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Touristing Through Monkey Country

Monkeys may seem to be cute and cuddly, but don’t forget while touristing through monkey country: they are very smart and very fast, and they might steal your stuff or try to take off your clothes; either way, the other tourists will laugh hysterically at you.

Disclaimer: Brief nudity and one quick swear!

 

 

Happy Monkday :_)

Monkeys Do Advanced Math

Rhesus monkeys are able to perform math at an advanced level, reports a study this week from Harvard Medical Medical school. Monkeys can use symbols to add: a finding that sheds light on the evolutionary origins of math.

The monkeys were able to determine a greater value for food rewards (water, juice or orange soda) after learning to recognize numerals 0 to 9 and 16 letters. 

 

Humans possess a sophisticated combination of mathematical capabilities unmatched in the animal kingdom. Still, there is increasing evidence that at least some of these abilities are shared with other species. For instance, many animals can figure out which of two clusters of dots is larger or smaller.

 

To see how far back more advanced capabilities such as addition might go, scientists focused on somewhat distant relatives of humans: rhesus monkeys. While the ancestors of chimpanzees —humanity’s closest living relatives — diverged from humans about 6 million years ago, humans and rhesus monkeys parted ways roughly 25 million years ago. Both animals and humans can estimate how many items there are in a group, and the precision of these estimates decreases the more items there are.

 

The scientists taught three rhesus monkeys the values of 26 distinct symbols — the 10 Arabic numerals, and 16 letters. Each symbol was associated with zero to 25 drops of a reward of water, juice or orange soda. Given the choice of two different symbols, the monkeys chose the symbol that represented the larger reward with up to 90 percent accuracy. This suggested the monkeys learned to distinguish the symbols and assign them specific values, Livingstone said.

 

“The monkeys want the most of whatever is out there, and this is just one of many ways to figure out the best way to get the most,” she said.

 

The researchers then showed the monkeys pairs of symbols that yielded a reward equal to the added value of the symbols. The monkeys learned to add the values represented by the pairs of symbols to maximize their reward.

 

“They turned out to be like us — more accurate when values were represented by symbols than by the number of dots,” Livingstone said. “It tells us what good symbols are.”

To confirm the monkeys were performing a calculation and not just memorizing the value of each pair of symbols, the scientists next trained the monkeys to recognize another set of 26 symbols, each made of different clusters of four or five squares. The monkeys immediately applied their ability to add to these new symbols. The monkeys showed less accuracy with these new symbols than with the previous symbols, presumably because they were less familiar with the new symbols, Livingstone said.

 

“The monkeys did not memorize the addition of pairs of numerals; they just fairly accurately combined two symbols,” Livingstone said. The scientists detailed their findings online today (April 21) in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

 

In future studies with the monkeys, “we will ask whether they can learn to multiply,” Livingstone said. Such research could shed more light on how the monkeys think about numbers.

 

Happy Monkday :_)

 

http://news.discovery.com/animals/monkey-math-and-other-number-crunching-critters-140427.htm

http://www.livescience.com/44986-monkeys-do-math.html

 

Ode to a Pocket Monkey

O Pygmy Marmoset,
O Pocket Monkey,
Your face full of fluff
cannot hide your sweet smile,
as I anthropomorphisize you
and aggrandize your small stuff.

 

Your cute little paws,
All I hear are d’awws,
I drown in your big eyes of black.
What do you see,
my pocket monkey?
Don’t worry ’cause I’ve got your back.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Happy Monkday :_)

Curious Capuchins and Their Crayfish

Capuchin monkeys are very smart and curious little primates.  When they’re kept in a zoo, it is very important to keep the monkeys’ brains and bodies engaged in lots of activities.  This zoo staff, who put crayfish in their capuchin enclosure, definitely has the right idea.

 

 

Happy Monkday :_)

Monkey Earring

This is the littlest monkey in the world! It’s called a “pygmy marmoset”, but I like to refer to them as “pocket monkeys”. “Earring monkeys” just sounds kinda painful…. on my ears.

 

 

Happy Monkday :_)

Monkey Music

According to a new study, published in the latest issue of Biology Letters, music skills evolved at least 30 million years ago in the common ancestor of humans and monkeys, which could help explain why chimpanzees drum on tree roots and monkey calls sound like singing.  The study also suggests an answer to this chicken-and-egg question: Which came first, language or music? The answer appears to be music.

“Musical behaviors would constitute a first step towards phonological patterning, and therefore language,” lead author Andrea Ravignani said.

For the study, Ravignani, a doctoral candidate at the University of Vienna’s Department of Cognitive Biology, and his colleagues focused on an ability known as “dependency detection.” This has to do with recognizing relationships between syllables, words and musical notes. For example, once we hear a certain pattern like Do-Re-Mi, we listen for it again. Hearing something like Do-Re-Fa sounds wrong because it violates the expected pattern.

In the study, squirrel monkeys sat in a sound booth and listened to a set of three novel patterns. (The researchers fed the monkeys insects between playbacks, so the monkeys quickly got to like this activity.) Whenever a pattern changed, similar to our hearing Do-Re-Fa, the monkeys stared longer, as if to say, “Huh?”

“This kind of experiment is usually done by presenting monkeys with human speech,” co-author Ruth Sonnweber said. “Designing species-specific music-like stimuli may have helped the squirrel monkeys’ perception.”

 

The squirrel monkeys demonstrated that they understood sound patterns — and when they changed. This ability, central to language and music, therefore evolved at least 30 million years ago in the small and furry tree-dwelling primate that was the last common ancestor of humans and monkeys.  It’s likely that all primates today share these skills and are as aware of music as we humans are.

 

news.discovery.com/animals/monkey-human-ancestors-got-music-30-million-years-ago-131112.htm

 

Happy Monkday :_)

Purring Monkey Discovered in Amazon

According to the latest report from the World Wildlife Fund, 441 species of animals and plants have been discovered in the past four years in the Amazon Rainforest; found through hundreds of scientific expeditions between 2010 to 2013.  These new-to-science species includes 258 plants, 84 fish, 58 amphibians, 22 reptiles, 18 birds and one mammal.  That one mammal is a purring monkey.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This purring monkey is called the Caqueta titi monkey (Callicebus caquetensis) of the Colombian Amazon, whose babies have an endearing trait: “All of the babies purr like cats,” said scientist Thomas Defler, who helped discover the species. “When they feel very content they purr towards each other, and the ones we raised would purr to us.”

 

Happy Monkday :_)

 

http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2013/oct/23/purring-monkey-vegetarian-piranha-amazon-species

http://newswatch.nationalgeographic.com/2013/10/25/purring-monkey-flamboyant-lizard-new-amazonian-species-are-totally-wild/

http://www.natureworldnews.com/articles/4623/20131026/monkey-purrs-kitten-440-new-species-found-amazon-rainforest.htm