Chimp culture seen in ‘real time’

Photo by Cat Hobatier

Researchers, including Dr Catherine Hobaiter from the University of St Andrews, have observed the spread of a new tool being invented and used by a group of wild chimpanzees. This is the first time that researchers have been able to track the spread of a natural behaviour from individual to individual in the wild.

Whilst watching chimpanzees in the Sonso community in the Budongo Forest extracting water from a hole in the forest, the researchers noticed two things that they had never seen before in that group – the use of moss to form sponges and the reuse of leaf sponges. Chimpanzees in the Sonso community regularly form bundles of leaves to soak up water, but the use of moss was novel. By using a statistical technique called network-based diffusion analysis the researchers were able to track the spread of the behaviour from the alpha male who first used it, to other individuals who had been watching him.

The study is published in PLOS Biology and can be found online here. There will be more information about chimpanzee cultures and how we can trace the spread of new behaviours using social networks on the Animal Cultures stand in November.

Animal Cultures at Edinburgh Zoo

P1010604This week the science exhibit Animal Cultures is at Edinburgh Zoo. It is based in the Budongo Trail, where you will also see our resident chimpanzees (including the two-month old baby – Velu) Have a go at a chimp puzzle, while they watch you. Will you be as good as a chimp at learning how to find the hidden food?

Explore how researchers from Scotland and further P1010609afield have used  thousands of hours of observations, advanced gadgetry and fun experiments to work out how animals, from guppies to capuchins monkeys, learn from each other and form traditions. You can try your hand at recording the behaviour of vervet monkeys, attempt to hook out some delicious grubs using crow tools and see how meerkats teach their young to catch deadly scorpions.

The stand will be in Budongo Trail lecture theatre from 10.00 to 16.00 until Sunday 28 September. Each day researchers from the projects featured in the exhibit will be on hand to explain what they do and answer all your questions.

Wild Medicine Winner!

Lewis Anderson and Lewis Dean2 great throw by Lewis

 

 

 

 

 

 

During the Edinburgh International Science Festival we hosted an exhibit entitled ‘Wild Medicine’. The display highlighted research on how animals use the natural world around them to medicate themselves and/or prevent illness.

There was a stall in town and also activities and a trail in the zoo. Lewis Anderson successfully completed the zoo trail and was entered into a prize draw to assist in giving our capuchins their preferred medicinal item – Onions!

Today Lewis joined our team in delivering ‘wild medicine’ to our monkeys! All primates involved had a great time.

To learn more about animals using natural remedies see our short video entitled ‘Monkey Medicine’

Jane Goodall welcomed back to Living Links

Jane Goodall DBE, who opened Living Links with Sir Michael Atiyah in 2008, revisited the Centre on 30 April 2014. We were delighted to be able to show her how Living Links has flourished in the six years since opening, with our innovative combination of research and public engagement in a zoo setting.

Jane Goodall and Andrew WhitenResearchers from the Scottish Primate Research Group who work at Living Links and the Budongo Trail were on hand to meet Dr Goodall to discuss their research and, despite overcast conditions, Dr Emily Messer was able to give a demonstration of her work on capuchin fur rubbing (see our video Monkey Medicine for more information).

Professor Andrew Whiten, Director of Living Links, said: ‘It was an enormous pleasure to welcome Jane Goodall back to Living Links. We were able to show her the progress we have made in the Centre and we were delighted to have this pioneering primatologist take her place in our “My Primate Family Tree” mural.’

Dr Goodall spent the day at the zoo and gave the first in RZSS’s ‘Tribal Elders: Words of Wisdom’ lecture series.

Jane Goodall and RZSS researchers

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)

 

 

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

 

 

Science Summer School 2013 – New Mums depend on each other

summer school week 1 2013

From July 29th to August 9th RZSS Edinburgh Zoo runs a Science Summer School for teenagers aged 16-18 yrs. It is a week long introductory course into zoo and wildlife sciences.

Last week some of our students were observing our two new mothers in the West enclosure. Both Santi and Lana have recently had babies. The students were investigating who the group would spend more time with. Lana (the alpha female) and her baby or Santi and her baby (the newer baby). They found that the two mothers spent the most time together and the rest of the group and Diego the alpha male spent equal amounts of time with both the mothers.

Our students concluded that this result is very similar to human mothers who like spend time together bonding over the daily gripes of raising babies.

photo by kirsty banner

 

 

 

 

Photo by : Kirsty Cheyne