Monkey grammar, similar to humans?


This 2014 video says about itself:

How to speak monkey: The language of cotton-top tamarins – Anne Savage

The cotton-top tamarin is a very vocal monkey — the species communicates using a sophisticated language of 38 distinct and grammatically structured calls! Anne Savage teaches a few of these chirps and whistles, taking us through a day in the life of Shakira the tamarin (using sounds pulled from the wild) as Shakira signals to her family, talks to her food and warns against potential predators.

Lesson by Anne Savage, animation by Avi Ofer.

By Bruce Bower, June 26, 2020, at 2:00 pm:

Monkeys may share a key grammar-related skill with humans

A capacity for recursion evolved early in primate evolution, a contested study suggests

An aptitude for mentally stringing together related items, often cited as a hallmark of human language, may have deep roots in primate evolution, a new study suggests.

In lab experiments, monkeys demonstrated an ability akin to embedding phrases within other phrases, scientists report June 26 in Science Advances. Many linguists regard this skill, known as recursion, as fundamental to grammar (SN: 12/4/05) and thus peculiar to people.

But “this work shows that the capacity to represent recursive sequences is present in an animal that will never learn language,” says Stephen Ferrigno, a Harvard University psychologist.

Recursion allows one to elaborate a sentence such as “This pandemic is awful” into “This pandemic, which has put so many people out of work, is awful, not to mention a health risk.”

Ferrigno and colleagues tested recursion in both monkeys and humans. Ten U.S. adults recognized recursive symbol sequences on a nonverbal task and quickly applied that knowledge to novel sequences of items. To a lesser but still substantial extent, so did 50 U.S. preschoolers and 37 adult Tsimane’ villagers from Bolivia, who had no schooling in math or reading.

Those results imply that an ability to grasp recursion must emerge early in life and doesn’t require formal education.

Three rhesus monkeys lacked humans’ ease on the task. But after receiving extra training, two of those monkeys displayed recursive learning, Ferrigno’s group says. One of the two animals ended up, on average, more likely to form novel recursive sequences than about three-quarters of the preschoolers and roughly half of the Bolivian villagers.

How living monkeys react to robot monkeys


This 2017 video says about itself:

Langur monkeys grieve over fake monkey | Spy in the Wild – BBC

Langur monkeys mistake the motionless robotic spy monkey that was accidentally dropped as a lifeless baby langur and begin to grieve.

Documentary in which animatronic spy creatures infiltrate the animal world to explore their complex emotions.

From the Society for Neuroscience:

Monkeys appreciate lifelike animation

Monkeys experience the uncanny valley effect, just like humans, but a new realistic avatar can overcome it

June 8, 2020

Monkeys can overcome their aversion to animated monkeys through a more realistic avatar, according to research recently published in eNeuro.

Humans feel more comfortable toward life-like humanoid robots, but if a robot gets too life-like, it can become creepy. This “uncanny valley” effect plagues monkeys, too, which becomes a problem when scientists use animated monkey faces to study social behavior. However, monkeys overcome the uncanny valley when presented with a sufficiently realistic monkey avatar created using movie industry animation technology.

Siebert et al. compared how Rhesus monkeys reacted toward five types of monkey faces: video footage from real monkeys, a natural-looking avatar with fur and facial details, a furless avatar, a greyscale avatar, and a wireframe face. The monkeys looked at the wireframe face but avoided looking at the furless and greyscale avatars, showing the uncanny valley effect at work. However, the natural-looking avatar with fur overcame this effect. The monkeys looked at the model and made social facial expressions, comparable to how they would act around real monkeys. Using this type of avatar will make social cognition studies more standardized and replicable.

Mantled howler monkeys in Panama


This 7 June 2020 video says about itself:

The Mantled Howler Monkey is the loudest animal of the rainforest

The Mantled Howler Monkey (Alouatta palliata) is one of the most prominent species of monkeys in the beautiful country of Panama. It thrives in deep lush jungles along the Canal of Panama and spends most of the day in the canopy of large mature tropical trees. Its home is typically the hostile and busy rain forests of most of Central and South America.

Like most of its cousins, the Mantled Howler will likely eat anything smaller than its own size. On the other hand, its natural predators are mainly feline like the jaguar and puma among other big predatory cats. The infamous loud and threatening sounding call of the Mantled Howler Monkey resonates over the thick dramatic and stunning vegetation of the Gamboa region and can be heard far in the distance through the jungle.

Among 5 other relatives of monkey species present in Panama, the Mantled Howler also shares its beautiful natural habitat with dozens of other mammal species and hundreds of bird species. Footage in this two-hour continuous uninterrupted calm and relaxing compilation was filmed in 4K Ultra High Definition in the evergreen humid rain forest of the lush Pipeline Road hiking trail in Gamboa, Panama.

Olive baboons in Africa, video


This 26 May 2020 video says about itself:

This week in Candid Animal Cam, we’re headed to Africa to meet and learn about the olive baboon. This primate species has a symbiotic relationship with elephants. But you’ll have to watch the video to find out what it is!

And shout out to our writer and biologist Romi Castagnino, who hosted, produced and shot this video!

Mandrill monkeys family relationships, new research


This 3 July 2016 video is called Wild Mandrill Monkeys Encounter in Lekedi, Gabon.

From the Deutsches Primatenzentrum (DPZ)/German Primate Center:

AI reveals mechanism for kin selection in a wild primate

May 27, 2020

More like mom or dad? Human babies always get this curious look in their face combined with the question whom the child resembles most. The answers vary depending on the degree of kinship, gender and the time of assessment. Mandrills, monkeys living in Equatorial Africa, may recognize facial features coding relatedness better than humans. Scientists at the German Primate Center — Leibniz Institute for Primate Research in Göttingen, together with colleagues from the Institut des Sciences de l’Evolution de Montpellier (ISEM), showed by using up-to-date artificial intelligence (AI) that half-sisters, who have the same father look more alike than half-sisters who share the same mother. The paternal half-sisters also have closer social relationships with each other than unrelated mandrills. This result provided the first evidence suggesting that interindividual resemblance has been selected to signal paternal kinship (Science Advances).

Throughout the animal kingdom, related conspecifics show similar features. Some are the spitting image of each other. However, whether resemblance between kin merely reflects their genetic resemblance or results from selection to facilitate their recognition is still unknown. A team of scientists led by Marie Charpentier of the ISEM in Montpellier, including Clémence Poirotte and Peter Kappeler of the German Primate Center in Göttingen, used for the first time artificial intelligence (deep learning) to examine the hypothesis that the similarity of the facial features of free-living mandrills is the result of selection. The database consisted of 16,000 portraits of mandrills, taken since 2012 as part of the Project Mandrillus in Gabon. This natural population of mandrills is the only one habituated to the presence of humans. Using a trained algorithm of deep learning, the individuals were first identified and then quantified in terms of facial resemblance. The results were subsequently related to relatedness data of the study animals.

Mandrills live in groups consisting of more than 100 individuals and are characterized by the fact that the females are maternal relatives. They are familiar with each other and remain in the same family throughout their lives. Since reproduction in mandrill groups is mainly monopolized by the alpha male, young mandrills of similar age often have the same father. However, as members of different family groups within the large groups, they should hardly know each other. Nevertheless, half-sisters on the paternal side, as well as half-sisters on the maternal side, interact with each other more often than unrelated animals. “This observation suggests that paternal half-sisters recognize each other as relatives by their facial features. Although maternal and paternal half-sisters share the same degree of genetic relatedness, the facial resemblance is stronger among paternally related females. We suspect that the similarity of facial features between paternal relatives has evolved to facilitate social discrimination and nepotism between kin,” says Clémence Poirotte.

Golden-headed lion tamarin monkeys, video


This 1 May 2020 video says about itself:

Parenthood Is Tough For A Squirrel-Sized Monkey! | Primates | BBC Earth

There are plenty of bite-sized morsels for these [golden-headed] lion tamarins to eat. But being bite-sized themselves means it’s dangerous to stay in one place for too long.

Geoffroy’s spider monkeys, video


This 21 April 2020 video says about itself:

What is a Geoffroy’s spider monkey? Candid Animal Cam takes you in the trees this week

This week, we’re talking about an animal that has three arms (kind of)! That’s the Geoffroy’s spider monkey, which uses its tail to get around in the trees. This animal is found in South America, and travels in large groups.

Prehistoric monkeys from Africa to South America


This 10 April 2020 video says about itself:

A crew of now-extinct monkeys made a treacherous transatlantic journey on a natural raft from Africa to settle in South America around 35 million years ago, according to a study of fossilized teeth found in Peru.

It’s believed the prehistoric Ucayalipithecus monkeys made the more than 900-mile trip across the Atlantic (a narrower ocean at the time) on floating islands of vegetation that broke off from coastlines, possibly during a tropical storm.

From the Keck School of Medicine of USC in the USA:

Ancient teeth from Peru hint now-extinct monkeys crossed Atlantic from Africa

April 9, 2020

Four fossilized monkey teeth discovered deep in the Peruvian Amazon provide new evidence that more than one group of ancient primates journeyed across the Atlantic Ocean from Africa, according to new USC research just published in the journal Science.

The teeth are from a newly discovered species belonging to an extinct family of African primates known as parapithecids. Fossils discovered at the same site in Peru had earlier offered the first proof that South American monkeys evolved from African primates.

The monkeys are believed to have made the more than 900-mile trip on floating rafts of vegetation that broke off from coastlines, possibly during a storm.

“This is a completely unique discovery,” said Erik Seiffert, the study’s lead author and Professor of Clinical Integrative Anatomical Sciences at Keck School of Medicine of USC. “It shows that in addition to the New World monkeys and a group of rodents known as caviomorphs — there is this third lineage of mammals that somehow made this very improbable transatlantic journey to get from Africa to South America.”

Researchers have named the extinct monkey Ucayalipithecus perdita. The name comes from Ucayali, the area of the Peruvian Amazon where the teeth were found, pithikos, the Greek word for monkey and perdita, the Latin word for lost.

Ucayalipithecus perdita would have been very small, similar in size to a modern-day marmoset.

Dating the migration

Researchers believe the site in Ucayali where the teeth were found is from a geological epoch known as the Oligocene, which extended from about 34 million to 23 million years ago.

Based on the age of the site and the closeness of Ucayalipithecus to its fossil relatives from Egypt, researchers estimate the migration might have occurred around 34 million years ago.

“We’re suggesting that this group might have made it over to South America right around what we call the Eocene-Oligocene Boundary, a time period between two geological epochs, when the Antarctic ice sheet started to build up and the sea level fell,” said Seiffert. “That might have played a role in making it a bit easier for these primates to actually get across the Atlantic Ocean.”

An improbable discovery

Two of the Ucayalipithecus perdita teeth were identified by Argentinean co-authors of the study in 2015 showing that New World monkeys had African forebears. When Seiffert was asked to help describe these specimens in 2016, he noticed the similarity of the two broken upper molars to an extinct 32 million-year-old parapithecid monkey species from Egypt he had studied previously.

An expedition to the Peruvian fossil site in 2016 led to the discovery of two more teeth belonging to this new species. The resemblance of these additional lower teeth to those of the Egyptian monkey teeth confirmed to Seiffert that Ucayalipithecus was descended from African ancestors.

“The thing that strikes me about this study more than any other I’ve been involved in is just how improbable all of it is,” said Seiffert. “The fact that it’s this remote site in the middle of nowhere, that the chances of finding these pieces is extremely small, to the fact that we’re revealing this very improbable journey that was made by these early monkeys, it’s all quite remarkable.”

Tiger coming, monkeys sound alarm


This 23 March 2020 video says about itself:

Monkeys Sound Alarm of Nearby Tiger | Life | BBC Earth

These langur monkeys are on high-alert for any sign of predators – but in a forest full of distraction, it’s almost impossible to tell how close the danger is.

Nearly 15,000 miles of new Asian roads will be built in tiger habitat by mid-century, deepening the big cat’s extinction risk and highlighting the need for bold new conservation measures now, according to a new study: here.