Project Nim

I first wrote about Nim back in June of 2008 when I reviewed the book Nim Chimpsky: The Chimp Who Would Be Human by Elizabeth Hess. In September of 2011 I mentioned that a documentary had been made based on the book by Hess. HBO aired the documentary last night and is airing it again on 10/19/14 (check your listings). I highly recommend it, but be warned it will make you sad and cause you to question the collective sanity of humans…

The Great Ape Heart Project

I meant to write about this a couple of months ago, after reading a story similar to this The original article I read, and forgot to bookmark, focused mainly on the process of how to train a gorilla to sit still for this kind of procedure (this article touches on that a little). I’m getting ahead of myself though. Heart disease is the number one killer of great apes in captivity. Getting a handle on that issue impacts their quality of life in captivity, attempts at conservation through reintroduction of animals into the wild, and, may say something about human evolution.

At any rate, you can learn more about the Great Ape Heart Project and if you are so inclined, learn how you can support the project here.

Gorilla Genome Sequenced!

The gorilla genome has been sequenced and yields some interesting insights on human evolution. The research is reported in Nature. The article is open access. Here is the abstract:

Gorillas are humans’ closest living relatives after chimpanzees, and are of comparable importance for the study of human origins and evolution. Here we present the assembly and analysis of a genome sequence for the western lowland gorilla, and compare the whole genomes of all extant great ape genera. We propose a synthesis of genetic and fossil evidence consistent with placing the human–chimpanzee and human–chimpanzee–gorilla speciation events at approximately 6 and 10 million years ago. In30%of the genome, gorilla is closer tohuman or chimpanzee than the latter are to each other; this is rarer around coding genes, indicating pervasive selection throughout great ape evolution, and has functional consequences in gene expression. A comparison of protein coding genes reveals approximately 500 genes showing accelerated evolution on each of the gorilla, human and chimpanzee lineages, and evidence for parallel acceleration, particularly of genes involved in hearing.Wealso compare the western and eastern gorilla species, estimating an average
sequence divergence time 1.75 million years ago, but with evidence for more recent genetic exchange and a population bottleneck in the eastern species. The use of the genome sequence in these and future analyses will promote a deeper understanding of great ape biology and evolution.

Know Your Primate: Presbytis hosei canicrus

Order: Primates
Suborder: Haplorrhini
Family: Cercopithecidae
Subfamily: Colobinae
Genus: Presbytis
Species: Presbytis hosei canicrus
Common Name: Miller’s grizzled langur
Presbytis hosei canicrus is a subspecies of grey leaf monkey. It was feared to be extinct but has recently been observed in Borneo. Picture Source


The open access journal Chinese Science Bulletin has an article on the carbon isotope values of Gigantopithecus blacki teeth. Continue reading

Project Nim

Back in 2008 I wrote a book review of Nim Chimpsky: The Chimp Who Would Be Human There are a number of stories in the Guardian concerning a documentary, based on the book, on the subject. First, Peter Singer reviews the film. Second, Carole Jahme interviews special effects artist Pauline Fowler. Finally, there is a picture gallery.

New Baby Black and White Colobus at the St. Louis Zoo!


From here

More pictures here

Know Your Primate: Parapapio broomi

Order: Primates
Family: Cercopithecidae
Subfamily: Cercopithecinae
Tribe: Papionini
Genus: Parapapio
Species: Parapapio broomi

The genus Parapaio is composed of four species: Parapapio jonesi, Parapapio whitei, Parapapio broomi, and Parapapio antiquus. The picture of Parapapio broomi below is that of a specimen from Bolt’s Farm and dates to about 2 MYA (the picture is somewhat distorted the snout is not as long as in a but is longer than in b. I have been unable to correct the distortion but the original picture can be found here). Parapapio broomi has also been found at Sterkfontein.

Continue reading

Changes in Primatology

I was looking through the archives for the publications of the American Museum of Natural History (they are open access and available here) when I came across a set of plates for the AMNH expedition to the Congo that ran from 1909-1915. The plates displayed primates sampled by the expedition – one of which is below. Continue reading

Know Your Primate: Archaeolemur majori

Order: Primates
Suborder: Strepsirrhini
Infraorder: Lemuriformes
Family: Archaeolemuridae
Genus: Archaeolemur
Species: Archaeolemur majori

Archaeolemurs are extinct lemurs from the island of Madagascar. They were quadrupedal frugivores that exploited both terrestrial and aboreal environments.

(Picture source: Tattersall 1973 Cranial Anatomy Of The Archaeolemurinae (Lemouroidea, Primates), Anthropological Papers of the AMNH, Vol 52, Part I)