Living Links is a Winner in Public Engagement

andy public engagement

 

 

 

 

 

 

Our founding director of Living Links Professor Andrew Whiten from the University of St Andrews, is to be awarded the Senior Public Engagement Prize 2014 from the Royal Society of Edinburgh (RSE) for his extensive, creativity and unique forms of public engagement at the Living Links Centre and beyond.

Each year the RSE highlights some of the UK’s most outstanding talent through its Royal Medals and Prize Winner awards. The awards are given to those working at the present time, and include those who have reached the pinnacle of their discipline and are regarded as such internationally.

President of the RSE, Sir John Arbuthnott, said: ‘One of the great privileges of my role is meeting the Royal Medalists and Prize Winners. These are our highest accolades. They reflect the Enlightenment spirit of the RSE’s Royal Charter of 1783 and its remit to advance learning and useful knowledge. My warmest congratulations to all of this year’s recipients.’

To get an overview of our public engagement activities click on the link below http://www.living-links.org/visitors-2/public/.

It’s written all over your face!

Guest Blogger – Annabel Scott , BSc Environmental Stewardship –  Glasgow University

In a recent study by Wilson et al. (2013), the facial structure of capuchin monkeys was examined to see whether differences in this link to different personality traits.

Sixty-four capuchins were examined from three institutes: our Living Links monkeys here in Edinburgh Zoo, the Language Research Centre at Georgia University and the Laboratory of Comparative Ethology at the National Institute of Health.  Front facing photographs were used to find the measurements for each capuchin.  fWHR (facial width to height ratio) was determined by the ratio of bizygomatic width to upper face height as shown below.   Lower face/face height (eyelids-chin/height of whole face) and face width/lower face height (bizygomatic width/height of whole face) were also calculated.

wilson et al monkey face

 

 

 

Personality ratings were collected for each individual by a measure used in non-human primates.  These were scored on a 7-point scale, which ranged from no signs of the trait (1) to extreme display (7).  Five traits were looked at; assertiveness, openness, attentiveness, neuroticism and sociability.  Below are photos that illustrate the differences in capuchin face morphology.

capuchin faces

 

 

Examinations of lower face/face showed a significant effect of age as the ratio increases, however no sign of sexual dimorphism.  Neuroticism was found to be non-dimorphic in capuchins, but in humans both neuroticism and lower face/face height are sexually dimorphic.  fWHR is not sexually dimorphic in humans.  Capuchins with higher ratios of lower face/face height (longer lower face) were found to be more neurotic and less attentive.  Therefore facial morphology of capuchins determines three personality traits: assertiveness, attentiveness and neuroticism.

figure one face chart The following graph (Fig. 1.) shows how face width/lower face height has a significant age × sex interaction, with males showing a higher face width/lower face height ratio than females.  These sex differences increase across the life span.  Humans also exhibit sexual dimorphism in this facial metric, however women show higher ratios than men and this also increases with age.

fWHR and face width/lower face height both showed a link to assertiveness.  One possible reason that these facial metrics relate to personality is due to the connection with status and leadership traits.  Status in humans can be based on force or friendship, lower face/face height however, may be driven by vigilance and attention span, therefore linked to a social form of status.

Openness and sociability appear to affect sociality and cognition in capuchins.  Sexual dimorphism may be linked to differences in morphology, so future work with these species may help to understand what determines species-specific personality traits and why they are associated with facial structure.

Further studies could look at sex-specific age growth in capuchin facial metrics and could also examine the effects of location and body weight.  Examining the lower face/face height further could tell us the origins of status effects on well-being and emotional traits, which could be linked to status in humans.

Reference

Wilson, V., Lefevre, C.E., Morton, F.B., Brosnan, S.F., Paukner, A. and Bates, T.C. (2013). Personality and facial morphology: Links to assertiveness and neuroticism in capuchins (Sapajus [Cebus] apella), Personality and Individual Differences. (IN PRESS)

 

 

Young Primatologist Wins Prestigious European Science Prize

Erica van de WaalCongratulations to St Andrews researcher Dr Erica van de Waal who has been awarded the 2014 Niko Tinbergen Award of the Ethologische Gesellschaft, the Society which organises the annual European Conference on Behavioural Biology (ECBB).

Dr van de Waal will give a plenary lecture at the ECBB meeting in July in Prague.

For the past three years, Dr van de Waal has been a research fellow studying social learning in wild African Vervet monkeys, part of an international collaboration between the Universities of Neuchatel, Zurich and St Andrews, funded by the Swiss National Science Foundation(SNSF). This year, she begins her own postdoctoral fellowship in St Andrews to continue her collaboration with Professor Andrew Whiten, funded by the SNSF.

FREE Lecture – The Culture of Apes & Other Animals

Primate (37)Professor Andrew Whiten, from the St Andrews University School of Psychology and Neuroscience, will deliver this year’s Sir James Black Prize and Medal Lecture in Edinburgh.

The lecture will highlight recent discoveries in primates and other species, revealing animal culture as a “second inheritance system” that complements the better known results of genetic inheritance.

Admission is free but seats are already being snapped up, so you must be booked in advance via The Cultures of Apes and other Animals

Date : Monday  19th May 2014
Time : 6:00 pm
Location : The Royal Society of Edinburgh
22-26 George Street,
Edinburgh,
EH2 2PQ

BBC2 – Wild Brazil Researcher at Living Links

Next week we will be welcoming Camila Galheigo Coelho a PhD student from Durham University who has been studying wild capuchin behaviour.

Some of her work will be featured in the BBC2 three part documentary Wild Brazil which airs January 14 – 16th at 9pm.

She has been studying ‘Social dynamics and the diffusion of novel behaviour patterns’ in capuchin monkeys and our monkeys here will now have a chance to take part in tasks that their wild counter parts have done.

BBC2 researcher wild brazil

 

 

Do Squirrel Monkeys Understand the Rules of Language?

flora 2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The ability to learn patterns, ultimately the rules of language has rarely been studied in new world primates. In this study the researchers use species specific sounds/tones to determine if the squirrel monkeys were able to decipher when the correct order and incorrect order of these sounds were played. This is the first study that has used species specific frequencies in order to test their abilities. Other studies relied on humans producing syllables, which may not have been the most appropriate way to measure the monkeys’ capabilities.

Two ordered sound patterns were tested with the same rule being applied of A Bn A.

Test 1 – Low Tone= A, and High Tone = B (eg. Low, High, High, High, Low)

Test 2 – High Tone = A and Low Tone = B (eg. High, Low, Low, High)

The results suggest that the monkeys were able to consistently decipher when the rules were being broken in both the test settings.

These finding suggests that the ancestor of both squirrel monkeys and humans which existed approximately 36 million years ago would also have been able to understand the rules involved in pattern learning, thus most living apes and monkeys today should also be able to do this. This skill may have evolved as a cognitive ability rather than a direct pre-cursor to language.

Ravignani, A., Sonnweber, RS., Stobbe, N. and Fitch, TW (2013). Action at a distance: dependency sensitivity in a New World primate. Biology Letters. 9. 20130852

Ruth Sonnweber, one of the scientists from this study is now continuing similar work here with our squirrel monkeys in Living Links, however instead of sound stimuli she has been using touch screen to determine their ability to learn patterns.

sq monkey touch screen x 2

 

 

Hey mate? There is a snake!

Chimpanzee Alarm Call Production Meets Key Criteria for Intentionality

Determining the intentionality of primate communication is vital to understanding the evolution of human language. Although intentional signalling has been studied for some great ape gestures, comparable evidence is currently lacking for their vocal signals.

In this study the following criteria were used to analyse if the Sonso group of chimpanzees in the Budongo Forest in Uganda were communicating with intention.

criteria for intentionality in chimp comms

 

 

 

 

 

 

The researchers presented the chimpanzees with a python model with up to 4 observers recording the calls and behaviours of each focal individual.

chimp intent calls diagram

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Figure – The snake image represents the location of the python
model, concealed by leaves. Observers and their main roles are defined. The
chimpanzee image depicts the focal chimpanzee, who could be accompanied by
other group members depending on the experimental condition.

The results of this study indicate that some chimpanzee calls meet the criteria for intentionality, for example most chimpanzees who had seen the snake model gave calls and demonstrated gaze alternation and audience checking with a fellow chimpanzee. ‘Waa Barks’ (WB) and ‘Alarm Huus’(AH) were produced in the presence of socially important individuals who had not seen the snake. Furthermore , WB’s and AH’s were increased in the presence of friends vs. non-friends.

The researchers believe that their findings disagree with the gestural theories of language origins and instead support a multimodal origin for human language.

Video illustrating gaze alternation and looking at a group member before producing waa barks. Video is filmed from position 2. Focal adult female Nambi reacts to the arrival of her adult son Musa by turning and looking at Musa before producing her first waa barks of the trial. Nambi then looks immediately back at the snake, showing gaze alternation between the recipient and the snake whilst calling. During Nambi’s waa bark production, Musa stands bipedally.

 

Schel, AM., Townsend,SW.,Machanda, Z.,Zuberbuhler, K., and Slocombe, KE. (2013). Chimpanzee Alarm Call Production Meets Key Criteria for Intentionality. PLoS ONE 8 (10): DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0076674

 

 

Monkeying Around At Halloween

capuchins 3 with pumpkincapuchin with pumpkin

Keepers at the Living Links Centre have created special Halloween-themed enrichment for the monkeys; spooky pumpkins, paper mache balloons and ice lollies have been hung from the trees in the outdoor enclosures.

Sophie Pearson, Team Leader for Living Links and the Budongo Trail, said:

“All of the keepers have spent several days working on the Halloween surprise for our monkeys and we love coming up with new enrichment ideas for them to enjoy. We have made spooky faces on paper mache balloons and filled Halloween cups with frozen treats. They also don’t often get pumpkin so this will be an extra special surprise for them!

“Capuchins are very intelligent and inquisitive, with their own individual personalities, and it is great fun waiting to see how they will interact with the various activities or treats they receive. By hanging the enrichment in the trees, there is an added level of complexity, which will mean the capuchins will have to use their prehensile tails and excellent climbing skills to reach their treats.

“They are also quite destructive and simply love to pull things apart, just like little children.”

The Halloween enrichment will provide both mental and physical stimulation for the monkeys, as well as provide visitors with the opportunity to see the troupe display natural behaviours normally seen in the wild. The capuchins at Edinburgh Zoo regularly receive enrichment that utilises their problem solving skills and encourages team work within the complex social hierarchy.

Please Knock

inti says please knock

 

 

 

 

Reliably signalling a startling husbandry event improves welfare of zoo-housed capuchins (Sapajus apella)

Kristina Rimpley and Prof Hannah Buchanan-Smith of Stirling University examined the effect of giving the capuchins a reliable signal (a knock on the door) 3 seconds prior to a keeper entering the enclosure to perform a husbandry event. The study hypothesised two main things;

1. That unreliable signals that indicate husbandry events may have a negative impact on capuchin behaviour.

2. Making a husbandry event predictable will decrease anxiety related behaviours prior to the husbandry event.

To address these hypotheses the researchers studied 12 of the capuchins at Living Links, 6 from the West and 6 from the East. Behaviours that were used as indicators for anxiety levels were scratch, vigilance and jerky motion.behaviour categories for please knock

 

 

 

 

 

Baseline information was gathered on the monkeys’ behaviour 5 minutes before and after door events, with a door event being defined as the opening and/or closing of any door in the keeper area which could be heard by the capuchins.

knock before you enter diagram

 

 

 

 

 

As you will see in the figure above there are many doors in the keeper area and they may be opened or closed for a variety of reasons. Thus hearing a door could not predictably signal a keeper would enter a capuchin enclosure. In fact only 30% of door events resulted in a keeper entering a capuchin enclosure.

Therefore the researchers implemented the treatment of the door knock 3 seconds prior to a husbandry event to allow the capuchins a predictable indicator that a keeper was about to enter. The capuchins were given 2 weeks to get used to knocking as a signal then observed again to see if their anxiety levels had changed towards door events.

picture 2 for please knock

 

 

 

 

 

 

The results indicate that there was a decrease in anxiety related behaviours of the capuchins in the after door event in the treatment phase, thus supporting the notion that giving the animals a predictable indicator of events can benefit the overall welfare of the monkeys.

This is a great technique that can be implemented very easily for no cost and no additional time and can have a great benefit to all our monkeys’ well being.

Reference

Rimpley, K and Buchanan-Smith, H (2013). Reliably signalling a startling husbandry event improves welfare of zoo-housed capuchins (Sapajus apella). Applied Animal Behaviour Science. 147, 205-213.