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An otter at the Tennessee Aquarium has been named “Benny,” after actor Benedict Cumberbatch. The likeness is truly undeniable, and this is quite possibly, the cutest thing, I have ever seen. ^_^
The Chattanooga aquarium made the otter-Cumberbatch connection official, after their Facebook invitation to name seven otters resulted in an overwhelming popular vote for Benedict. The Chattanooga outfit asked Facebook for possible names for the critter, who lives in their new River Otter Falls habitat, and several commenters instantly suggested Benedict, for reasons that will be obvious to anyone who’s spent time watching Sherlock and geek-outing in the Tumblrs of the interwebs.
Needless to say, the aquarium quickly made it official. Benny has been living at the aquarium for several months now, enjoying the limelight with his adorable otter family.
Happy Ottersday :#)
An argument is brewing between British photographer David Slater and the folks at Wikimedia over who owns the rights to a photo a black macaque monkey took with Slater’s equipment. The website says the famous photo should be freely distributed, because it believes the animal’s self-portrait isn’t bound by copyright law. The man who owns the camera equipment feels differently.
The dispute stems from 2011, when Slater’s wildlife photography field trip to Indonesia produced a striking image of a smiling crested black macaque; another image shows it holding the camera. The story went viral, with Slater explaining that a group of macaques had taken over his equipment for a bit during the three days he spent in their company.
As he told The Telegraph back then, ”one of them must have accidentally knocked the camera and set it off because the sound caused a bit of a frenzy. At first there was a lot of grimacing with their teeth showing because it was probably the first time they had ever seen a reflection. They were quite mischievous jumping all over my equipment, and it looked like they were already posing for the camera when one hit the button.”
Slater added that the primates took hundreds of photos, most of them out of focus. By far the most famous of them was the grinning female macaque’s “selfie” that was then licensed for use by many media outlets.
The Telegraph gave us an update on the story this week, saying Wikimedia had refused to change the image’s open-copyright classification. Slater tells the newspaper that he went through a great deal of effort and money to get the photo, noting that he traveled to the area and set up the camera.
“That trip cost me about £2,000 for that monkey shot,” he says. “Not to mention the £5,000 of equipment I carried, the insurance, the computer stuff I used to process the images.”
The folks at Wikimedia don’t agree that Slater is the photo’s author, and they refused his request to remove the image from the Wikimedia Commons section for open-source material.
Perhaps you’re thinking that if Slater doesn’t own the photo’s copyright, then the monkey does. But as GigaOM reports, “the editors at Wikimedia (which manages the library of more than 22 million images and videos associated with the open-source encyclopedia) rejected the photographer’s demands because they believe that no one holds the copyright. A monkey can’t hold the rights to an image, or anything else, for that matter, because they aren’t human, and therefore don’t have the legal standing required to do so.”
Slater notes that a court case might be the only way to resolve the authorship and ownership issues. If that occurs, it’s unlikely that the macaque would be represented in the proceedings, or in the debate its brief career as a photographer has set off.
Happy Monkday :_)
Most longtime New Yorkers have adopted habits to cope with life in a city of more than eight million people. A new stud finds that even the city’s squirrels have made adjustments in order to better co-exist with people- in fact, they barely seem to notice them at all. Compared to rural squirrels, city squirrels allow pedestrians to come relatively close, and only move away when they feel people’s eyes intently watching them. This suggests that they can clearly discriminate between threatening and nonthreatening behavior.
“Some animal species never behaviorally adapt to humans- they always run when they see them,” Bill Bateman, a biologist at Curtin University in Australia, who led the study, said this in an email: “if an animal runs when it sees a human, it is because it sees the human as a and is prepared to stop doing what it is doing to escape. It pays a cost of stopping eating, or courting, but that is better than possibly being caught.”
In rural areas, most country squirrels view humans as potential predators. They become cautious and alert around people, keeping their distance, whether or not the human is looking directly at them. Bateman observed Eastern gray squirrels in a residential area in Manhattan’s highly populated and extremely busy Lower East Side. He dropped colored pins on the ground to measure the squirrels’ “alert distance,” or the distance between a squirrel and an observer once the squirrel was aware it was being watched. Bateman also measured the “distance fled,” or how far the squirrel distanced itself from the observer.
Ninety percent of the squirrels moved out of the way when they noticed humans walking on a footpath, while only 5 percent stopped, froze and showed signs of being alert and vigilant, like a deer in headlights. Bateman said city squirrels are aware that humans are everywhere and that they can’t run away all the time as a country squirrel would.
“In the city, the squirrels have honed this reaction down to tiny cues: Are the humans looking at me? That indicates higher risk than them ignoring me,” Bateman said.
Animals should still be sensitive to the potential threat of humans, but to be able to live freely in the presence of humans is one of the key behavioral traits of a successful urban adapter. Bateman and his co-author wrote in their study, published June 12 in the Journal of Zoology, that these animals don’t see humans quite as predators. In fact, humans might become “predation-free predators,” the researchers said, and so the animals ignore people, rather than react fearfully. Armed with this lack of fear, the animals are in a better position to thrive and persist in the urban environment.
As urban areas continue to grow around the world, more wildlife may need to adapt to city life. In the future, Bateman would like to explore the behavior of birds, mammals and reptiles in Australia that thrive in urban areas full of human activity.
Happy Bun(rodent)day (|^_^|)
A team of scientists from around the world led by Baylor College of Medicine in Waco, Texas, and Washington University in St. Louis. Missouri, has completed the genome sequence of the common marmoset, the first sequence of a New World Monkey, providing new information about the marmoset’s unique rapid reproductive system, physiology and growth, shedding new light on primate biology and evolution, and how they compare with humans.
The team published the work in the journal Nature Genetics.
“We study primate genomes to get a better understanding of the biology of the species that are most closely related to humans,” said Dr. Jeffrey Rogers, associate professor in the Human Genome Sequencing Center at Baylor and a lead author on the report. “The previous sequences of the great apes and macaques, which are very closely related to humans on the primate evolutionary tree, have provided remarkable new information about the evolutionary origins of the human genome and the processes involved.”
With the sequence of the marmoset, the team revealed for the first time the genome of a non-human primate in the New World monkeys, which represents a separate branch in the primate evolutionary tree that is more distant from humans than those whose genomes have been studied in detail before. The sequence allows researchers to broaden their ability to study the human genome and its history as revealed by comparison with other primates.
The sequencing was conducted jointly by Baylor and Washington University and led by Dr. Kim Worley, professor in the Human Genome Sequencing Center, and Rogers at Baylor, and Drs. Richard K. Wilson, director, and Wesley Warren of The Genome Institute at Washington University, in collaboration with Dr. Suzette Tardif of The University of Texas Health Science Center in San Antonio and the Southwest National Primate Research Center.
Happy Monkday :_)
These three North American River Otter Pups, all male, were born in Brooklyn, NY, in February, and the triplets have just made their debut at Prospect Park Zoo, where they will help “educate people about the importance of keeping local waters and ecosystems in good health.”
The zoo breeds these otters as part of the Species Survival Program, and have created a naturalistic representation of their natural habitat on their Discovery Trail, where you can now go visit them.
Happy Ottersday :#)
A new mammal discovered in the remote desert of western Africa resembles a long-nosed mouse in appearance but is more closely related genetically to elephants, this according to a California scientist who helped identify the tiny creature.
“The new species of elephant shrew, given the scientific name Macroscelides micus, inhabits an ancient volcanic formation in Namibia, and sports red fur that helps it blend in with the color of its rocky surroundings,” said John Dumbacher, one of a team of biologists behind the discovery.
Genetic testing of the creature, which weighs up to an ounce and measures 7.5 inches in length- including its tail- revealed its DNA to be more akin to much larger pachyderms.
“It turns out this thing that looks and acts like shrews that evolved in Africa is more closely related to elephants,” said Dumbacher, a curator of birds and mammals at the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco.
The findings, published in the Journal of Mammalogy, floored scientists, who said the only visible link between an African elephant and the diminutive shrew is its trunk-like nose. An elongated snout is a common feature of various shrew species, many of which look like long-nosed mice externally, though shrews are not classified as rodents.
Dumbacher likened the newly discovered mammal to a small antelope in its physique and sleeping habits and to a scaled-down anteater in hunting techniques and preferred prey. Like an antelope, the creature has long, spindly legs relative to its body size, and hunkers down next to bushes to sleep rather than burrowing. Like an anteater, it uses its extended nose to sweep the ground in search of ants and other insects. The desert-dwelling shrew is prone to giving birth to twins, which hit the ground running like the calves of some types of African antelope.
Biologists plan to return to Africa in the coming months to outfit the new mammals with miniscule radio collars to learn more about their habits, Dumbacher said.
Happy Bun(shrew)day (|^_^|)
After analyzing thousands of wild chimp-to-chimp gestures, University of St. Andrews researchers believe that they have translated the meanings of thirty-six chimpanzee gestures used to communicate.
According to the researchers, this is the first time that another animal communication system has been found to have meaning. Furthermore, this novel information may also offer an insight into the evolution of human language. The study has been published in Current Biology.
While previous research has found that apes and monkeys are able to understand information conveyed by the call of another animal, it did not appear that voices were used intentionally to communicate messages. This is the crucial difference between calls and gestures, lead researcher Catherine Hobaiter told BBC News, since chimps use gestures as a communication system to convey messages to others.
“That’s what’s so amazing about chimp gestures,” said Hobaiter. “They’re the only thing that looks like human language in that respect.”
In order to conduct this study, Hobaiter spent 18 months observing a group of wild chimpanzees in the Budongo rainforest in Uganda. She and colleague Richard Byrne then analyzed more than 4,500 chimp exchanges in order to decipher what the gestures could mean.
They found that chimpanzees use sixty-six gestures to deliberately communicate nineteen different meanings. The researchers were also able to assign true meanings for thirty-six of these gestures. For example, if the chimps wanted to play, they would stomp both feet, or if they wanted contact they would hug the air.
Some of the gestures were used to convey only one meaning, such as leaf clipping which is used to elicit sexual attention, whereas others were more ambiguous and could have several meanings. Grabbing another chimp, for example, is used to communicate: “Stop that,” “Climb on me,” and “Move away.” Furthermore, several different gestures could also be used for one meaning.
“What we’ve shown is a very rich system of many different meanings,” Byrne told Wired. “We have the closest thing to human language that you can see in nature.”
The researchers acknowledge that their study was limited by the fact that they could only assign meanings to gestures that provoked an action, meaning that there are probably many more subtle gestures that cannot be interpreted. Furthermore, it has been pointed out that the vague nature of some of the meanings likely means that we are missing a lot of information contained within these gestures.
Still, the researchers are confident that their work has merit.
“The big message is that there is another species out there that is meaningful in its communication, so that’s not unique to humans,” said Hobaiter. “I don’t think we’re quite as set apart as we would perhaps like to think we are.”
Happy Monk(ape)day :_)
Forest officials in northern India say a male tiger appears to be caring for two orphaned cubs in an extremely rare and unprecedented display of paternal caring. Officials say there just is no recorded evidence of males ever behaving like this.
The cubs lost their mother in February, in the Ranthambore Tiger Reserve. Officials there say they believe the male tiger, named T25, is their father. Wildlife experts say cubs are usually raised by their mothers and male tigers often kill cubs they come across.
These cubs, who are believed to be about eight months old now, were first seen on January 29th, with their mother T5, according to Field Director Rajesh Gupta in Ranthambore, India. He said after the tigress died in early February, the cubs were being reared in the wild by forest department staff, because they were too young to make a kill on their own.
“During my visit to the park on Monday 30 May, I was standing on the top of a cliff and I saw one of the cubs down below eating a kill,” Mr Gupta says. “It is seen in good health,” he said. “It appears as if the male tiger is allowing the cubs to eat their kill and not taking it for himself.”
“It’s very unusual,” UM Sahai, Rajasthan’s Chief Wildlife Warden, said from the state capital, Jaipur, “normally the tigress keeps an eye on the cubs while the father is a visitor, who is seen off and on, especially when he comes to mate with the tigress,” he said.
Wildlife experts say that it is common for male tigers to never even set eyes upon the cubs they father- especially when the mother is not present and many male tigers will simply see cubs as food.
Ranthambore, one of India’s best known tiger parks, has about forty tigers, including about a dozen cubs. According to the latest tiger census figures released in March, India has 1,706 of the big cats. The country had 100,000 tigers at the turn of the last century but there has been a serious decline in numbers since then.
Considering the statistics, a sudden surge in paternal skills of a tiger father couldn’t have come at a better time.
Happy Caturday =^_^=