Zanzibar red colobus monkeys, new study


This 2013 video from Tanzania is called Zanzibar Red Colobus Monkey.

From the Wildlife Conservation Society:

Hope for one of the world’s rarest primates: First census of Zanzibar Red Colobus monkey

Three times as many as assumed, but population in decline

December 14, 2017

A team of WCS scientists recently completed the first-ever range-wide population census of the Zanzibar red colobus monkey (Piliocolobus kirkii) an endangered primate found only on the Zanzibar archipelago off the coast of East Africa.

The good news: there are more than three times as many Zanzibar red colobus monkeys (more than 5,800 individual animals) than previously thought, and many more monkeys living within protected areas than outside of them. And the bad news: survivorship of young animals is very low, species now extinct in 4 areas, forest habitat on which the primates and others species depend are rapidly being cleared for agriculture and tourism development projects and hunting is common.

The paper titled “Zanzibar’s endemic red colobus Piliocolobus kirkii: first systematic and total assessment of population, demography and distribution” has been published in the online version of the journal Oryx. The authors are: Tim R.B. Davenport; Said A. Fakih; Sylvanos P. Kimiti; Lydia U. Kleine; Lara S. Foley; and Daniela W. De Luca.

“Scientists have known about the Zanzibar red colobus monkey for 150 years, yet this is the first systematic study of this poorly understood species across its entire range,” said Dr. Tim Davenport, Director of WCS’s Tanzania Country Program and the lead author of the study. “The systematic assessment redefines almost everything we know about this amazing animal, and is now guiding effective management strategies for this species.”

Seeking to gain a better understanding of the status and ecological needs of the Zanzibar red colobus monkey, the WCS team of researchers spent two years (4,725 hours spent in the field) searching for and observing the arboreal primates. The surveys occurred both within and outside of protected areas on the main Zanzibar island of Unguja, and the scientists employed a new sweep census technique to collect data on group sizes and structures, demographics, and locations with the help of GPS devices.

The results of the study provided researchers with proof that Zanzibar’s protected areas are, to some extent, working. Some 69 percent of the population of Zanzibar red colobus monkeys live inside Unguja’s protected area network, and monkey groups found within protected areas boasted both higher average group sizes and more females per group.

Conversely, the assessment also highlighted challenges for conservation. Especially for the more than 30 percent of the monkey’s population that live outside of protected areas. The scientists discovered that four of the forests previously known to contain Zanzibar red colobus monkeys no longer do. Four other locations were found to contain only one family group, which are unlikely to survive in isolation.

One of the largest threats to the Zanzibar red colobus monkey is deforestation. Forests on Zanzibar’s main island of Unguja are being lost at a rate of more than 19 square kilometers per year due to agricultural activities, residential development, and human population growth. The hunting of monkeys for food and retaliation for crop raiding is also a concern.

The authors recommend creating a new protected area to further safeguard the Zanzibar red colobus monkey as well as increasing primate and forest tourism operations. The team has also suggested making the primate the official national animal of Zanzibar.

“The Zanzibar red colobus monkey is unique to Zanzibar and could be a wonderful example of how conservation efforts can succeed in protecting both wildlife and habitat, which in turn benefits communities” added Davenport, who recently presented the study’s results to the Zanzibar government. “The species could serve as a fitting symbol for both Zanzibar and the government’s foresight in wildlife management.”

WCS will work with the Government of Zanzibar to initiate a flagship species program that will protect both primates and the archipelago’s remaining forests.

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Fukushima disaster making Japanese monkeys ill


This August 2014 video about Japan is called Fukushima‘s Radioactive Monkeys..Remembering the A Bomb.

From Forbes in the USA:

Three Ways Radiation Has Changed The Monkeys Of Fukushima

Jeff McMahon

This year the evacuated residents of Japan’s Fukushima Prefecture began returning home, and as they resume their lives, the monkeys who have lived there all along have some cautions for them—in the form of medical records.

The Japanese macaques show effects associated with radiation exposure—especially youngsters born since the March 2011 meltdowns at the Fukushima-Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant, according to a wildlife veterinarian who has studied the population since 2008.

Dr. Shin-ichi Hayama detailed his findings Saturday in Chicago as part of the University of Chicago’s commemoration of the 75th Anniversary of the first man-made controlled nuclear reaction, which took place under the university’s football stadium in 1942 and birthed the technologies of nuclear power and nuclear weapons.

Hayama appeared alongside documentary filmmaker Masanori Iwasaki, who has featured Hayama’s work in a series of annual documentaries exploring the impact of fallout from the reactor meltdowns on wildlife. The fallout led the Japanese government to evacuate residents from a highly contaminated area surrounding the plant and extending to the northwest. The plume crossed the Pacific Ocean and left much diluted quantities of fallout across the United States, an event closely monitored on this page.

Since 2008, Hayama has studied the bodies of monkeys killed in Fukushima City’s effort to control the monkey population and protect agricultural crops (about 20,000 monkeys are “culled” annually in Japan). Because he was already studying the monkeys, he was ideally positioned to notice changes affected by radiation exposure.

“I’m not a radiation specialist,” Hayama said Saturday in Chicago, “but because I’ve been gathering data since 2008—remember, the disaster took place in 2011—it seems obvious to me that this is very important research. I’ve asked radiation specialists to take on this research, but they have never been willing to take this on because they say we don’t have any resources or time to spare because humans are much more important.

“So I had to conclude that there was no choice but for me to take this on, even though I’m not a specialist in radiation,” Hayama said, his remarks translated by University of Chicago Professor Norma Field. “If we don’t keep records, there will be no evidence and it will be as if nothing happened. That’s why I’m hoping to continue this research and create a record.”

Fukushima City is 50 miles northeast of the Fukushima-Daiichi Power Plant, so the radiation levels have been lower there than in the restricted areas, now reopening, that are closer to the plant. Hayama was unable to test monkeys in the most-contaminated areas, but even 50 miles from the plant, he has documented effects in monkeys that are associated with radiation. He compared his findings to monkeys in the same area before 2011 and to a control population of monkeys in Shimokita Peninsula, 500 miles to the north.

Hayama’s findings have been published in the peer-reviewed journal Scientific Reports, published by Nature. Among his findings:

Smaller Bodies — Japanese monkeys born in the path of fallout from the Fukushima meltdown weigh less for their height than monkeys born in the same area before the March, 2011 disaster, Hayama said.

“We can see that the monkeys born from mothers who were exposed are showing low body weight in relation to their height, so they are smaller,” he said.

Smaller Heads And Brains — The exposed monkeys have smaller bodies overall, and their heads and brains are smaller still.

“We know from the example of Hiroshima and Nagasaki that embryos and fetuses exposed in utero resulted in low birth weight and also in microcephaly, where the brain failed to develop adequately and head size was small, so we are trying to confirm whether this also is happening with the monkeys in Fukushima,” Hayama said.

And it appears that it is.

Anemia — The monkeys show a reduction in all blood components: red blood cells, white blood cells, hemoglobin, and the cells in bone marrow that produce blood components.

“There’s clearly a depression of blood components in the Fukushima monkeys,” said Hayama. “We can see that in these monkeys, that there is a correlation between white blood cell counts and the radio-cesium concentrations in their muscles. This actually is comparable to what’s been reported with children of Chernobyl.”

“We have taken these tests from 2012 through 2017, and the levels have not recovered. So we have to say this is not an acute phenomenon. It has become chronic, and we would have to consider radiation exposure as a possible cause,” Hayama said.

Hayama has appeared in several documentaries by Masanori Isawaki, who was 70 years old in 2011 and ready to retire from a thirty-year career making wildlife documentaries—he is best known for his portrait of “Mozu: The Snow Monkey”—when the Fukushima reactors melted down.

“Having turned 70 I thought, I’ve done enough, I can sit back. And then the nuclear disaster struck,” he said, his remarks also translated by Field. “I watched TV shows and read the newspaper for a year and kept asking myself, is there something left in me that I can do? A year later in 2012, with a cameraman and a sound engineer, the three of us just decided: In any case let’s just go to Fukushima, see what’s there.”

Since then he has made five films, one each year, documenting radiation impacts on wildlife, grouping them under the title “Fukushima: A Record of Living Things”. Two episodes were screened Saturday in Chicago, their first screenings in the United States.

At first Iwasaki documented white spots and deformed tails on the reduced number of barn swallows who survived after the disaster.

“It’s something we haven’t seen anywhere else but Chernobyl and Fukushima,” says the narrator of Iwasaki’s 2013 film, “so it’s clearly related to radiation. It probably doesn’t hurt the bird to have some white feathers, but it’s a marker of exposure to radiation.

“The barn swallows in Fukushima are responding in the same way as what we’ve seen in Chernobyl. The young birds are not surviving. They are not fledging very well.”

The white spots also turned up on black cows. Some types of marine snails vanished, then gradually returned. Fir trees stemmed differently, and the flower stalks of some dandelions grew thick and deformed. Dandelion stalks are a favorite food of Japanese monkeys, but the monkeys showed no obvious deformities, so Isawaki turned to Hayama to find out how radiation was affecting them.

Iwasaki’s 2017 film, just completed, is his first to investigate effects in the monkeys’ primate cousins, the humans: an unusually large number of children with thyroid cancer. ”

Radioactive material from the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant disaster is accumulating in the sands and brackish groundwater beneath beaches up to 60 miles away from the nuclear power plant itself, according to a new study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences on October 2. The study is the first to identify accumulations of radioactive cesium in this previously unsuspected place: here.

Gelada baboons in Ethiopia


This video says about itself:

Why These Vegetarian Monkeys Have Sharp Predator Teeth

9 June 2017

In the Ethiopian highlands, native Geladas have impressive canines despite being grass eaters. The reason is simple: The males need to defend themselves and their group against potential challengers.

Asian monkeys on videos


This video from Asia says about itself:

2 June 2017

Long-tailed macaques spend much of the day frolicking on tropical sands and taking a dip in the ocean to cool off. And when it’s time to eat, they prove surprisingly adept at cracking open the clams and oysters nearby.

This video from Asia says about itself:

2 June 2017

Proboscis monkeys may look ridiculous to us, but they are in fact perfectly adapted to their swamp surroundings. Their pot-bellied stomachs are able to digest toxic leaves, while their huge noses play a role in attracting mates.

Japanese snow monkeys video


This BBC video says about itself:

15 March 2017

In Northern Japan, Steve Backshall finds the elusive snow monkey. Winter shrinks their feeding grounds making them easier to spot.

Fossil monkey blood discovery in Dominican Republic amber


This video from the USA says about itself:

25 July 2014

Nature and science documentarian David Attenborough describes the effort to screen a newly rediscovered collection of amber from the Dominican Republic and the tiny grasshopper found in 20-million-year-old amber that was named for him. Researchers at the Illinois Natural History Survey at the University of Illinois are scouring more than 160 pounds (72 kg) of the Dominican amber for ancient fossils. When their work is completed, they will have the largest unbiased amber fossil collection in the world. The most valuable specimens will be digitized and made freely available on a website. The amber was collected by INHS entomologist Milton Sanderson in the late 1950s. Sanderson died in 2012.

For more information about the pygmy locust discovery: here.

For more information about the researchers’ work on the amber collection: here.

From Oregon State University in the USA:

Monkey business produces rare preserved blood in amber fossils

April 3, 2017

Summary: Two monkeys grooming each other about 20-30 million years ago may have helped produce a remarkable new find – the first fossilized red blood cells from a mammal, preserved so perfectly in amber that they appear to have been prepared for display in a laboratory.

Two monkeys grooming each other about 20-30 million years ago may have helped produce a remarkable new find — the first fossilized red blood cells from a mammal, preserved so perfectly in amber that they appear to have been prepared for display in a laboratory.

The discovery, published in the Journal of Medical Entomology, also describes the only known fossils of a type of parasite that still exists today, Babesia microti, which infects the blood cells of humans and other animals.

Two small holes in the back of a blood-engorged tick, which allowed blood to ooze out just as the tick became stuck in tree sap that later fossilized into amber, provide a brief glimpse of life in a tropical jungle millions of years ago in what is now the Dominican Republic.

“These two tiny holes indicate that something picked a tick off the mammal it was feeding on, puncturing it in the process and dropping it immediately into tree sap,” said George Poinar, Jr., professor emeritus in the College of Science at Oregon State University, author of the study and an international expert on plant and animal life forms found preserved in amber.

“This would be consistent with the grooming behavior of monkeys that we know lived at that time in this region. The fossilized blood cells, infected with these parasites, are simply amazing in their detail. This discovery provides the only known fossils of Babesia-type pathogens.”

The fossil parasites add to the history of the Order Piroplasmida, of which the Babesiidae is one family. In humans, the parasite B. microti can cause babesiosis, a disease with symptoms that resemble malaria and can be fatal. A related parasite in cattle can cause Texas cattle fever, which has been a historic problem in the plains states, and just this spring is causing another outbreak that has led to quarantines on more than 500,000 acres of land in Texas.

“The life forms we find in amber can reveal so much about the history and evolution of diseases we still struggle with today,” Poinar said. “This parasite, for instance, was clearly around millions of years before humans, and appears to have evolved alongside primates, among other hosts.”

Part of what makes these fossils unique, Poinar said, is the clarity by which the parasites and blood cells are preserved, almost as if they had been stained and otherwise treated in a laboratory for inspection. The parasites were different enough in texture and density to stand out clearly within the red blood cells during the natural embalming process for which amber is famous.

See also here. And here.

A salamander found preserved in amber from the Dominican Republic is the first-ever fossil of its kind, and also shows that salamanders once lived in the Caribbean region, where they now are all extinct: here.

Howler monkeys’ eyes, new research


This video is called Howler Monkeys | National Geographic.

From Science News:

Howler monkeys may owe their color vision to leaf hue

Distinguishing red from green makes healthier leaves stand out

By Laurel Hamers

5:59pm, February 21, 2017

BOSTON — A taste for reddish young leaves might have pushed howler monkeys toward full-spectrum color vision. The ability to tell red from green could have helped howlers pick out the more nutritious, younger leaves, researchers reported February 19 at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. That’s a skill their insect-eating close relatives probably didn’t need.

Primates show substantial variation in their color vision capabilities, both between and within species, said Amanda Melin, a biological anthropologist at the University of Calgary in Canada. Trichromatic vision (how most humans see) requires three light-sensitive proteins in the eye that can detect different wavelengths of light. Within most monkey species in Central and South America, only some individuals have trichromatic vision. Males have dichromatic vision — they’re red-green colorblind — and only some females can see the whole rainbow. Howlers are an exception — thanks to a duplicated gene on their X chromosomes, trichromatic vision is the norm for both males and females.

Howlers graze on leaves from Ficus trees and other plants when fruit can’t be found. In field observations of mantled howlers (Alouatta palliata) in Costa Rica, the monkeys preferentially munched on the younger, more nutritious leaves, Melin’s team found. The reddish hue of new leaves makes them pop more when seen with trichromatic vision than dichromatic vision, the researchers reported in a paper accepted for publication in Ecology and Evolution. Because young leaves are a fleeting treat and not a constant resource, monkeys able to spot them more quickly could have had a selective advantage.

Similar selection pressures might also help explain why Old World monkeys from Asia and Africa also have consistent trichromatic vision, Melin said. “What we might be seeing is a convergent evolution for animals who fall back on leaves when fruit isn’t around.”

On the other hand, other Central and South American monkeys usually go for insects, instead of leaves, when there’s no fruit. Dichromatic vision might be a better fit for their lifestyle, Melin said. “Color can impede ability to see patterns, borders and textures. Insects hide and camouflage.”

I was privileged to hear and see howler monkeys in Suriname and Costa Rica.

A new study analyzes the peculiar cranial structure and variability of the best-known species of South American howler monkey, Alouatta seniculus, using geometric models in three dimensions and multivariate statistics: here.