a slightly asymmetrical caudal fin but still lacking wing-like paired fins. Phylogenetic studies suggest that the evolution of overwater gliding of thoracopterids was gradual in nature; a four-stage adaption following the ‘cranial specialization–asymmetrical caudal fin–enlarged paired fins–scale reduction’ sequence has been recognized in thoracopterid evolution. Moreover, Wushaichthys and Peripeltopleurus bear hooklets on the anal fin of supposed males, resembling those of modern viviparious teleosts. Early thoracopterids probably had evolved a live-bearing reproductive strategy.

Homophobic Chinese quackery clinic loses court case


This video from the USA says about itself:

Samuel Brinton, “Ex-Gay Ministries”

4 July 2014

Hear Samuel Brinton, son of two Southern Baptist ministers, talk about the years of reparative therapy designed to “cure” him of his homosexuality. Sam speaks often about his experiences in the hopes that others who have endured similar struggles will find hope.

The quackery of supposedly ‘curing’ (rather, torturing) people of being LGBTQ was advocated even by ‘liberals’ in the Netherlands in the 1960s.

From daily The Morning Star in Britain:

Beijing clinic must compensate gay ‘shock therapy’ victim

Friday 19th December 2014

A BEIJING court ordered a clinic today to pay compensation to a gay man who sued it for administering electric shocks it claimed would make him heterosexual.

In what is believed to be China’s first case involving so-called conversion therapy, Lawyer Li Duilong said the Haidian District People’s Court had ordered the clinic to pay ¥3,500 (£360) to compensate Yang Teng for costs incurred during the therapy.

The court ruled that there had been no need to administer shocks because homosexuality was not an illness and did not require treatment, Mr Li reported.

Mr Yang said he was “very satisfied with the results, which I didn’t expect. The court sided with me, and it has supported that homosexuality is not a mental disease that requires treatment.”

He said the therapy had included hypnosis and electric shocks that harmed him both physically and emotionally.

Mr Yang said he voluntarily underwent the therapy in February following pressure from his parents to marry and have a child.

He added that said the verdict would help gay rights advocates to stop clinics offering such treatments and persuade parents not to pressure their gay children to undergo therapy.

The suit alleged that the clinic had claimed the electric shock treatment was not dangerous.

It sought compensation to cover the cost of the therapy, travel and lost earnings, as well as damages for psychological and physical harm. The court did not award damages.

China declassified homosexuality as a mental disorder in 2001.

See also here.

Ancient Cambrian fossil animal discovery


The fossilized remains of Nidelric pugio, measuring about 3.5 inches (9 centimeters) long. In life, this animal was shaped like a balloon, but it collapsed during fossilization, leaving an impression like a bird's nest. Credit: © Prof Derek J Siveter of Oxford University

From LiveScience:

Weird Fossil Reveals Ancient Balloon Animal

by Stephanie Pappas, Live Science Contributor

December 09, 2014 03:04pm ET

A real-life balloon animal that once lived in the ancient sea looks like a bird’s nest in fossil form.

The newly discovered species hails from 520 million years ago, during the Cambrian Period, when life on Earth exploded in diversity. Dubbed Nidelric pugio, this creature had a balloonlike body covered in an exoskeleton of spines. Nothing precisely like it exists today, researchers reported in a new study published today (Dec. 9) in the journal Scientific Reports.

“We usually only get the broken-up remains of ancient animal skeletons,” study researcher Tom Hearing, a doctoral student in geology at the University of Leicester, said in a statement. “With this specimen we can see how all the different parts of the skeleton stuck together.” [Cambrian Creatures Gallery: Photos of Primitive Sea Life]

Cambrian‘s freaks of nature

The Cambrian was a bizarre time for life on Earth. During this period, animals evolved that would later give rise to modern-day creatures. Other lineages died out, leaving behind strange fossils that hardly fit modern conceptions of life. A bristly, shield-headed giant measuring 2.7 feet long (70 centimeters) trolled the ocean, filter-feeding for small shrimplike organisms. Eyeless, figure-8 shaped animals, called vetulicolians, roamed the sea. A spiny worm was so weird and confusing that the researchers who first discovered it thought its legs were its spine and its head was its backside.

N. pugio was probably a chancelloriid, a group that does not seem to be the ancestor of anything living today. These animals get squashed during fossilization, so their fossils look like bird’s nests.

The name of the new species comes from the Latin word Nidus, which means “bird’s nest,” and the old English name Aedelic, which honors the late paleontologist Richard Aldridge, whose name derives from the same root. Aldridge was an expert in Cambrian fossils from Chengjiang, a formation in southwestern China where the new species was found. Paleobiologist Xianguang Hou of Yunnan University led the research team.

“There is only one fossil of this enigmatic animal after 30 years of collecting by our Chinese colleagues at Chengjiang,” Tom Harvey, a doctoral student at the University of Leicester who was also involved with the study, said in a statement. “It is exceptionally rare, but it shows us just how strange and varied the shapes of early animals could be.”

The find also reveals the ecology of the Cambrian seas, Hearing added.

“It tells us much about how early animals functioned, how they might have interacted with other animals, and how they might have protected themselves from predators,” he said.

European robin, very rare in China


This video is about a robin singing in England.

Not that long ago, in 2008, a European robin was seen for the first time ever in the Gambia, Africa.

Now about China.

From Birding Frontiers blog:

An Exotic Robin in China

By Terry

When most birders think of exotic robins in China, it’s images of Blackthroat, Rufous-headed Robin or Siberian Rubythroat that come to mind. However, at a 15th century World Heritage Site in the heart of Beijing, it’s a different species that has captured the imagination of local birders and photographers on an unprecedented scale.

On 10 November 2014 a local bird photographer posted onto a Chinese photography forum some photos he had taken in the Temple of Heaven Park.  It was a bird he had not seen before.  Sharp-eyed local birders Huang Hanchen and Li Xiaomai quickly spotted the images, posting them onto the Birding Beijing WeChat group, where they caused quite a stir.  It was a EUROPEAN ROBIN!  WOW!! (“BOOM” hasn’t yet caught on in Chinese birding circles).

The following day I was on site at dawn, together with 3 young Chinese birders.  The only directions we had were vague at best – “the northwest section“. Temple of Heaven Park is a huge site and, after a 3-hour search, there was no sign of the exotic visitor.  My 3 companions decided to leave to look for a Brown-eared Bulbul (another Beijing rarity) that had been reported in Jingshan Park.  I decided to walk one more circuit around an area of shrubs that looked the most likely spot for a Robin.  Along the last line of shrubs I suddenly heard a call – one that I immediately recognised from home.  It was hard to believe, and I almost felt embarrassed, but my heart leapt!  Immediately afterwards, a blurred shape made a dart from a bush, across the path in front of me, deep into the base of another thick shrub.  It was a full 5 minutes before I was able to secure a clear view.  It was still here – a European Robin!!  I hurriedly sent out a message to the group and, just a few minutes later, the original 3 birders were back and we all enjoyed intermittent views of what was, at that time, a very elusive bird.

Little did we know what a fuss this bird would cause.  Over the next few days the local bird photographers flocked to the site and, on a single day that week, there were over 150 photographers present (see below).  It was a scene reminiscent of a “first for Britain” and, despite a similar but much smaller scale twitch two years ago for another robin – Japanese Robin – this was something I had not seen in China before….

Bird photographers at the Temple of Heaven Park a few days after the initial sighting.  Photo by China Youth Daily

Bird photographers at the Temple of Heaven Park a few days after the initial sighting. Photo by China Youth Daily

As is often the case in China (as well as large parts of Asia), some of the photographers immediately began putting out mealworms and created artificial perches for the bird to try to create the conditions for the most aesthetically pleasing photos possible.  It wasn’t long before the robin became habituated and performed spectacularly for the assembled masses.

And the interest in this bird has not dwindled.  As I write this, on 6 December, there are still many photographers on site, almost four weeks after the initial sighting.  Incredible.  It must be the most photographed EUROPEAN ROBIN ever.

During its stay, as well as bird photographers, this bird has attracted unprecedented attention from the Chinese media, with articles published in The China Daily (in English) and China Youth Daily (in Chinese), the latter reporting that this individual has come all the way from England!  There is no doubt that this vagrant – an ambassador for wild birds – has raised awareness among many people in Beijing about the importance of Beijing’s parks for wild birds and generated an appreciation for the birds that can be found in the capital.

A species that we take for granted in Europe, this bird’s presence is a reminder both that the European Robin is a stunningly beautiful bird and that watching rare birds is all relative.  In Europe birders dream of finding a SIBERIAN RUBYTHROAT or visiting China to see the enigmatic BLACKTHROAT.  In Beijing, it’s a EUROPEAN ROBIN that gets the juices flowing….  and rightly so….!

Status of EUROPEAN ROBIN in China:

The European Robin (Erithacus rubecula) has recently been discovered as a regular winter visitor, in small numbers, to western Xinjiang, in the far northwest of China.  It is very rare further east, with just one previous record in Beijing, a bird that spent the winter in the grounds of Peking University in 2007-2008.