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.


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

Know Your Primate: Anoiapithecus brevirostris

Order: Primates
Suborder: Haplorrhini
Family: Hominidae
Subfamily: incertae sedis
Tribe: Dryopithecini
Genus: Anoiapithecus
Species: Anoiapithecus brevirostris

I have chosen Anoiapithecus brevirostris for this week’s “know Your Primate” because a paper on it has recently been published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B. The paper, by Alba, Fortuny, and Moya-Sola, looks at enamel thickness in Anoiapithecus brevirostris, Pierolapithecus catalaunicus, and Dryopithecus fontani.
I”l have more about the paper later in the week. Continue reading

Know Your Primate: Pongo abelii

Order: Primates
Suborder: Haplorrhini
Family: Hominidae
Genus: Pongo
Species: Pongo abelii
Common Name: Sumatran Orangutan

The sumatran orang lives, obviously, in Sumatra – they are an endemic species. According several genetic analysis the Sumatran and Bornean populations diverged from each other about 1.5-1.7 MYA. They are largely frugivorous and spend most of their time in trees. On the ground they are quadrupedal. Unlike the chimpanzee, bonobo, and gorilla, they are not knuckle walkers they use their fist. Males tend to be solitary.

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Von Economo Neurons and Hominoids

I mentioned a few weeks ago that I would have more to say about primates, brain evolution, and life history. I still plan on exploring that in future posts, but wanted to mention this interesting item that deserves a post of its own.

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Know Your Primate: Pan paniscus

Know Your Primate grew out of posts I wrote specifically for the Friday Ark back on my old blog. The point was to write short, informative posts about whatever species struck my fancy (and at that point was not limited to primates). Once I moved to ScienceBlogs those kind of posts went by the wayside. Then in July, 2006 I decided to resurrect the idea with a specific focus on primates. In the time since I have focused on a wide variety of primates but, with one or two exceptions, have avoided the extant apes. This is largely due to the explosion of knowledge about them in the past 10-15 years, which makes it hard to write a short post in the format I have chosen for this series. Bearing that limitation in mind, here is this weeks primate.

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Know Your Primate: Nakalipithecus nakayamai

Order: Primates
Suborder Anthropoidea
Infraorder Catarrhini
Superfamily Hominoidea
Genus: Nakalipithecus
Species: Nakalipithecus nakayamai
It’s been awhile since I have used a fossil primate in this series, so “ripped straight from the headlines” (as they say in the Law and Order commercials) here is Nakalipithecus nakayamai:

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Australopithecus afarensis and Apes: One from the Archives

I’m currently trying to get through a rather lengthy book – which I will be reviewing in a later post – so in the meantime here is one from the archives… I wrote it back in April of 2005 and think I would write it somewhat differently today. I’ve toyed with doing a similar post on the post-crania …
One of the most aggravating things one can hear, if one has any training in paleoanthropology, is that the australopithicines were nothing but glorified apes. So let’s study the issue (hey, I have to justify the name of this blog, okay! Which means more hominids.) The first set of pictures below is a frontal view of A. afarensis, a chimp, an orang and a gorilla.

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