Tag: chimpanzees

NIH Plans to Retire Chimpanzees From Research

By Breanna Draxler | January 24, 2013 8:09 am

Research with chimpanzee. Courtesy of Everett Collection / shutterstock

Researchers have made strides in understanding human diseases such as Hepatitis C and HIV-Aids by using chimpanzees as test subjects. But public and institutional pushback has caused the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH) to rein in its chimpanzee research in recent years. A report [pdf] released by a NIH working group Tuesday calls for an even more drastic cut in the number of chimpanzees used for research as well as a reform of the way that research is conducted in the future.

Chimpanzees are a valuable resource for medical research because they are the present-day species most closely related to humans. For the same reason, using chimps as test subjects brings up a whole crop of animal rights issues. The real question is if these animal studies are really necessary for medical research anymore. Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Health & Medicine, Top Posts

Panel Finds That Nearly All Invasive Chimp Research is Unnecessary; NIH Agrees

By Veronique Greenwood | December 16, 2011 1:17 pm

chimp

After seven months of deliberation, the US Institute of Medicine has released a report that marks a turning point in the use of chimpanzees, humanity’s closest relative, in medical research. An IOM panel found that chimpanzees were in the vast majority of cases no longer required for disease research and laid out three stringent rules against which all current and future chimp research should be judged. Within two hours, Francis Collins, the head of the National Institutes of Health, announced he had accepted the group’s analysis and would set up a committee to apply the rules to proposed and ongoing research projects funded by the NIH.

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CATEGORIZED UNDER: Environment, Health & Medicine

Human Brains Shrink As They Age, Perhaps From the Weight of Years

By Valerie Ross | July 26, 2011 2:43 pm

What’s the News: The human brains, capable as it is of amazing mental feats, comes with a downside: it shrinks as we get older, contributing to memory loss, reduced inhibitions, and the other cognitive dysfunctions of age. But even chimpanzees, our closest living relatives, don’t suffer this sort of brain loss, according to a study published online yesterday in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. This unusual shrinkage of the human brain, the researchers say, may be a result of our long lifespan. Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Health & Medicine, Mind & Brain

Contagious Chimp Yawns Seem to Point to Human-Like Empathy

By Valerie Ross | April 7, 2011 3:37 pm

What’s the News: Chimpanzees, like people, can “catch” yawns from others. But not all yawns are created equal, it seems; chimps are more likely to catch yawns from a chimp they know than from a stranger, a new study found. (You can see a video of it here.) This supports the idea that it’s empathy—rather than just everybody needing a nap—that makes yawns contagious.

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CATEGORIZED UNDER: Human Origins, Living World

Documentary Tells the Tale of Nim Chimpsky, the Chimp Raised as a Human

By Andrew Moseman | January 26, 2011 5:14 pm

The 1970s: a time for Reggie Jackson, the first go-round of John Travolta, and adopting a chimpanzee to settle a scientific dispute.

The new film Project Nim by director James Marsh, the documentarian behind the acclaimed Man On Wire, debuted at the Sundance Film Festival in Utah this week. Marsh tells the tale of a chimp that was taken from its mother and raised in a human family just like a human baby; the experimenters were attempting to show that language is not unique to our species.

In Project Nim [Marsh] looks at a project dreamed up by Columbia University psychologist Herbert Terrace and carried out on Nim Chimpsky, a chimp named for famed linguist Noam Chomsky, who has argued language is uniquely human. Alternating between previously unpublished footage and interviews with participants in the experiment, the film shows how Nim initially connects with his family before his animal nature gradually takes over. [AFP]

Where a previous study had taught a chimp named Washoe symbols in American Sign Language, Terrace sought to go further with Nim. The chimp lived with the LaFarge family of New York, and for four years Terrace’s team tried to teach Nim to respond using a series of signs to make a sentence. (Nim’s Wikipedia article lists all the “phrases” he put together.)

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Study: Young Female Chimps May Use Sticks as Dolls

By Andrew Moseman | December 21, 2010 9:06 am

Chimp_stickFrom Ed Yong:

In Kibale National Park, Uganda, female chimps have taken to carrying sticks around with them. There’s nothing obviously unusual about that – chimps are clever tool-users, who use sticks as probes, projectiles and spears. But these chimps aren’t doing very much with their sticks – they simply hold and cradle them while they go about their usual business.

Sonya Kahlenberg and Richard Wrangham think they know why. They suggest that the stick-carrying chimps are playing at being mothers. Their sticks are the chimp equivalents of human dolls and the chimps treat them like pretend infants.

Kahlenberg and Wrangham present plenty of evidence to make this case, but their final suggestion—that this could be evidence of something that existed be humans split from chimps—is more of a leap. It is possible. But it’s also possible that even if the two scientists are right about what the behavior means, it could have evolved separately in chimps in the time since the split.

For more detail about all of this, check out the rest of Ed’s post at Not Exactly Rocket Science.

Related Content:
Not Exactly Rocket Science: How Chimpanzees Deal With Deal And Dying
80beats: Chimps Kill for Land–but Does That Shed Light on Human Warfare?
DISCOVER: Chimps Show Altruistic Streak
DISCOVER: The Discover Interview: Jane Goodall
DISCOVER: Chimps Plan Ahead. (Plan #1: Throw Rocks at Humans.)

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Living World

After 9 Years Retirement, Lab Chimps May Return to Medical Testing

By Jennifer Welsh | September 29, 2010 10:39 am

chimpThe governor of New Mexico wants a say in the future of 168 chimpanzees, and has pulled scientists, government officials, and even Jane Goodall into the debate.

The chimps in question are currently living (and have been for the last ten years) in a research reserve in the town of Alamogordo in New Mexico. They were all previously used as lab animals, where they are used to test and study HIV and Hepatitis C, life-threatening human diseases which don’t grow in any other animals.

The chimps were removed from laboratory testing after being taken from the Coulston Foundation, a research facility that was found to be abusing and neglecting its primate residents. The Alamogordo reserve was given the ten-year contract to house and care for the animals in 2001.

Harold Watson, who heads the chimpanzee research program for the National Center for Research Resources, said that with the end of the contract, it only makes sense to use the chimps for their original purpose. [The New York Times]

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CATEGORIZED UNDER: Health & Medicine, Living World

Malaria Came From Gorillas to Humans, and From Humans to Bonobos

By Andrew Moseman | September 23, 2010 12:40 pm

GorillaFrom Ed Yong:

Several million years ago, Plasmodium falciparum – the parasite that causes most cases of human malaria – jumped into humans from other apes. We’ve known as much for decades but for all this time, we’ve pinned the blame on the wrong species. A new study reveals that malaria is not, as previously thought, a disease that came from chimpanzees; instead it’s an unwanted gift from gorillas.

Until now, the idea of chimps as the source of human malaria seemed like a done deal.

Check out the rest of this post at DISCOVER blog Not Exactly Rocket Science.

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DISCOVER: Battling Malaria, Ninja-Style

Image: Wikimedia Commons

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Health & Medicine

Chimps Kill for Land–but Does That Shed Light on Human Warfare?

By Andrew Moseman | June 22, 2010 1:01 pm

chimpskillchimpsChimps kill chimps. And according to a 10-year study of Ngogo chimps in Uganda, they do it to defend and extend their territory. John Mitani documented 21 chimp-on-chimp killings during the study, 18 of which his team witnessed. And when the chimps kill another, they take over its land.

Because of the 1 percent difference of DNA between us and our ape cousins, it can be irresistible to anthropomorphize them, referring to their deadly attacks upon each other with terms like “murder” or “crime.” And given the murders over territory that litter human history books, it’s hard not to see echoes of our ourselves in chimp “warfare.”

Chimpanzee warfare is of particular interest because of the possibility that both humans and chimps inherited an instinct for aggressive territoriality from their joint ancestor who lived some five million years ago. Only two previous cases of chimp warfare have been recorded, neither as clear-cut as the Ngogo case [The New York Times].

But not so fast, says DISCOVER’s own award-winning blogger Ed Yong. He contacted chimp expert Frans de Waal, who would like to dissent:

“There are many problems with this idea, not the least of which is that firm archaeological evidence for human warfare goes back only about 10-15 thousand years. And apart from chimpanzees, we have an equally close relative, the bonobo, that is remarkably peaceful… The present study provides us with a very critical piece of information of what chimpanzees may gain from attacking neighbours. How this connects with human warfare is a different story” [Not Exactly Rocket Science].

For much more, check out Yong’s full post on the study.

Related Content:
Not Exactly Rocket Science: Chimpanzees Murder for Land
80beats: How Chimps Mourn Their Dead: Reactions to Death Caught on Video
DISCOVER: Chimps Show Altruistic Streak

Image: John Mitani

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Living World

How Chimps Mourn Their Dead: Reactions to Death Caught on Film

By Smriti Rao | April 26, 2010 4:43 pm

Do chimpanzees truly understand the concept of death–and do they grieve for their dead? Two separate studies due to be published in journal Current Biology suggest that chimps may have emotional responses to death that aren’t so different from humans’ reactions.

In the first study, researchers observed an ailing female chimp in a Scottish zoo. The elderly chimp, called Pansy, was believed to be more than 50 years old. As Pansy’s health began to falter, other chimps, including Pansy’s daughter, began to exhibit signs of concern that seemed remarkably human. They groomed Pansy more often than usual as she became lethargic, and after her death, her daughter stayed near the body for an entire night, even though she had never slept on that platform before. All of the group were subdued for several days afterwards, and avoided the place where she had died, spending long hours grooming each other [BBC].

In the second study, scientists working in the forests of Guinea observed two chimp mothers carrying around the bodies of their dead infants for weeks after their deaths. One chimp carried her dead baby around for more than 60 days, an unusually long period, according to the scientists. During the period, the babies’ bodies slowly mummified as they dried out. The bereaved mothers used tools to fend off flies [BBC].

For an in-depth examination of what these two studies reveal about our closest ancestor’s understanding of death and mortality, read Ed Yong’s post in the DISCOVER blog “Not Exactly Rocket Science.”

Related Content:
DISCOVER: Chimps Show Altruistic Streak
DISCOVER: The Discover Interview: Jane Goodall
DISCOVER: Chimps Plan Ahead. (Plan #1: Throw Rocks at Humans.)
80beats: Chimps Don’t Run From Fire—They Dance With It
80beats: Chimps Catch Contagious Yawns From Cartoons
80beats: Scientists Tickle Apes & Conclude Laughter Is at Least 10 Million Years Old

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Living World
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