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Mr. Lee, the slow loris.

These animals are sadly becoming more common in the pet trade, where their teeth are often removed to prevent biting. This is because they are venomous primates. They produce toxin from a gland on their arm. When threatened, they lick the gland on their arms and then bite. The toxin is extremely dangerous and can be lethal to humans.

Even if there was no God, even if human beings had no soul, it would still be true that evolution had created a remarkable animal — the human animal — during its millions of years of labor. So very like our closest biological relatives, the chimpanzees, yet so different. For our study of the chimpanzees had helped to pinpoint not only the similarities between them and us, but also those ways in which we are most different. Admittedly, we are not the only beings with personalities, reasoning powers, altruism, and emotions like joy and sorrow; nor are we the only beings capable of mental as well as physical suffering. But our intellect has grown mighty in complexity since the first true men branched off from the ape-man stock some two million years ago. And we, and only we, have developed a sophisticated spoken language. For the first time in evolution, a species evolved that was able to teach its young about objects and events not present, to pass on wisdom gleaned from the successes — and the mistakes — of the past, to make plans for the distant future, to discuss ideas so that they could grow, sometimes out of all recognition, through the combined wisdom of the group.

Happy 80th Birthday, Jane Goodall: The Beloved Primatologist on Science, Religion, and Our Human Responsibilities

It must be stressed that there is nothing insulting about looking at people as animals. We are animals, after all. Homo sapiens is a species of primate, a biological phenomenon dominated by biological rules, like any other species. Human nature is no more than one particular kind of animal nature. Agreed, the human species is an extraordinary animal; but all other species are also extraordinary animals, each in their own way, and the scientific man-watcher can bring many fresh insights to the study of human affairs if he can retain this basic attitude of evolutionary humility.
—  Desmond Morris, Manwatching; A Field Guide to Human Behaviour 
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Comparative Study of a Human and Chimpanzee Skull

  • by Katy Wiedemann

“This is a comparative study of the similarities between a human and chimpanzee skull commissioned by Studio Livrela for the “Darwin’s Spot” project. The study was hand drawn in ink using a pointillism technique.”

WORK EXPERIENCE

  • Scientific Illustration Intern Marine Biological Laboratory — Woods Hole, MA, USA
  • Curator’s Assistant and Animal Care Specialist The Edna Lawrence Nature Lab — Providence, RI, USA
  • Studio and Gallery Assistant PONSHOP Studio and Gallery — Fredericksburg, VA, USA 

***View Katy Wiedemann’s portfolio and learn more about her work.

(Source: Katy Wiedemann)

Chimps Outplay Humans in Brain Games

We humans assume we are the smartest of all creations. In a world with over 8.7 million species, only we have the ability to understand the inner workings of our body while also unraveling the mysteries of the universe. We are the geniuses, the philosophers, the artists, the poets and savants. We amuse at a dog playing ball, a dolphin jumping rings, or a monkey imitating man because we think of these as remarkable acts for animals that, we presume, aren’t smart as us. But what is smart? Is it just about having ideas, or being good at language and math?

Scientists have shown, time and again, that many animals have an extraordinary intellect. Unlike an average human brain that can barely recall a vivid scene from the last hour, chimps have a photographic memory and can memorize patterns they see in the blink of an eye. Sea lions and elephants can remember faces from decades ago. Animals also have a unique sense perception. Sniffer dogs can detect the first signs of colon cancer by the scents of patients, while doctors flounder in early diagnosis. So the point is animals are smart too. But that’s not the upsetting realization. What happens when, for just once, a chimp or a dog challenges man to one of their feats? Well, for one, a precarious face-off – like the one Matt Reeves conceived in the Planet of the Apes – would seem a tad less unlikely than we thought.

In a recent study by psychologists Colin Camerer and Tetsuro Matsuzawa, chimps and humans played a strategy game – and unexpectedly, the chimps outplayed the humans.

Read more

(Image: Shutterstock)

Things I Learned as a Field Biologist #635

There may come a time when, late one night deep in the forests of Madagascar, you stumble upon something that is magnificent in its diminution. A creature so glorious in its eensiness that you must steel every nerve to keep the squee at bay. But this encounter was no accident… you spent months of planning, weeks of waiting for permits and equipment, and so many long nights setting traps to ensnare this single, miniscule beast…

And now it is time.

Time to make the decision that will either bring these months to their most glorious fruition, or leave you bitter and empty-handed.

Will you…

1) Gingerly rub the soft mound of its belly… gently! Ever so gently…

2) Daub its tiny ventrum with rubbing alcohol? Cooling sensations help!

Or

3) Delicately squeeze it? It is, after all, roughly the size of a travel-sized toothpaste tube.

Choose, but choose wisely:

There are only so many ways to convince a mouse lemur (Microcebus spp.) to urinate.

And you NEED that urine.

Because science.

Special thanks to my one of my favorite partners in gimlet-soaked-Jesus-hosted-glittery-burlesque crime for this post (and the International Primatological Society meetings in Hanoi for bringing us together again). Keep gingerly rubbing those fuzzy bellies, Luca. Keep gingerly rubbing.