Indonesian silvery gibbons’ love story

This video from Java, Indonesia says about itself:

When Two Silvery Gibbons Meet, It’s Love at First Touch | Conservation International (CI)

13 February 2015

Since gibbons can only survive in the wild as bonded pairs, rehabilitation efforts at the Java Gibbon Center depend on successful matchmaking. Supported by Conservation International and located on the edge of Indonesia’s Gunung Gede Pangrango National Park, the center brought together two rescued gibbons, Jowo (male) and Bombom (female) — creating one of nature’s cutest love stories.
To learn more about this gibbon love story and Conservation International’s work to protect their habitiat, see here.

After the story of the two Peruvian spider monkeys

Purgatorius, world’s oldest primate?

This video says about itself:

PurgatoriusExtinction of the Dinosaurs

29 November 2014

Purgatorius and the extinction of the dinosaurs.

Scenes from Animal Planet‘s Animal Armageddon.

From Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America:

Oldest known euarchontan tarsals and affinities of Paleocene Purgatorius to Primates


Purgatorius has been considered a plausible ancestor for primates since it was discovered, but this fossil mammal has been known only from teeth and jaw fragments. We attribute to Purgatorius the first (to our knowledge) nondental remains (ankle bones) which were discovered in the same ∼65-million-year-old deposits as dentitions of this putative primate. This attribution is based mainly on size and unique anatomical specializations known among living euarchontan mammals (primates, treeshrews, colugos) and fossil plesiadapiforms.

Results of phylogenetic analyses that incorporate new data from these fossils support Purgatorius as the geologically oldest known primate. These recently discovered tarsals have specialized features for mobility and provide the oldest fossil evidence that suggests arboreality played a key role in earliest primate evolution.


Earliest Paleocene Purgatorius often is regarded as the geologically oldest primate, but it has been known only from fossilized dentitions since it was first described half a century ago. The dentition of Purgatorius is more primitive than those of all known living and fossil primates, leading some researchers to suggest that it lies near the ancestry of all other primates; however, others have questioned its affinities to primates or even to placental mammals.

Here we report the first (to our knowledge) nondental remains (tarsal bones) attributed to Purgatorius from the same earliest Paleocene deposits that have yielded numerous fossil dentitions of this poorly known mammal. Three independent phylogenetic analyses that incorporate new data from these fossils support primate affinities of Purgatorius among euarchontan mammals (primates, treeshrews, and colugos).

Astragali and calcanei attributed to Purgatorius indicate a mobile ankle typical of arboreal euarchontan mammals generally and of Paleocene and Eocene plesiadapiforms specifically and provide the earliest fossil evidence of arboreality in primates and other euarchontan mammals. Postcranial specializations for arboreality in the earliest primates likely played a key role in the evolutionary success of this mammalian radiation in the Paleocene.

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


•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


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

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

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

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.


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.

Indian monkey saves electrocuted friend’s life

This video from India says about itself:

20 December 2014

Kanpur Central Railway Station. Monkey saves friend’s life without any human help.

From the Deccan Herald in India:

Monkey saves ‘dying’ friend at Kanpur Railway station (Video)

New Delhi, Dec 21, 2014, Agencies:

A friend in need is a friend indeed: A hair-raising video that has surfaced on YouTube illustrates this proverb very well. In the video, a monkey could be seen trying to save another monkey lying unconscious on a railway track.

The monkey in the video is surely impressive for its presence of mind and efforts to help its injured friend. One of the monkeys in the video fell unconscious after experiencing electric shock while walking on the high-tension wires in Kanpur’s railway station. The other monkey comes to the rescue.

The conscious monkey licks, bites, hits and puts the unconscious monkey into the stagnant water at the railway track. After 20 minutes of tireless effort, the ‘hero’ monkey brings its friend back to consciousness.

See also here.

These monkeys were rhesus macaques.

This video says about itself:

25 November 2014

Hello! We are from Taiwan. My daughter and I were very lucky to see an upside-down tortoise, but it’s luckier to see his friend trying to help him turn back in Taipei Zoo.

Today (25, November) is the field trip day of my daughter’s school and I also went to Taipei Zoo with her. We were all very lucky to see such kind of scene – one tortoise saves the other one’s life! Also, it’s a great opportunity to give my daughter a lesson – Helping others is the origin of happiness.

400,000-year-old art in Indonesia?

Reconstruction of Homo erectus with shell

Translated from NOS TV in the Netherlands:

Leiden shell reveals secret about human evolution

Wednesday, December 3, 2014, 20:14

The shell was already found a hundred years ago in Java. Now it discloses a mystery: a special inscription by a hominid 400,000 years old.

It is a thin zigzag pattern, engraved by an individual of Homo erectus, the predecessor of modern man. For seven years scientists worked on the study. The prestigious scientific journal Nature publishes it as a new insight into the evolution of human behaviour.

The shell was part of a very extensive discovery, made by the Dutch scientist Eugène Dubois. At the beginning of the twentieth century he discovered much valuable prehistoric material above the Javanese village Trinil. Per ship this was transported to the Netherlands.


Neatly documented were also the shells of freshwater mussels in a cardboard box in the institute Naturalis. Seven years ago it was opened by biologist and archaeologist José Joorens. She showed the shell to her Australian colleague Steven Munro. He made pictures of it. At home in Canberra he did his fascinating discovery. He immediately sent an e-mail to Joorens. It was the beginning of exciting research.

Joorens explains: “Munro saw a pattern of a kind of scratching on the shell. He was really surprised. Normally something like that should not be present in a shell…” In Leiden Joorens along with fellow researcher Frank Wesselingh needed a lot of time for further investigation. They had to consider all other possible causes of the scratches. Eventually they could draw no other conclusion anymore about this one shell.

“There are many things that may scratch,” said Wesselingh. “At first we did not believe ourselves what we saw. We considered all possibilities. And we can only conclude that this must have been done by a hominid.”

Until now only an engraving by Homo sapiens was known of 100,000 years old. It was found in South Africa. After the new discovery a drawing in color was made of a shaggy man who proudly displays the shell with a zigzag pattern. It is unclear what he meant. The researchers have carefully avoided to describe it as an early form of art.

“We can not look inside the head of Homo erectus,” said Joorens. “We do know that it must have taken considerable effort to make such a nice pattern. We have tried to imitate it and noticed that you have to really pay much attention to it to get it so neatly. It was absolutely a skilled individual.”

Trinil was here”

Simply it might be a message like ‘Trinil was here’, in the handwriting of someone who wanted to leave something for posterity. “A matter of pride: to show that you possess something beautiful, as you now show an iPhone,” said Wesselingh. “That shell used to be quite dark. If you scratched it would show beautiful white luminous lines. The picture on the reconstruction is more beautiful than it is now, but what it means we do not know.”

The discovery gives rise to an adjustment of knowledge and ideas about the evolution of man. “It does not show that [our species] is earlier than we thought, but that we had predecessors who also had certain skills. It also says something about ourselves, that we tend to overestimate ourselves as modern man and underestimate others.”

See also here.

Homo erectus engraving could re-write human history, and might show art began 400,000 years earlier than we knew: here.

A recent article in the scientific journal Nature reports on the discovery of what appears to be a clamshell bearing intentionally produced geometric engravings dating to approximately half a million years ago (radiometrically dated to between 430,000 and 540,000 years before the present). If confirmed, this would be the oldest symbolic representation by human ancestors yet discovered, documenting an early stage in the development of modern human cognition: here.

Human evolution, alcohol and chemistry

This video is called African Animals Getting Drunk From Ripe Marula Fruit.

By Bob Yirka today:

Study shows pre-human ancestors adapted to metabolize ethanol long before humans learned about fermentation

19 hours ago

(—A team of researchers in the U.S. has found evidence to support the notion that our pre-human ancestors were able to metabolize ethanol long before our later ancestors learned to take advantage of fermentation—to create alcoholic beverages. In their paper published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the team describes how they genetically sequenced proteins from modern primates and used what they found to work backwards to discover just how long ago our ancestors have been able to metabolize ethanol.

Humans have been consuming beverages that make them tipsy, drunk and/or sick for a very long time, of that there is little doubt. But why do we have the ability to metabolize ethanol in the first place? That’s what the team set out to answer. They began by sequencing an enzyme called ADH4—it’s what’s responsible for allowing us to metabolize ethanol. Other have it as well, but not all metabolize ethanol as well as we do. By sequencing ADH4 found in a 28 including 17 that were primates, the team was able to create a family tree of sorts based on ethanol metabolizing ability. The team then tested those sequences for their metabolizing ability by synthesizing nine kinds of the ADH4 enzyme. Doing so showed the researchers that most early primates had very little ability to metabolize ethanol for most of their early history.

Then, about 10 million years ago, some of the ancestors of modern humans suddenly were able to do a much better job of it, while others that diverged and led to apes such as orangutans, did not. This discovery led the team to wonder what might have occurred to cause this to come about. They note that other evidence has shown that around this same time, the planet cooled slightly, making life a little more difficult for our tree dwelling ancestors. They suggest they began climbing down out of the trees to eat the fruit that fell, which gave them a food advantage and a reason for developing the ability to metabolize —otherwise they would have become too drunk from eating the fermenting fruit to defend themselves or live otherwise normal lives. If true, the theory would also offer a major clue as to why our became terrestrial.

Explore further: Study unlocks secret of how fruit flies choose fruit with just the right amount of ethanol

More information: Hominids adapted to metabolize ethanol long before human-directed fermentation, PNAS, Matthew A. Carrigan, DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1404167111


Paleogenetics is an emerging field that resurrects ancestral proteins from now-extinct organisms to test, in the laboratory, models of protein function based on natural history and Darwinian evolution. Here, we resurrect digestive alcohol dehydrogenases (ADH4) from our primate ancestors to explore the history of primate–ethanol interactions. The evolving catalytic properties of these resurrected enzymes show that our ape ancestors gained a digestive dehydrogenase enzyme capable of metabolizing ethanol near the time that they began using the forest floor, about 10 million y ago. The ADH4 enzyme in our more ancient and arboreal ancestors did not efficiently oxidize ethanol. This change suggests that exposure to dietary sources of ethanol increased in hominids during the early stages of our adaptation to a terrestrial lifestyle. Because fruit collected from the forest floor is expected to contain higher concentrations of fermenting yeast and ethanol than similar fruits hanging on trees, this transition may also be the first time our ancestors were exposed to (and adapted to) substantial amounts of dietary ethanol.