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Friday, June 26, 2009

Update on Baboon buddies

So my last post dealt with baboons making male/female relationships. The authors of the paper basically said because the dudes weren't getting sex out of the females they didn't see what the males were getting out of it. The females did get harassed less.

WELL, I just happened to be listening to an archived episode of Radiolab, probably a couple of years old, and they interviewed Robert Sapolsky, author of Why Zebras Don't Get Ulcers and a studier of all things stressful. Sapolsky primary animal of study is baboons. In this interview, Sapolsky discussed this same phenomenon, where males will hang out with females, not for sex, just for companionship. Sapolsky actually seemed to imply that the males got more out of the relationships than the femmes. Why:

1. The males WERE in fact having sex more frequently with females in this troop of baboons.
2. When a dominant male gets old and loses his status, he is in essence drummed out of the troop, about half the time fleeing to a new troop where he is still lower on the totem pole but less harassed overall. HOWEVER, the half that don't leave the troop are the ones who formed friendships with the females.

Ha ha! Having females as your allies is a political and evolutionary good idea for baboons. So it works out well for everyone involved.

There are probably different cultures of baboon troops, but it's nice to know that at least for some male baboons it pays to have female friends.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Baboon buddies

Researchers recently found that baboons will have opposite gender friends, but they're not sure why, particularly what the males get out of the male-female friendship. I love the BBC headline, that baboon females will "exploit" their male friends. Great attitude, guys...

"Male and female baboons form platonic friendships, where sex is off the menu.

Having a caring friend around seems to greatly benefit the females and their infants, as both are harassed less by other baboons when in the company of their male pal.

But why the males choose to be platonic friends remains a mystery.

The finding published in Behavioral Sociobiology and Ecology also suggests that male baboons may be able to innately recognise their offspring."

The male buddies were not the genetic fathers, nor had they copulated with the female around the time the infant was conceived.

Nguyen, the baboon researcher, suggests "that by chaperoning a female in a platonic relationship, a male might advertise his parental skills to other females, who then might consider him a worthy partner. But as yet, there's no evidence for this or any other reason why males become chaperones. However, for the females, the benefits of having a chaperone are clear."

Females and their infants don't get harassed as much when there's a dude around.

Assembling Bodies

From my other blog, Art of Science:

From Material World:

Details of some of the objects shown in Assembling Bodies. © MAA.

How do we know and experience our bodies? How does the way we understand the human body reflect and influence our relations with others?

Assembling Bodies: Art, Science & Imagination is a major interdisciplinary exhibition at the Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology (MAA) University of Cambridge, open from March 2009 to November 2010. Curated by Anita Herle, Mark Elliott and Rebecca Empson, the exhibition explores some of the different ways that bodies are imagined, understood and transformed in the arts, social and biomedical sciences. They displays showcase Cambridge’s rich and diverse collections, complemented by loans from national museums and exciting contemporary artworks. It brings together a range of remarkable and distinctive objects, including the earliest stone tools used by human ancestors, classical sculptures, medieval manuscripts, anatomical drawings, scientific instruments, the model of the double helix, ancestral figures from the Pacific, South African body-maps and kinetic art.

The idea of assembly evokes two distinct but overlapping themes that underlie the exhibition. Jim Bond’s kinetic sculptures illuminate one notion of assembly – the process of putting something together, of creating something new from component parts. Positioned at the entrance to the gallery, Atomised (2005) (below) is triggered by the movement of visitors into the gallery. An openwork human figure is pulled apart and put together by external telescopic ‘arms’.

Read full post and see more pictures at Material World.

Atomised. Jim Bond. Animated Sculpture, 2005

Sunday, June 14, 2009

More animal adventures at the zoo

My co-writer has posted another article about our adventures at the zoo at his other blog Natural Athletics.

He focuses mostly on his personal interactions with the animals in the first half of the article (not to downplay those; a couple of moments as he describes them are amazing!), but I think the most important part of his article in the latter third where he discusses the health of animals when interacting with humans. Since my graduate work has been focused on what we can do to help enrich animals lives (including humans), I found this part particularly applicable to my own life and studies. But that's just me.

Speaking of, I should really be writing my thesis right now...which hopefully explains the sporadic posting over the past, well, two years, but hopefully that will soon change. In the meantime...hi ho, hi ho, it's off to word-processing I go...

Saturday, June 6, 2009

More links on primates

As promised:

First, another possible missing link candidate, and NOT the guy from Germany that got everyone in a tithy.

Next, how primates trick their friends into giving them food.

Finally, the latest trend in pick-up tricks...pick-up sticks!

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Laughter among primates

Lots of cool research has been published lately about primates and how complicated and awesome we are.

The latest is research showing that at least four primates other than humans use the same muscles, vocal intonations, and so on, to laugh at stuff that is funny, namely tickling.

I have more that I can share later, but for now: more adorable photos of primates from Woodland Park Zoo.

Rafe also had an awesome encounter with a snow leopard; definitely a complex interplay between mammals there. I'll ask him to blog about it here.