Spider monkey’s 50th birthday


This December 2017 Dutch language video from Peru is about the yellow-tailed woolly monkey, a rare species living only in the Peruvian Andes mountains.

Talking about South American monkeys: today, a black-headed spider monkey in Apenheul primate zoo in Apeldoorn in the Netherlands has her 50th birthday. Pepi is in that zoo right from when it started.

Black-headed spider monkeys in the wild are not known to get older than 24 years. They are a threatened species. Apenheul asks zoo visitors on the birthday today for contributions to help conservation of Pepi’s fellow spider monkeys in the South American forests.

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Marmoset monkey language, new study


This 2012 video is called marmoset vocalizations.

From the Universitaet Tübingen in Germany:

Monkey Vocabulary Decoded

Neuroscientists identify the smallest units that make up the vocalization of marmoset monkeys

February 22, 2018

From short ‘tsiks’ and ‘ekks’ to drawn-out ‘phees’ — all the sounds produced by marmoset monkeys are made up of individual syllables of fixed length: that is the result of a study by a team of researchers headed by Dr. Steffen Hage of the Werner Reichardt Centre for Integrative Neuro-science (CIN) at the University of Tübingen. The smallest units of vocalisation and their rhythmic production in the brain of our relatives could also have been a prerequisite of human speech. The study was just published in Current Biology.

“Seven times a second, our speech apparatus can form a syllable,” says Steffen Hage. Regardless if it is Batman shouting ‘Ha!’ or Mary Poppins singing ‘Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious‘: when we speak, our utterance is made up of small units that are on average a seventh of a second long. This rhythm inherent in our production of syllables is as much constrained by the structure of our voicebox as it results from the processes that control speech in the brain. These biological fundamentals of speech may have been very similar in our ancestors.

If we want to understand the evolution of human speech, we should look into its biological basis in our close relatives in the animal kingdom: primates. However, we still do not have a sufficient understanding of their vocalisation. To come to grips with the neurobiological basis of primate vocalisation, Hage’s neuroscientific research group works with marmoset monkeys, a primate species from South America. Marmosets are far closer related to us than, for example, perching birds, whose vocalisation has been the focus of much research into the rhythm and length of syllables.

The researchers recorded thousands of instances of the little monkeys’ ‘tsiks’, ‘ekks’ and ‘phees’ in a sound chamber. They interrupted the animals’ natural vocalisation with white noise at irregular intervals. The researchers effectively ‘talked over’ the monkeys, causing them to fall quiet.

Thomas Pomberger, one of the study’s authors, explains the results: “The marmosets’ ‘phee’ had so far been considered part of their basic vocabulary, alongside the ‘tsik’ and ‘ekk’. We observed that they would stop right in the middle of their ‘phee’ calls when we disrupted them with noise. Moreover, that would only happen at specific points within the call.”

Co-author Cristina Risueno-Segovia adds: “What we found was that what had been known as a long ‘phee’ call actually consists of small units of about the same length as a ‘tsik’ or ‘ekk’ — about 100 milliseconds.” Their supervisor Hage says: “Until now, the supposed existence of the long ‘phee’ has not allowed for the conclusion that we can draw now: just like us, marmoset monkeys have a ‘hardwired’ rhythm that controls their vocalisation. It is even similarly fast.”

Such a rhythm might be an evolutionary prerequisite on the path to developing true speech. The new study demonstrates that research in marmosets can provide the necessary clues to better understand the origins and properties of human speech — a question that has been much debated in the scientific community.

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.

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.

Seven years after the Fukushima, Japan nuclear disaster began, forcing evacuations of at least 160,000 people, research has uncovered significant health impacts affecting monkeys living in the area and exposed to the radiological contamination of their habitat: here.