The two chimps above, Vali and Sugriva, attended the premier of the new Dawn of the Planet of the Apes film along with a thousand other movie-goers in the BigD Auditorium at Carmike Cinema, in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.
The two chimps are highly intelligent, and often watch other movies, like Lord of the Rings, on televisions at Myrtle Beach Safari, where they live. They even paid for their own food and drinks!
Check out the video below to learn more about their trip to the movies:
Vali and Sugriva were escorted by the safari’s director, Bhagavan Antle. He points out that the chimps are able to identify the good guys and the bad guys by their facial expressions. In fact, their reactions to the movie weren’t all that different from our own.
Although some people were somewhat uncomfortable with the idea of watching Planet of the Apes with two chimps, Antle dismissed the notion that the film could somehow make Vali and Sugriva turn into the chimps from the movie.
Plus, they clapped for the good guys and jeered the bad guys, so I don’t think we have anything to worry about.
As far back as the 1960s, scientists were aware that a number of whiptail lizards in Mexico and the southwestern United States were made up entirely of females.
The most notable of these species, the New Mexico whiptail lizard, is able to reproduce healthy, well-bred offspring without the aid of male fertilization.
Whiptails aren’t the only species that reproduce asexually. In fact, there are 70 other vertebrate species that can do it. But the New Mexico whiptail may have unlocked the secret as to how it’s possible for a species that produces exclusively asexually to thrive.
Peter Baumann works at the Stowers Institute for Medical Research in Kansas City, Missouri. He co-authored a study on the lizards that was published in the journal Nature back in 2010.
Baumann explains that parthenogenteic species (species that reproduce without fertilization), are genetically isolated because they only inherit the DNA of one parent.
This means that any genetic weaknesses, like susceptibility to a disease or physical mutation, can’t be “overridden” by healthy genes from a second parent. The shallower the gene pool, the more likely it is to produce sick or mutated offspring.
To deal with this issue, the all-female whiptail lizard species have evolved to start the reproductive process with twice as many chromosomes as their sexually-producing lizard relatives.
New Mexico whiptail lizards were actually the result of two different species of lizard (the western whiptail and little striped whiptail) interbreeding to form a hybrid species. Because of this, these all-female lizards are equipped with a very diverse gene pool.
Instead of combining homologous chromosomes (like sexual species do, getting one set from each parent), the lizards pair recombined sister chromosomes instead. This maintains heterozygosity in the offspring.
Here’s a more simple way to think about it. Every one one us has DNA from generations and generations of our ancestors. When we reproduce, we combine our DNA with our partner’s- the resulting offspring’s genetic codes contains parts of both parents’ DNA.
But since we have such vast genetic diversity from all of our ancestors, the exact coding of the genes we pass along when we reproduce isn’t always the same, which is why brothers and sisters don’t all look the same.
So, rather than combining its genetic code with that of a male, the whiptail lizard combines two different versions of its own DNA code, ensuring that each pairing of sister chromosomes will have multiple alleles (different forms of a gene), which gives the offspring the genetic diversity it needs to be healthy.
This discovery means that,
“these lizards have a way of distinguishing sister from homologous chromosomes,”
says Baumann. How do they do this? The researchers aren’t sure yet, but it’s the next question they will be investigating, along with the question of how they evolved to start reproduction with double the normal amount of chromosomes.
Though it may seem like asexual reproduction would eventually hurt a species in the long run, Baumann also pointed that,
“You’re greatly increasing the chances of populating a new habitat if it only takes one individual.”
It seems to be working pretty well for these lizard ladies.
Read the original story from the Scientific American here.
Earlier today, I discussed the controversy surrounding Kendall Jones, a 19-year-old Texas Tech leader who hunts big game in Africa and posts the pictures to Facebook.
In the caption of a picture of her with an African leopard, Kendall described the hunt as a “fair chase”. I feel the need to disambiguate that term.
Let me present the San people of the Kalahari desert in Africa. This traditional hunter-gatherer society inhabits the Kalahari Desert in southern Africa. San men go on marathons across the desert to track down the Kudu antelope which provide key protein for their families:
The San people lived as hunter-gatherers for countless generations until government modernization programs, lasting from the 1950s until the 1990s, mandated that many of the San switch to farming.
They are one of our fourteen surviving “ancestral population clusters” from which all modern humans today descend from. Studies of the San have provided a wealth of information in the fields of anthropology and genetics.
So let’s be clear: hunting with high-powered rifles and motorized vehicles is as far from a “fair chase” as it gets.
A group of chimps at the Chimfunshi Wildlife Orphanage Trust sanctuary in Zambia have a new fashion statement: sticking a blade of grass in one ear.
Chimps are highly intelligent and are known to use grass to fish for termites, but after extensive study, scientists have concluded that there is no discernible purpose for what they’re calling the “grass-in-ear behavior”.
It all started back in 2010 when an older female named Julie started sporting a long blade of grass from her ear. Julie was a sort of role model for the other 11 chimps in her group, and they paid close attention to her strange new behavior.
After repeatedly observing the behavior for a while, other chimps in the group began to join. Although Julie has since passed away, seven of the 11 chimps from her group still sport blades of grass from their ears today.
Edward van Leeuwen is a primate expert at the Max Planck Institute in the Netherlands who led a study to examine the odd behavior. Him and his colleagues spent a year observing four groups of chimps at the Chimfunshi orphanage.
Despite the fact that all four groups lived in the same grassy environment, only Julie’s group exhibited the “grass-in-ear behavior”. After extensive observation, van Leeuwen concluded that there were no genetic or ecological purposes for the behavior- it had simply become part of the group’s culture.
“The chimps would pick a piece of grass, sometimes fiddle around with it as to make the piece more to their liking, and not until then try and stick it in their ear with one hand… Most of the time, the chimps let the grass hanging out of their ear during subsequent behavior like grooming and playing, sometimes for quite prolonged times. As you can imagine, this looks pretty funny,”
says van Leeuwen. He also pointed out that the behavior isn’t much different then the fads that emerge amongst humans, comparing it to, “wearing earrings or certain kinds of hats.”
You may have heard of or even seen coral reefs before. The corals that make up these reefs may look like strange rock formations or odd plants, but in actuality, corals are animals.
These marine invertebrates live in large colonies of genetically identical polyps: tiny, spineless creatures which are typically vase-shaped. A colony of these polyps is known as a coral “head”.
Corals don’t do anything very fast, which is why many people mistake them for rocks or plants. But when you get long term footage of these strange creatures and speed it up, you immediately realize that they are very much alive.
Check out this awesome time lapse video of corals in Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, captured by Pim Bongaerts from the University of Queensland:
Coral also use the calcium and carbonate in the water to create a hard, calcified exoskeleton for protection (which is why some mistake them for rocks). When a polyp is physically stressed, it recedes behind this tough outer layer.
Coral are also equipped with stinging tentacles, which they typically use to capture plankton and small fish. They also use them when competing for space with other corals.
You may have never heard of stoats before. These cute little creatures are closely related to ferrets, which are becoming an increasingly popular house pet these days.
But don’t let their innocent appearance fool you- stoats are ferocious hunters. And when their speed and agility isn’t enough, they have a strange but fascinating secret weapon: hypnotism.
Check out a stoat using this amazing ability to snare a rabbit in the video below:
Stoats are very hardy creatures, and are able to live in all kinds of environments from the Siberian Arctic, to the mountains of Japan to the Great Plains of the United States. They can be found in Europe, North America, Asia and New Zealand.
A large portion of a stoat’s development centers around play fighting, which builds up their strength and stamina and hones their agility. These fine-tuned skills allow them to take down some surprisingly challenging prey.
The video below shows some of this play fighting, and also shows a stoat taking down a rabbit 10 times its size, using the hunting skills it perfected as an adolescent.
More than 160 years ago, in 1851, Herman Melville published one of the most famous books in American literature history. Moby Dick tells the story of a massive white whale and a ship captain (Ahab) bent on getting revenge for a leg he lost trying to battle the beast.
The story of Australia’s famous albino humbpack whale is quite different. Migaloo (which means “white fella” in one of Australia’s aboriginal languages), was first discovered back in 1991. It’s estimated he was between 3-5 years old at that time.
Every winter, more than 12,000 humpbacks migrate up Australia’s east coast to reach warmer waters. While most humpbacks stay in deep waters well of the coast, some of them, like Migaloo, prefer to travel closer to shore, where humans can see them.
Every year, countless people flock to Australian waters hoping to catch a glimpse. Although he is not the only white humpback in the world, Migaloo’s tendency to swim in waters close to shore has made him probably the most famous. He has his own twitter account and you can even buy his songs on iTunes.
This past January, Migaloo made a rare appearance with a few of his buddies, putting on quite the show for anyone lucky enough to catch it. You can watch some of the footage below.
Why is he white? Questions were initially raised as to whether Migaloo was actually albino after it was discovered that his eyes were actually brown (most albinos have red or white eyes).
However, a study of Migaloo’s DNA revealed that he had a genetic mutation which truncated the protein that produces melanin, the substance which gives our skin its color. This finding proved Migaloo was a true albino.