Oldest evidence of split between Old World monkeys and apes discovered
Two fossil discoveries from the East African Rift reveal new information about the evolution of primates, according to a study published online in Nature this week led by Ohio University scientists.
The team’s findings document the oldest fossils of two major groups of primates: the group that today includes apes and humans (hominoids), and the group that includes Old World monkeys such as baboons and macaques (cercopithecoids).
Geological analyses of the study site indicate that the finds are 25 million years old, significantly older than fossils previously documented for either of the two groups.Both primates are new to science, and were collected from a single fossil site in the Rukwa Rift Basin of Tanzania.
Rukwapithecus fleaglei is an early hominoid represented by a mandible preserving several teeth. Nsungwepithecus gunnelli is an early cercopithecoid represented by a tooth and jaw fragment..
(read more: PhysOrg) (illustration by Mauricio Anton)
Drill baby drill! The fate of African biodiversity and the monkey you’ve never heard of
Commentary by: Zach Fitzner
Equatorial Guinea is not a country that stands very large in the American consciousness. In fact most Americans think you mean Papua New Guinea when you mention it or are simply baffled. When I left for Bioko Island in Equatorial Guinea, I also knew almost nothing about the island, the nation, or the Bioko drills (Mandrillus leucophaeus poensis). The subspecies of drill is unique to Bioko Island and encountering them was an equally unique experience. I initially went to Bioko as a turtle research assistant but ended up falling in love with the entire ecosystem, especially the Bioko drills as I tagged along with drill researchers.
Bioko itself looks a bit like a bean; if the bean was 779 square miles, made out of dormant volcanoes, covered in lush rainforest and floating in the Atlantic off Africa’s west coast that is. The island is part of the Cameroonian line, a chain of dormant volcanoes extending west from the mainland. Ten thousand years ago rising sea levels cut off a peninsula, creating Bioko, which is the main island of Equatorial Guinea, a small Spanish-speaking nation in equatorial, western Africa. Bioko has a population of about 260,000 spread throughout some 26 cities arranged mostly near the coast.
But Bioko is also a refuge for wildlife, including seven species of monkey and eleven subspecies, hidden away in the rough interior of the island. Wildlife biodiversity and endemism (species found only on the island) are high because Bioko is in the tropics, and an island with a relatively low human population. The Bioko drill is arguably the island’s flagship species…
Strongest Evidence of Animal Culture Seen in Monkeys and Whales
by Michael Balter
Until fairly recently, many scientists thought that only humans had culture, but that idea is now being crushed by an avalanche of recent research with animals. Two new studies in monkeys and whales take the work further, showing how new cultural traditions can be formed and how conformity might help a species survive and prosper. The findings may also help researchers distinguish the differences between animal and human cultures.
Researchers differ on exactly how to define culture, but most agree that it involves a collective adoption and transmission of one or more behaviors among a group. Humans’ ability to create and transmit new cultural trends has helped our species dominate Earth, in large part because each new generation can benefit from the experiences of the previous one.
Researchers have found that similar, albeit much simpler, cultural transmission takes place in animals, including fish, insects, meerkats, birds, monkeys, and apes. Sometimes these cultural traits seem bizarre, such as the recently developed trend among some capuchin monkeys to poke each other’s eyeballs with their long, sharp fingernails—a behavior that originated among a small group of individuals and which has spread over time…
We all know of the Amazon rain forest. But there was once another great forest in Brazil the Atlantic Rain Forest. Today there’s only 2% of it remaining and the mini monkeys that once lived there are struggling for survival.
When you talk of Brazil’s wildlife you tend to think of the Amazon rain forest. But few peole realise there is, or was once another forest just a big and just as bio diverse. The Atlantic rain forest.
It strech for more than 1000 miles along the Atlantic coast and inland to the eastern boarders of Brazil. Today there is less then 2% of the amazing forest and the wildlife that used to exist there is all but gone…
Cinderella animals: endangered species that could be conservation stars
A cursory look at big conservation NGOs might convince the public that the only species in peril are tigers, elephants, and pandas when nothing could be further from the truth. So, why do conservation groups roll out the same flagship species over-and-over again?
Simple: it is believed these species bring in donations. A new paper in Conservation Letters examines the success of using flagship species in raising money for larger conservation needs, while also pointing out that conservation groups may be overlooking an important fundraising source: “Cinderella animals.
“Too much focus on “flagship species”?
Flagship species are animals used by conservation groups to raise funds; these species are almost always mammals, large, and appealing to the general public, often defined as ‘cute.’ This trend has long faced criticism: some researchers argue that in an age of mass extinction focusing on a few mammals trivializes the scale of the problem and leaves the bulk of the world’s threatened species without targeted protection…
Zoo Babies 2012: April - Japanese Macaque (Nihonzaru)
Between April 21 and 25, the Highland Wildlife Park in Scotland had a baby monkey boom. Three little Japanese macaques (Macaca fuscata) were born during that time, all to three different moms. The species, which are also called snow monkeys, are found throughout Japan, where the live in large groups in wooded areas. They have bright red faces and white fur that make them easy to recognize.
Empathy, cooperation, fairness and reciprocity — caring about the well-being of others seems like a very human trait. But Frans de Waal shares some surprising videos of behavioral tests, on primates and other mammals, that show how many of these moral traits all of us share. (Filmed at TEDxPeachtree.)
Frans de Waal studies primate social behavior — how they fight and reconcile, share and cooperate.
That Certain Smile: Why Cuteness Is Killing the Peruvian Night Monkey
Until recently, the nocturnal monkey, one of the world’s least known primates, had never been studied in the wild.
by Joanna M. Foster
On the border between Peru and Ecuador, orchid- and vine-draped forests cling perilously to the sides of steep peaks rising into the clouds. Every inch of bark is covered in moss, and plants grow on top of each other in chaotic heaps. Explorers in the early 19th century tramped through this lushness, recording thousands of new species.
But until recently, few outsiders had ventured into these remote cloud forests, perhaps avoiding the coke plantations or Maoist guerilla fighters that hid out in the area.
Now conservationists have been trekking into these forests to raise awareness for some of the most endangered species on Earth. And as they do so, they’re discovering animals that are entirely new to science.
Sam Shanee, a conservation biologist and cofounder of the nonprofit Neotropical Primate Conservation, recently returned from a year-long odyssey in the Peruvian Cloud Forest where he tracked a small group of the never-before studied night monkey, Aotus miconax: Primates.
While there are seven species of Peruvian night monkeys, this one is only known to exist in a small patch of extremely fragmented cloud forest isolated between two rivers. Recently, I sat down with Shanee to learn more about these elusive monkey marvels and his adventures in cloud forest conservation biology…
….is a species of old world monkey found throughout the Congo and Angola. Mangabeys are highly arboreal and are typically found foraging in mixed-sex troops of 10-15 individuals among the canopies of trees, and occasionally on the ground. Like most primates they have a diet of primarily fruit, seeds, nectar and other plant material, they will occasionally take insects as well.
Also known as the Wadi or Hussar monkey the Patas Monkey is a species of ground-dwelling monkey found throughout Western and Eastern Africa. Patas are often found in large social groups that are headed by multiple females, these groups will only contain one male who at sexual maturity will leave for an all male group. Patas monkeys are often found on the ground where they feed on small invertebrates and roots.
It is also believed that the Patas Monkey, with its relatively long monkey legs, is the fastest running species of monkey, clocked at somewhere near 34 mph at a full gallop. This species is also known for having one of the finest mustaches in the animal kingdom, and enjoys a fine port with its cigar.
A baby pygmy marmoset (Cebuella pygmaea) is seen at a primate rescue and rehabilitation center near Santiago, Chile, on August 3, 2010. The pygmy marmoset, also known as Leoncillo (little lion) and Mono de bosillo (pocket monkey), was confiscated after being found inside the clothes of a Peruvian citizen during a highway police check at the northern city of Antofagasta, some 849 miles of Santiago. The species is under threat of extinction for two main reasons: Humans love to collect them as pets, and we clear-cut the Amazonian trees in which they live.
In July 2008, a mature male Mandrill (Mandrillus sphinx), a large species of baboon, walks through a forest during dry season in Lope National Park, Gabon. Classified as vulnerable by the IUCN, mandrills are threatened by human settlement on their rainforest homeland. Considered by some in Africa to be a delicacy, they’re often hunted as bushmeat.