Tag Archives: Monkeys

In The Land Of The One-Armed Man, The Octopus Killed Richard Kimble’s Wife*

by Richard

It’s not so much the tool using, it’s the fact that he can sort out which hand grabs which bit.

Okay, I might be a little late coming to this particular science party, but I still think this is something worth tapping you dudes on the shoulder for and having a look.

So, here. Look.

That, dudes, is a veined octopus and he’s in the middle of building a house on the sea bottom near Indonesia.

It’s long been known that octopi will make use of some discarded shells or other bits of detritus on the ocean floor to snuggle into and have a bit of a hide out.

This is the first time, though, that we’ve ever seen evidence of an octopus taking a coconut shell, dragging it along the ocean floor and then putting it together with another coconut shell to form a little shelter for the octopus. That, dudes, is tool using. Something we used to think was the sole province of humans, most monkeys and — occasionally — Rush Limbaugh.

“I was gobsmacked,” said Julian Finn, a research biologist at Museum Victoria in Melbourne who specializes in cephalopods. “I mean, I’ve seen a lot of octopuses hiding in shells, but I’ve never seen one that grabs it up and jogs across the sea floor. I was trying hard not to laugh.”

Finn and Mark Norman of Museum Victoria filmed the octopus, Amphioctopus marginatus, selecting halved coconut shells from the sea floor, emptying them out, carrying them under their bodies, and assembling two shells together to make a spherical hiding spot up to 65 feet feet away from where the creature originally found the shells.

What makes this unusual isn’t that the octopus is using a foreign object for protection. Hermit crabs do that sort of thing all the time. No, what makes this remarkable is that during the transportation process, the octopus is getting no protection at all from the shell. It’s that the octopus is working now for a benefit later.

This octopus is pretty much just proven to be more mature than most human teenagers, who can’t actually see the benefit of doing something now if they’ll have to wait 10 minutes to reap a reward.

*No wives were harmed in the production of this blog post.


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Freaky Friday: Orangutans Discover the iPad

by Richard

Okay, dudes, I know a lot of people are really falling for the iPad and a bunch of other tablet devices, but this is getting a bit ridiculous.

Mahal and his surrogate mother, M.J., are orangutans at the Milwaukee County Zoo. A bunch of zookeepers are using the iPad to enrich the lives of the primates in captivity.

The favorite app for the monkeys are ones for finger painting and music.

The zoo’s use of the iPad started as a joke with a story in a British newspaper on April 1 about a gorilla getting hold of a man’s iPad and playing Angry Birds. Clair Richard, the zoo’s primary gorilla keeper, saw the article and posted something on Facebook about how she wished her charges could get an iPad. One thing led to another and an iPad was donated.

Mahal the orangutan’s first use of the iPad was to look at himself, using the camera function with the camera lens pointed back at him. He loved it. He also loves watching videos of penguins, which just goes to prove there’s something inherently wrong with all primates that you like to watch those stinky birds.

The orangutans are not really allowed to embrace the iPad per se, but instead are limited to using one finger — just one– to manipulate the iPad screen.  At first we were disappointed to see that the organutans were not able to fully hold and use the iPad, but given that they can snap an iPad in two as if it were a piece of cardboard, we understood their decision.

You can check out some video of M.J. and Mahal going to town with their iPad below. All I can say is that if orangutans are capable of doing this with the iPad, surely our little dudes can do something other than play Angry Birds with it. I’m saving that app for me.


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Freaky Friday: So Much For Night Hunting

by Richard

Despite what you might have learned in that high-school biology class where the teacher kept yelling at you about the difference between mitosis and meiosis, science can be fun.

Science also can do some pretty wacky stuff in the name of research. We’ve talked about the hilarious results available when you insert jellyfish glowing proteins into a monkey. You get glow-in-the-dark monkeys and that’s never not funny.

Now scientists are making something else glow in the dark and there’s even an actual reason for it other than “It’s possible, so why not?”

Okay, so glow-in-the-dark kittens are more adorable than hilarious, but it’s still a pretty cool thing to get a look at, yeah?

The kittens glow in the dark when they’re put under ultraviolet light thanks to having a gene from a jellyfish inserted into its DNA. This instruction for creating the glowing protein is attached to a gene called TRIMCyp, which originally was found in Rhesus monkeys.

By giving the gene to the cats, the researchers hope to shed light on how they might combat diseases like HIV/AIDS — not just in felines, but in humans, too.

Cats, like humans, can develop AIDS. In cats, AIDS is preceded by feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV), while in humans it’s preceded by human immunodeficiency virus (HIV).

Like HIV, FIV leads to AIDS by sapping the body’s ability to combat infection; in both humans and cats, a special class of proteins known as “restriction factors” (which are usually very effective in defending against viruses) are effectively useless when pitted against HIV and FIV, respectively. But what if one species’ restriction factors could be used to defend against another species’ immunodeficiency virus?

Well, guess what? It turns out, they can. The restriction factors of the rhesus macaque, the previously mentioned TRIMCyp, can block cells from being infected by FIV.

Which is why the cats glow in the dark. The scientists bonded the TRIMCyp with the glowing protein from jellyfish. That way, if the cats glow in ultraviolet, they know the kittens have the TRIMCyp gene.

A team led by Eric Poeschla of the Mayo Clinic College of Medicine has already demonstrated that white blood cells taken from the transgenic cats are protected from FIV; the next step is to give the virus to the cats themselves, to confirm that they are, in fact, immune to it. Their findings could help them and other researchers develop and test similar approaches to protecting humans from infection with HIV.

“One of the best things about this biomedical research is that it is aimed at benefiting both human and feline health,” said Poeschla. “It can help cats as much as people.”

Plus, let’s face it, the dudes get to make something really cool. Sure the kittens won’t be able to sneak up on many things at night, provided the birds and squirrels all chip in to buy some ultraviolet lamps, but I think we can all agree that getting glow-in-the-dark kittens is worth the inconvenience.

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