Tool use in Chimpanzees AKA the perils of interspecies dating. NSFW.

Lots of attention has been paid to the capacity of great apes to use objects as tools. Well, here we have an example of a chimpanzee at the Honolulu Zoo using a toad as a “marital aide”. I feel bad for the poor toad, it certainly doesn’t deserve to be treated like an object.
There’s not more I can say about the subject, frankly I’m still simultaneously trying to process it and scrub it from my brain. Again, not safe for work viewing.

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Convergent evolution of a gene that blocks HIV in monkeys

Here we have yet another example of evolution cobbling together new proteins from existing structures. And what do you know, it kinda matters:

The TRIM5-CypA gene found in Asian macaques is a hybrid of two existing proteins, TRIM5 and CypA. This combination creates a single protein that blocks infections by lentiviruses.
This is the second time a TRIM5-CypA hybrid gene has been identified in monkeys. The other one — TRIMCyp — was found in South American owl monkeys in 2004. But it’s not likely that these two gene combinations arose from a single common ancestor, the Harvard researchers said.

Didn’t arise from a single common ancestor? But how can we know that? Only if the gene isn’t present in other Old World monkeys or other New World monkeys.

TRIM5-CypA wasn’t found in monkey closely related to the Asian macaques and TRIMCyp wasn’t found in any other South American primate species. This suggests that the two combination genes evolved separately, once in the macaques and once in the owl monkeys.

Ooops.
That’s pretty telling. These two populations of primate are separated by many millions of years of evolutionary processes. Likely this mutation is fixed in both species because it provides some sort of evolutionary advantage outside of HIV infections. It will be interesting to see what that might advantage might be.
I’d like to see the full paper, but PLoS Pathology is down for maintenance right now. Oh well. In the meantime, we’ll all just reflect on how useless Intelligent Design is.

Viva la Evolucion!!!

My simian brethren are taking over:

“Wildlife officials are trying to find them. As police we’re not experts in dealing with monkeys. We can deal with mad bulls but monkeys are more difficult,” he said.
Along with an estimated 35,000 sacred cows and buffaloes that roam free in the capital, marauding monkeys have been longstanding pests.
They routinely scamper through government offices, courts and even police stations and hospitals as well as terrorise neighbourhoods.

They even took down the deputy mayor of Delhi!!!

He was on his balcony reading a newspaper when four monkeys appeared. As he waved a stick to scare them away, he tumbled over the edge, his family said.
In the latest incident in Delhi’s Shastri Park area, residents reported the monkeys appeared late Saturday and rampaged for hours.

Monkeys rampaging for hours! People are dying! IT’S A MADHOUSE!!!!!
I find this whole situation quite interesting. Not just for the unfortunate freak accidents. There’s an interesting public health problem here someplace. While they’re not your average vermin, monkeys carry all sorts of nasty diseases like Herpes B virus. Some of them, like the B virus, are quite fatal. And I doubt that there’s a system in place to track the outbreaks.

Like primates? Tough. Kiss ’em goodbye.

It’s not a good millenium to be a monkey.

GENEVA (AFP) – Nearly a third of all non-human primates could be wiped out, threatened by illegal wildlife trade, climate change and destruction of their habitat, a new report warned on Friday.
Twenty-nine percent of all monkeys, apes and gorilla species are now in danger of going extinct, according to the report by the Swiss-based World Conservation Union (IUCN).

A complete shame because we have so many close relatives on our family bush that can teach us about evolution, how our brains work, and generally what it means to be human.

It highlighted 25 species it said were most endangered, including the Greater bamboo and white-collared lemurs in Madagascar, and the exotically-named Miss Waldron’s red colobus monkey in West Africa.
“You could fit all the surviving members of these 25 species in a single football stadium; that’s how few of them remain on Earth today,” warned Russell Mittermeier, chairman of the IUCN’s Primate Specialist Group.

I suppose a single football stadium seats about 40,000 people. That means there’s 1600 of each species left alive, on average. One seriously has to consider now whether there is enough genetic diversity left in those small cohorts to repopulate each species.
The primary cause? Loss of habitats. Animals don’t just die off in a vacuum; deforestation especially is going to take its toll because most of these species live in wooded areas. Climate change is only going to exacerbate things more than it already has.
Let’s not make this the century of dead primates. Get involved.

Thank you, George Allen

As every Evil Monkey knows, you’ve bestowed upon a student from UVA a great honor.

S.R. Sidarth, a senior at the University of Virginia, had been trailing Allen with a video camera to document his travels and speeches for the Webb campaign. During a campaign speech Friday in Breaks, Virginia, near the Kentucky border, Allen singled out Sidarth and called him a word that sounded like “Macaca.”
“This fellow here over here with the yellow shirt, Macaca, or whatever his name is. He’s with my opponent. He’s following us around everywhere. And it’s just great. We’re going to places all over Virginia, and he’s having it on film and its great to have you here and you show it to your opponent because he’s never been there and probably will never come.”

Senatory, I firmly believe Mr. Sidarth should be grateful that you refer to him as being of the wisest primate genus, Macaca. I’m sure, Mr. Allen, that you were only able to pick him out because, being one of the few non-white people there, he probably looks the most like a monkey to you.
Virginians should be proud of their senator today, for his ability to reach out and strengthen interprimate relations. He’s practically Nixonian in that regard! Here’s to George Allen; making species-species bigotry a thing of the past. He joins other intellectual giants such as Rick “man-on-dog” Santorum.
(Yes, you can cut the sarcasm with a knife.)

Anniversary Trip, or How Not to Treat a Monkey

Mrs. Evil Monkey and I went to visit Fallingwater for our 8th anniversary, and got some interesting surprises along the way. Lots of photos involved.

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Of Sweet Potatoes, Social Cognition, and Spiritual Hullabaloo

I did my Ph.D. using monkeys as a model system, and as such I have quite an affinity for the little buggers. They may not be cute, they may not smell good, and they’re definitely not cuddly, but they’re completely endearing due to their penchant for outsmarting their H. sapiens bretheren. Unfortunately, not even an irascible, crusty old primate is immune from pseudoscientific nonsense. The Hundredth Monkey is one example.

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