New monkey species discovery in Peru


Urubamba brown titi

From New Scientist:

7 August 2015

New species of titi monkey discovered in remote Peruvian forest

A new species of monkey has been discovered on an expedition to the remote Urubamba river in Amazonian Peru. It has been named the Urubamba brown titi, Callicebus urubambensis.

Titis are the largest group of South American monkeys, and the discovery pushes the number of known species to 34, though the exact number is still a matter of some debate. Most are the size of a domestic cat, live in small family groups and defend their territories with howl-like roars.

“Its appearance is very distinct from other titis, the entire body and tail are much darker, and the face is all black,” says co-discoverer Jan Vermeer, coordinator of the Peru-based primate research programme, Proyecto Mono Tocón.

Each titi species has a specific colour pattern, and these patterns seem to be evolutionarily important.

Surprisingly, the new monkey seems to be common along a swathe of forest some 350 kilometres long.

“So often when a new monkey is discovered it is already threatened with extinction” says Vermeer. “This is a remote area with very little hunting, so for once this is not the case.”

The region in which the research was conducted, the Madre do Dios section of the Peruvian Amazon, is an area of extraordinary biological richness, with many species restricted to the forests between two large rivers. The width of the rivers – and the voracious piranhas that live in them – provide natural barriers to dispersion.

The expedition also allowed scientists to study another titi monkey species for the first time since it was described 100 years ago, the Toppin’s titi monkey (Callicebus toppini).

Vermeer and colleagues hope the discoveries will shed light on titi monkey evolution and dispersal, as well as help raise awareness of this remote and little-studied region.

Titi monkeys are small and discreet. We are only just beginning to understand the factors driving their diversity,” says Stephen Ferrari of the Sergipe Federal University in Brazil. “A few decades ago, only five titi species were known. I think many more will be discovered as we explore southern Amazonia’s biologically uncharted forests.”

Journal reference: Primate Conservation

See also here. And here.

Nut-bashing capuchin monkeys and human evolution


This 2013 video is called Brown capuchin monkeys breaking nuts – One Life – BBC.

From National Geographic:

Nut-Bashing Monkeys Offer Window Into Human Evolution

Brazil’s bearded capuchins know how much force is needed to crack open a nut—a surprisingly human-like skill, a new study says.

By Liz Langley

PUBLISHED July 18, 2015

Give me a hammer, and I’d probably end up bashing my thumb with it. When it comes to tool use, dexterity counts.

So when Saturday’s Weird Animal Question of the Week heard about the famous nut-crushing monkeys of Brazil, we took the prerogative to ask: “How can these monkeys crack nuts so accurately?”

First off, these bearded capuchins open tough palm nuts by putting them on “anvils,” including logs and boulders, and hammering at them, according to research by National Geographic explorer Dorothy Fragaszy of the University of Georgia at Athens.

Fragaszy and colleagues already knew the monkeys are choosy about their nut-cracking tools, for instance by selecting rocks that are heavier than themselves. (Related: “Hercules Monkeys Lift Stones to Crack Nuts.”)

But she didn’t know how the capuchins can skillfully get to their snack without smashing it to smithereens—until now. New observations in the southeastern state of Piauí, Brazil (map) reveal that the animals carefully regulate the force they use in nut-cracking.

After each strike, the monkeys evaluate the condition of the nut and then tailor the force of the next blow accordingly. (See National Geographic‘s monkey pictures.)

That’s called dexterity, “a very surprising skill we never expected to find in a non-human animal,” says Madhur Mangalam, also of the University of Georgia at Athens. (Read about how clever crows use one tool to acquire another.)

“We thought they’d try to break the nut with as much force as they can,” adds Mangalam, who’s a co-author with Fragaszy on a recent study published in the journal Current Biology.

Monkey Practice, Monkey Do

The monkeys’ impressive skill also offers some insight into the evolution of human tool use, the scientists say.

Take stone knapping, or using one stone to strike another in order to shape it into an arrowhead or other useful object—a strategy used by many early humans.

“A novice knapper sort of bangs one stone against another and produces nothing very much that’s usable,” Fragaszy says. (Read how a wrong discovery led to the discovery of the oldest stone tools.)

A skilled knapper, on the other hand, controls the force of the stone “hammer”—much like capuchins.

Our ancestors’ nut-cracking skills likely “allowed us to have a more complex skill of stone knapping,” Mangalam adds. (See “Human Ancestors May Have Used Tools Half-Million Years Earlier Than Thought.”)

Another thing the monkeys have in common with people: They both have to learn their expertise.

Capuchins take a couple of years to learn nut-cracking, which takes a lot of practice and playing with tools nuts and stones in different ways to get it right, Mangalam says.

Practice makes perfect—sounds anything but nutty to us.

New monkey species discovery in Brazilian Amazon


This video is called Callicebus modestus — An intimate portrait of an endemic Bolivian primate.

Recently, a relative of Callicebus modestus was discovered.

From BirdLife:

New monkey species discovered in the Amazon Rainforest

By Martin Fowlie, Wed, 04/03/2015 – 10:12

Flaming orange tail and ochre sideburns set new Brazilian monkey apart from its closest relatives.

Scientists have discovered a new species of titi monkey in Brazil, according to a recent paper published in scientific journal Papéis Avulsos de Zoologia.

Titis (genus: Callicebus) are new world monkeys found across South America. These tree-dwelling primates have long, soft fur and live in small family groups consisting of a monogamous pair and their offspring. Rather touchingly, they are often observed sitting or sleeping with their tails entwined.

In 2011, researcher Julio César Dalponte spotted an unusual looking titi monkey on the east bank of the Roosevelt River, whose colouration did not match any known species. Intrigued, a team of scientists supported by the Conservation Leadership Programme headed back into the field to collect the information needed to formally describe what they believed to be a new species.

Over the course of a number of expeditions, the team recorded several groups of these unusual monkeys, whose ochre sideburns, bright orange tail and light grey forehead stripe set them apart from other known species in the genus.

Based on these morphological differences, scientists were able to formally describe the monkey as a new species, which they have named Callicebus miltoni (or Milton’s titi monkey) in honour of Dr Milton Thiago de Mello, a noted Brazilian primatologist who is credited with training many of the country’s top primate experts.

“More than luck”

C. miltoni is found in a small area of lowland rainforest south of the Amazon River in Brazil, and spends most of its time in the upper reaches of the forest, where it feeds on fruits.

Like its close relatives, C. miltoni lives in small groups consisting of a mated pair and their offspring. These groups are territorial and use warning calls to keep others at bay – they are particularly vociferous early in the morning and during the rainy season.

This species is not able to swim or cross mountainous terrain, which means that it is restricted to a small area, effectively hemmed in by a number of rivers and hills. This small range could put the species at risk from human activities, particularly because only around a quarter of this area is protected.

Deforestation rates are high in this region, with forest fires also posing a significant threat. Added to this, the Brazilian Government’s ongoing development programme includes several new hydroelectricity dams and an extension of the road system planned within the Amazon.

“It goes without saying that we are really excited about this new discovery”, said researcher Felipe Ennes Silva, who collected the data for the new species description. “It is always thrilling to find something new in the Amazon, as it reminds us just how special this rainforest is and how lucky we are to have it on our doorstep.

“But it will take more than luck if we are to keep making scientific finds like this. The rainforest is under threat like never before, and it will take dedicated, hard work – not just by conservationists but by the government and every other sector of society too – to make sure that this forest ecosystem can continue to support a wide diversity of life and help regulate our planet’s climate.”

The Conservation Leadership Programme (CLP) is a partnership between BirdLife InternationalFauna & Flora International and the Wildlife Conservation Society that promotes the professional development of conservation leaders. Through training and mentoring, funding, and the provision of networking opportunities, the CLP ensures that these emerging leaders have the skills and knowledge required to address today’s most pressing conservation issues.

Spider monkeys rescued from Peruvian circus, restaurant


This video says about itself:

11 February 2015

Watch the moment when Pepe met Valerie.

Pepe, an intelligent, playful monkey had been kept alone and chained by the neck for eight years. The circus had snapped off Pepe’s canine teeth so that he could not defend himself. Now, in the most moving chapter of his story so far, Pepe has finally been reunited with his own kind as part of Operation Spirit of Freedom.

From Wildlife Extra:

Two spider monkeys come out of solitary confinement for the first time

A spider monkey that was rescued from a Peruvian circus in the Andean town of Cusco by Animal Defenders International (ADI) has been introduced to another spider monkey for the first time.

Pepe had been kept alone and chained by the neck for eight years, and his canine teeth had been snapped off so that there was no danger of him biting anyone.

ADI has been assisting the Peruvian authorities to enforce their ban on the use of wild animals in circuses, as well as with the relocation of animals seized from the illegal pet trade – a mission called Operation Spirit of Freedom.

Pepe was brought up to full health and his teeth were repaired by a veterinary dentist. The next step was to socialise him with others of his kind.

In January, the ADI rescue centre outside Lima received Valerie, a young female spider monkey who had been illegally trafficked and was being kept for entertainment in a restaurant.

At first the two monkeys were encouraged to get to know each other through the bars of their cages but then, to both animals’ great excitement, they were put together and immediately began playing and chattering to each together.

Jan Creamer, President of London-based ADI says: “Pepe is a gentle soul with a big heart and we are absolutely thrilled to see him and Valerie together, knowing they both spent so many years alone – it was a very emotional moment.”

ADI has a temporary rescue centre just outside Lima, with a full-time veterinary team acting as a hub for Operation Spirit of Freedom in Peru. It is caring for 21 lions and over 20 other native wild animals there – mainly monkeys.

As part of the rehabilitation programme, ADI experts assess the individual animals and form family groups so they can be relocated to suitable habitat and rehomed together.

You can see Pepe and Valerie’s first moments together in the video above.

For more information and to support the work of ADI and Operation Spirit of Freedom click here.

African golden cat hunting monkeys, video


This video says about itself:

First known footage of elusive African golden cat in daylight

28 January 2015

Extremely elusive African golden cat shown hunting red colobus monkeys.

Wildlife Extra writes about this:

Film footage of the very rare and elusive African golden cat has been captured in Uganda by scientists from Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology.

A camera trap recorded the wild cat hunting red colobus monkeys gathered around and feeding on the dead wood of a tree stump during daylight in Kibale National Park, Uganda.

The African golden cat is found only in the forests of Central and West Africa, and grows to the size of a bobcat, weighing between 5-16 kilograms. Very few western scientists have observed the living animal in the wild and almost all records of the African golden cat consist of photographs taken by remote camera traps, or of dead animals.

This is the first photo ever taken of Bouvier’s red colobus monkey, a rare primate native to the forests of the Republic of Congo. A pair of independent researchers, primatologists Lieven Devreese and Gaël Elie Gnondo Gobolo, took the image in Ntokou-Pikounda National Park: here.

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.

Indonesian monkeys and trees, new study


This video is called Long Nosed Monkey : Documentary on Borneo‘s Proboscis Monkey.

By Leigh Cooper, special to mongabay.com:

Monkey sleep, monkey do: how primates choose their trees

December 31, 2014

Primates don’t monkey around when deciding where to spend the night, but primatologists have had a poor grasp on what drives certain monkeys toward specific trees. Now, two extensive studies of Indonesian primates suggest that factors in selecting trees each evening are site-specific and different for each species—and that some overnight spots result in conflicts between monkeys and humans.

“We have to understand what monkeys need [in order] to sleep to know what we have to protect,” said primate scientist Fany Brotcorne of the University of Liège in Belgium, leader of one of the research teams, in an interview with mongabay.com.

When monkeys choose their evening perch, they weigh more than just comfort. The main factors scientists suspect are safety from predators, distance to feeding grounds, human interactions, insect avoidance, and competition with other primates.

“Primates may be spending up to 12 hours at their sleeping sites, and yet we really don’t know much about them,” said Adrian Barnett of the University of Roehampton, in London, U.K., a primatologist not involved in the new work, in an email to mongabay.com.

The two unaffiliated studies occurred on neighboring Indonesian islands. Brotcorne’s team spent 56 nights in the Bali Barat National Park in Bali studying long-tailed macaques (Macaca fascicularis), a thriving primate species. In West Kalimantan on the island of Borneo, primatologist Katie Feilen of the University of California at Davis followed the sleeping behaviors of endangered proboscis monkeys (Nasalis larvatus) for 132 nights.

Both groups noted the sizes and shapes of trees favored by the monkeys. Brotcorne’s group also measured the distance between sleeping sites and human outposts such as temples, tourist areas, or roads.

The proboscis monkeys returned each night to tall, isolated trees near rivers. The monkeys gather in trees that jut above the canopy to avoid predators and insects, believes Feilen. Predators can’t crawl from tree to tree toward the monkeys if the trees’ branches don’t touch. At the same time, the monkeys’ lofty—and windy—perches help them avoid malaria-ridden mosquitoes that tend to remain within the canopy.

“I think insect and disease ecology plays a bigger role in all these questions of primatology than we are all thinking,” said Feilen.

The long-tailed macaques snoozed away in trees near human-modified areas. Brotcorne suspects food availability was the main factor driving the macaques’ bunk choice. The monkeys scooted closer to a Hindu temple and tourist area where fruit, rice, and crackers abounded during the peak tourist season. The timing of their move also coincided with the start of the dry season and a decline in natural fruit production. The two teams reported their findings side-by-side this month in the American Journal of Primatology.

There is not just one evolutionary force influencing sleeping tree preference for primates, pointed out both lead authors.

“Both papers are significant in that they are showing the importance of sleeping sites in primate ecology,” said Barnett. “What is needed is a collation of data that is sufficiently broad to allow general theories to be put up [about sleeping tree selection].”

The distinct sleeping site chosen by the two species also influences the primates’ interactions with humans. Loggers preferentially remove the tall riverside trees favored by the endangered proboscis monkeys, threatening the species’ habitat, said Feilen. The proboscis monkeys she studied had to contend with deforestation by mining and palm oil companies. Also, local hunters knew where to find the predictable primates.

On the other hand, macaques and humans have competed for space and food in human-modified areas for centuries. But their close contact worries Brotcorne because diseases can cross from monkeys to humans and vice versa. Human food is not the healthiest diet for monkeys, she added.

“If you go to the tourist monkey forests, you will see obese monkeys,” said Brotcorne.

Citations:

Feilen, K., and A. Marshall. 2014. Sleeping site selection by proboscis monkeys (Nasalis larvatus) in West Kalimantan, Indonesia. American Journal of Primatology 76: 1127-1139.
Brotcorne, F., C. Maslarov, N. Wandia, A. Fuentes, R. Beudels-Jamar, and M. Huynen. 2014. The role of anthropic, ecological, and social factors in sleeping site choice by long-tailed Macaques (Macaca fascicularis). American Journal of Primatology 76: 1140-1150.

Leigh Cooper is a graduate student in the Science Communication Program at the University of California, Santa Cruz.