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May 26, 2017, 07:17 AM
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 on: Today at 05:08 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Rad
May 26, 2017

Researchers discover why disturbed sleep hampers learning

by Chuck Bednar
Red Orbit

It seems obvious that a poor night’s sleep would hamper a person’s ability to learn new skills or information, but now researchers from the University of Zurich and the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology have for the first time scientifically established a causal link between the two.

While it had long been hypothesized that deep sleep was essential for restoring the brain’s ability to learn efficiently and that a poor night of slumber can negatively impact an individual’s overall performance, the scientists set out to examine how each altered normal brain function.
As they reported in a study published this week in the journal Nature Communications, they used a technique which enabled them to cause one region of the subject’s brain (the motor cortex) to experience the effects of sleep deprivation without disturbing his or her overall sleep pattern.

The motor cortex, as Medical News Today explained, is the part of the brain responsible for the development and control of motor skills, while the deep sleep phase (also known as slow-wave sleep) plays a vital role in the formation of new memories and the ability of the brain to recover after a day of activity.

To investigate how the motor cortex is affected by sleep deprivation, the researchers “developed a method that lets us reduce the sleep depth in a certain part of the brain and therefore prove the causal connection between deep sleep and learning efficiency,” Reto Huber, a professor of child and adolescent psychiatry at the University of Zurich, explained in a statement.

Findings could be used to help treat diseases like epilepsy

Huber’s team recruited six women and seven men and asked them to learn and perform a trio of different sequences of finger movement following both a good night’s sleep and a night in which their slow-wave slumber and been disturbed. By studying the subjects on the first night, the team knew which parts of the brain to disrupt to hamper learning the sequences on the second.

The subjects were not aware that part of their motor cortices was being disrupted, according to the researchers; to them, the quality of sleep seemed to be about the same. However, their overall performance when it came to learning the finger movement declined during these trials.

Following a good night of sleep, the subjects were able to easily learn the sequences at first, then experienced a decline in overall performance as the day progressed. After a night of poor quality sleep, however, learning issues surfaced almost immediately, the study authors noted. In fact, the first-morning performance following a poor night of sleep was about as bad as the final one from the previous evening – the sleep had little to no restorative effect on the brain.

The reason for this phenomenon, Medical News Today explained, is that motor cortex neurons were unable to “rest” when manipulated as they would during a normal night of sleep. Over the course of a normal day, the brain’s synapses are excited by the various stimuli that we encounter, but their activity normalizes while we sleep. If they remain excited for too long, the website said, it prevents us from learning new things.

“In the strongly excited region of the brain, learning efficiency was saturated and could no longer be changed, which inhibited the learning of motor skills,” co-author Nicole Wenderoth said in a statement. Huber added that the researchers hope to use this information to study ailments which manifest during sleep (such as epilepsy). “Using the new method,” he explained, “we hope to be able to manipulate those specific brain regions that are directly connected with the disease.”

 on: Today at 05:04 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Rad
May 26, 2017

Study shows why you shouldn’t declaw your cats

by Chuck Bednar
Red Orbit

Having your cats declawed could increase their risk of long-term or persistent pain, and might even make them more aggressive and less likely to use the litter box, according to new research published online Tuesday in the Journal of Feline Medicine and Surgery.

As part of the study, lead author Nicole Martell-Moran, a veterinary practitioner at the Feline Medical Center in Houston, Texas, and her colleagues looked at a total of 137 cats that had not undergone the procedure known as onychectomy, and another 137 which had (including 33 that had the claws removed on all four feet).

Each of the cats were examined for signs of discomfort and barbering (or excessive licking or chewing of fur), and their medical history was reviewed for negative behaviors. What the study authors found was that declawed cats were approximately seven times more likely to urinate or soil outside of the litter box, four times more likely to bite, and three times more likely to either become aggressive or overgroom themselves.

Furthermore, the declawed felines were nearly three times more likely to be diagnosed with back pain than cats that had not undergone onychectomies, the study authors said. This is likely due to shortening of the declawed limb, altered gait and/or chronic pain at the site of the procedure.

“The result of this research reinforces my opinion that declawed cats with unwanted behaviors may not be ‘bad cats,’ they may simply need pain management,” Martin-Moran explained in a statement. “We now have scientific evidence that declawing is more detrimental to our feline patients than we originally thought and I hope this study becomes one of many that will lead veterinarians to reconsider declawing cats.”

Even proper onychectomy technique can lead to problems

Of the cats involved in the study, 176 were cared for by owners, the researchers said. Eighty-eight of those were declawed, and 88 had not been declawed. Ninety-eight of the cats studied were shelter cats (49 clawed, 49 declawed). Two years worth of their medical histories were reviewed, and all declaw cats were radiographed for distal limb abnormalities.

Martin-Moran and her colleagues found “significant increases” in the risk of back pain, biting and barbering in declawed cats, and nearly two-thirds (63 percent) of the declawed cats showed radiographic evidence of residual bone fragments in their third phalanx (P3). Those cats which retained P3 fragments were more likely to experience back pain, aggression or elimination issues than those whose P3 fragments were completely removed.

“Optimal surgical technique, with the removal of P3 in its entirety, was associated with fewer adverse outcomes and lower odds of these outcomes, but operated animals remained at increased odds of biting and undesirable habits of elimination compared with non-surgical controls,” the authors reported. “The use of optimal surgical technique does not eliminate the risk of adverse behavior subsequent to onychectomy.”

The reason for these behaviors, the researchers explained in a statement, is that removing the distal phalanges (P3) forces the cat to place additional weight on the soft cartilaginous ends of the middle (P2) phalanges. Discomfort in those phalanges leads the cat to urinate or defecate on softer surfaces, such as a carpet, rather than the gravel-like surface in a litter box. Furthermore, cats that have been declawed are more likely to bite as due to their law of claws for self-defense, and this could be potentially harmful to their owners.

 on: May 25, 2017, 09:28 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by dollydaydream
OK got it.  Thanks Rad. Smiley

 on: May 25, 2017, 08:53 AM 
Started by soleil - Last post by Rad
Hi Soleil,

"Rad, since we’re about halfway through Pluto’s transit in Capricorn, do you think the whole nationalism thing is peaking now or do you think it’s likely to stay strong all the way through Pluto’s transit in Capricorn?"


I think it depends on exactly what regions, countries, in the world in which this has/ is/ will be manifesting. In some places the nationalism will become ever stronger, whereas in other areas it will diminish. In the context of the times now Pluto in Capricorn is also correlating to the tremendous evolution, change, of the demographics in so many of the countries now that will also have a direct affect on this, as well as the aging of the various populations within the world. Look at the last election in Iran for example where the youth of that country voted overwhelmingly for the existing leader there who has wanted to open Iran up to the world.

God Bless, Rad

 on: May 25, 2017, 08:44 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Rad
Shitstain Trump Administration says it isn’t anti-science as it seeks to slash EPA science office

Pro Publica
25 May 2017 at 08:13 ET   

When the city of Toledo temporarily lost access to clean drinking water several years ago after a bloom of toxic algae, the Environmental Protection Agency sent scientists from its Office of Research and Development to study health effects and formulate solutions.

The same office was on the front lines of the Flint water crisis and was a critical presence in handling medical waste from the U.S. Ebola cases in 2014.

Thomas Burke, who directed ORD during the last two years of the Obama administration and was the agency’s science adviser, calls the office the nation’s “scientific backstop in emergencies.”

President Trump’s 2018 budget would slash ORD’s funding in half as part of an overall goal to cut the EPA’s budget by 31 percent.

A statement from EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt did not directly address the cuts to ORD, but offered broad defense of the proposed agency budget, saying it “respects the American taxpayer” and “supports EPA’s highest priorities with federal funding for priority work in infrastructure, air and water quality, and ensuring the safety of chemicals in the marketplace.”

ORD has no regulatory authority, but it conducts the bulk of the research that underlies EPA policies. ORD scientists are involved in “virtually every major environmental challenge the nation has,” Burke said. Diminishing the role and input of the office, he said, risked leaving the country “uninformed about risks and public health.”

“In time, you’re flying blind,” he said. “Everything becomes a mystery.”

Trump’s budget, released Tuesday, reflects the president’s wish list. The numbers likely will change by the time it goes through the congressional appropriations process, but the proposed cuts are consistent with the administration’s push against environmental regulation and scientific funding. Many of the cuts fall on agencies involved with climate change research, including the EPA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the National Science Foundation and the Department of Energy.

Mick Mulvaney, director of the White House Office of Management and Budget, told reporters in a Tuesday briefing that the budget reduces climate science funding without eliminating it.

“Do we target it? Sure,” Mulvaney said in response to a reporter’s question. “Do a lot of the EPA reductions aim at reducing the focus on climate science? Yes. Does it mean that we are anti-science? Absolutely not. We’re simply trying to get things back in order to where we can look at the folks who pay the taxes, and say, look, yeah, we want to do some climate science, but we’re not going to do some of the crazy stuff the previous administration did.” 

Much of the EPA’s climate research takes place in the Office of Air and Radiation, which is separate from ORD. But ORD studies the strategic, long-term effects of climate change, including the effects on agriculture and the oceans, Burke said.

Christine Todd Whitman, a former EPA administrator who worked for George W. Bush from 2001 to June 2003, said the proposed ORD cuts are more drastic than anything she can remember.

Whitman said she expects Congress will restore much of the funding, but she worries about the message behind the budget.

“A budget to me was always a policy document,” she said. Regardless of what Congress does, this administration’s policy “indicates to me [that] they’ll be looking for other ways to … stifle the research and slow it down,” she said.

OMB and the EPA did not return requests for comment about the ORD cuts.

ORD is one of several EPA programs listed under a section of the budget called “2018 major savings and reforms.” The others include EPA enforcement (24 percent cut); Superfund, which cleans up toxic waste sites (30 percent); categorical state grants (45 percent); and funding for watershed protection, energy efficiency and voluntary climate programs, which would be eliminated.

The budget states the ORD reductions would allow the EPA to “focus on core Agency responsibilities … At lower funding levels for the Office of Research and Development, the Agency would prioritize intramural research activities that are either related to statutory requirements or that support basic and early stage research and development activities in the environmental and human health sciences.”

Whitman and Burke said ORD already does that — and halving the budget would make it virtually impossible to meet EPA’s regulatory mandate.

ORD is “the backbone of the scientific research that goes on,” Whitman said. “Every regulation promulgated by EPA is based in science.”

Andrew Rosenberg, director of the Center for Science and Democracy at the Union of Concerned Scientists, said he worries Congress will use the budget to justify serious but less drastic cuts to the agency. This administration’s philosophy seems to be “if you don’t measure it, you don’t have to be held accountable for it.”

ORD also helps regional EPA offices. Michael Mikulka, president of AFGE Local 704, a union representing scientists, engineers and attorneys at EPA’s Region 5 office (in the Great Lakes area), said he relies on ORD’s Cincinnati lab for advice on toxic waste cleanup. “If their staff is cut significantly, there would be less people to advise us.”

Burke said ORD was always going to be a target. The office came under fire from environmentalists in 2015 when it released a draft study that said hydraulic fracturing had no “widespread, systemic impacts” on drinking water. After considering comments from the EPA’s independent Science Advisory Board, the report authors reversed their findings, concluding there was insufficient evidence to support their previous statement. This time, the report was widely criticized by the oil and gas industry.

ORD is also home to the IRIS (Integrated Risk Information System) program that sets exposure guidelines for chemicals. The program has been criticized for dragging its feet and bowing to the interests of the chemical industry.

Will the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences’ work on the effects of pesticides, chemicals and cancer-causing compounds be undamaged by the new administration? Read the story.

“I’m very concerned the IRIS program will be zeroed out,” Burke said. “There’s an endless challenge by polluters to delay the science.”

But aside from a few high-profile issues, much of ORD’s work takes place under the radar. The office has laboratories all over the country, working on air pollution, ocean acidification and vehicle emissions.

One of ORD’s lesser-known responsibilities is dealing with homeland security. “God forbid, if we have to clean up a water supply after a terrorist activity, it [would be] in this office,” Burke said.

Whitman said the EPA was tasked with cleaning up the Hart Senate Office Building in 2001 after then-Sen. Tom Daschle received an envelope containing anthrax powder. Whitman remembers asking the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for a safe standard of anthrax exposure. The CDC didn’t know, she said, so ORD did the research and set it at zero.

“These are the kinds of things you lose” when you de-fund the “national nerve center of the science challenges facing not just the EPA, but all the states and all the communities,” Burke said.

Help us investigate: If you have experience with or information about the EPA or other environmental agencies, email lisa.song@propublica.org. Here’s how to send tips and documents to ProPublica securely.

Help us investigate: If you have experience with or information about the EPA or other environmental agencies, email lisa.song@propublica.org. Here’s how to send tips and documents to ProPublica securely.

 on: May 25, 2017, 08:42 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Rad
Shitstain Trump tries power handshake on French president — and gets defeated by a white knuckle grip

David Edwards
Raw Story
25 May 2017 at 09:57 ET                   

French President Emmanuel Macron was ready on Thursday when President Donald Trump tried to use his power handshake move.

When meeting foreign leaders and even his own allies, Trump is known for pulling people close to him as he shakes their hand, a move intended to show dominance over the recipient.

But when the U.S. president tried the move on the French president on Thursday, it didn’t go as planned. Macron grabbed Trump’s hand and wouldn’t let go. The men’s knuckles could be seen turning white as Macron gripped Trump’s hand.

 on: May 25, 2017, 08:38 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Rad

Most humans are unaware, not conscious, of the contents within their subconsciousness: the individuated unconscious. When a human is consciously AWARE, CONSCIOUS OF, that content then it is what he calls the super subconsciousness. Generally about 80% of the choices that a human makes, consciously, are conditioned by the subconscious content with their consciousness.

God Bless, Rad

 on: May 25, 2017, 07:14 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by dollydaydream
Hi Rad, I was just reading some of Yogananda's writings and came across this ".......Ordinary waking consciousness, subconsciousness, super-subconsciousness—all forms of ego consciousness—share this characteristic: they are relative....."  Super-subconsciousness sounds like a Pluto phenomenon to me, but how is it different from subconsciousness?  Thanks, as always.  DDD

 on: May 25, 2017, 06:21 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Rad
We have still not found the missing link between us and apes

There was once an animal that was an ancestor to both humans and apes. But what was it like?   

by Colin Barras
25 May 2017

The average missing person's inquiry begins with a few vital facts. Investigators often know when and where the missing party was last seen. They might have photographs that tell them what the missing person looks like, and they usually have a name to put to that face.

Now imagine beginning a similar sort of inquiry with none of this information.

About 150 years ago, when Charles Darwin published his theory of evolution through natural selection, scientists began to accept that humans – for all our sophisticated behaviour – belong to the same family tree as all other animals.

The idea led to two inescapable conclusions. First, our species is not an only child. Somewhere out there in the natural world, there is at least one species of animal that is more closely related to humans than any other – what biologists would come to call humanity's "sister species".

Secondly, and as importantly, our species has a long-lost parent. It stands to reason that if humanity has one or more sisters, then these siblings must have shared the same parent species at some point in prehistory. Evolutionary biologists call this species the "last common ancestor" (LCA). Most people know it by a non-scientific name: the "missing link".

Scientists have been on the trail of the LCA for decades, and they still have not found it. But many are convinced that they have established enough information to make the hunt a lot easier. They think they know roughly when and where the LCA lived. They even have a reasonable idea of what it looked like and how it behaved.

Even before Darwin formalised the idea of evolution through natural selection, it was clear that humans were primates – although earlier scientists did not think this categorisation had any evolutionary implications.

    Apes in general represented evolutionary staging posts on the road to humanity

Darwin himself was initially reluctant to directly address human evolution. He barely mentioned the subject in his famous book On the Origin of Species.

Darwin's colleague, Thomas Henry Huxley, was perhaps the first to try to identify humanity's roots using well-reasoned evolutionary thinking. In his 1863 book Evidence as to Man's Place in Nature, Huxley said it was "quite certain", anatomically speaking, that humans are most similar to gorillas and chimpanzees. One of these two must be humanity's sister species, although Huxley was not sure which.

Huxley's ideas had a significant impact on 19th and early 20th Century evolutionary biologists. Many enthusiastically embraced the idea that chimps or gorillas – or even both – were our sister species. But they went further. To these biologists, it seemed that apes in general represented evolutionary staging posts on the road to humanity.

"Lesser" apes like the gibbons offered a window into the anatomy of our earliest ape ancestors. Meanwhile the "great" apes – gorillas, chimpanzees and orangutans – showed the anatomical features our ancestors possessed at the moment they split away from the other apes and began to develop a uniquely human appearance. Gorillas and chimps were not simply our sister species: they were also a lot like the LCA.

"The post-Darwinian 'paradigm' adopted living chimpanzees as stand-ins for the LCA," says Tim White, a palaeoanthropologist at the University of California, Berkeley.

This led to some very particular ideas about how the LCA looked and behaved. Primates in general (particularly monkeys) are often relatively small-bodied, and they scamper around in forest canopies by running along branches. But apes are unusual primates. Most have big bodies with extraordinarily long arms. They often get around by swinging below branches rather than running along the top of them – a form of locomotion called "brachiation".

According to many of these early researchers, the LCA was a large-bodied, long-armed, brachiating ape.

By the late 1960s, researchers were fleshing out the LCA even further. An anthropologist called Sherwood Washburn pointed out that chimpanzees, and particularly gorillas, actually spend significant amounts of time moving around on all fours on the forest floor.

    Humans just are not particularly "evolved"

Both apes use their arms in an idiosyncratic way when they walk: they flex their fingers so that their weight bears down on the knuckles. To Washburn it made sense that the LCA "knuckle-walked" too. The behaviour could even be seen as a stepping-stone on the way to walking upright on two legs, he wrote.

But it would be wrong to think that everyone was on board with these ideas of a brachiating, knuckle-walking, chimp-like LCA. In fact, almost from the moment that Huxley first put pen to paper, a minority of scientists were arguing that the earliest human ancestors – and the LCA – was decidedly not chimp-like.

For instance, just a decade after Huxley's book, biologist St George Mivart argued that humans shared many features in common with monkeys or even lemurs. Meanwhile, from 1918 onwards an anatomist called Frederic Wood Jones argued that humans had a lot more in common with tarsiers than with chimpanzees or gorillas.

Lemurs, tarsiers and monkeys are primates, but they have been evolving independently of the apes for tens of millions of years. How could anyone argue that humans are closely related to these groups? There is a simple and astonishing explanation, wrote anatomist William Straus in the 1940s. Humans just are not particularly "evolved".

It might seem absurd to argue that our highly developed brain is anything other than an example of primate evolution pushed to the extreme. But human arms, hands, legs and feet are not as highly specialised as we might assume.

"In these characters man finds his counterparts not in anthropoid apes [gorillas, chimpanzees and orangutans] but in animals that are clearly regarded… as more primitive," wrote Straus.

    The more ancient the divergence between species, the more time those species have had to accumulate their own molecular differences

What Straus and a few others were really getting at is that humans show none of the specialised features that allow other apes to swing through the trees. It made sense to at least consider the possibility that humans split apart from other primates before the apes evolved brachiation, or knuckle-walking for that matter.

Straus could not say exactly which species should be recognised as our sister. But the LCA could well have been a relatively small-bodied primate that ran along branches rather than swinging beneath them.

This disagreement continued for several more decades, says Nathan Young at the University of California in San Francisco. In fact, even into the 1980s it was not clear from anatomical features alone exactly where humans slotted into the primate evolutionary tree.

Then, just a decade later, this uncertainty vanished. By the late 1990s, almost all evolutionary biologists were willing to accept that chimpanzees, and their close relatives the bonobos, together form humanity's sister species.

To understand this turning point in the story, we have to skip back a few decades and look at what was going on in a completely different branch of science.

In 1960, Nobel-Prize-winning chemist Linus Pauling accepted an invitation to write a paper in a special scientific volume dedicated to Albert Szent-Györgyi, the discoverer of vitamin C. Working with his colleague, Emile Zuckerkandl, Pauling developed a truly revolutionary idea: the molecular clock.

    Ramapithecus was discovered in Pakistan and dated to about 14-16 million years old

"It was a revival of an idea proposed by bacteriologist George Nuttall in 1904, that if you compared blood serum you could get a sense for the evolutionary closeness of species," says Jeffrey Schwartz, a physical anthropologist at the University of Pittsburgh in Pennsylvania, US. "Their paper articulated the assumption that molecules are constantly changing, and the more ancient the divergence between species, the more time those species have had to accumulate their own molecular differences."

Pauling and Zuckerkandl used this concept – that some molecules accumulate tiny changes at a steady rate – to analyse proteins in human and gorilla blood. From the number of differences between the two sets of molecules, and an estimate of the rate that those differences accumulate, the researchers calculated that humans and gorillas had last shared a common ancestor roughly 11 million years ago.

Anthropologists were unimpressed. Only fossils could tell us when common ancestors lived, they argued. Many reportedly described Pauling and Zuckerkandl's concept as crazy. But the molecular scientists stuck at their work and, a few decades later, they won over the sceptics – due in no small part to new fossil finds.

All manner of fossil primates, including apes, had come to light by the 1960s. One of them, an ape called Ramapithecus or sometimes Sivapithecus, had begun to look a lot like a direct human ancestor.

"Ramapithecus was discovered in Pakistan and dated to about 14-16 million years old," says Schwartz. "It had thick enamel, which is a feature we see in humans and their immediate ancestors." In contrast, chimps and gorillas have a thinner coating of enamel on their teeth.

    The molecular people said 'See? We were right all along!'

By 1964, palaeoanthropologists were even prepared to speculate that Ramapithecus walked on the ground like a human and used tools to prepare its food. And if the 14-million-year-old Ramapithecus really was a human ancestor, gorillas and humans cannot possibly have shared a common ancestor just 11 million years ago, as Pauling and Zuckerkandl were suggesting.

But these conclusions about Ramapithecus came almost exclusively from a study of the ape's teeth, which were more or less the only parts of the ancient ape that had been unearthed by the 1960s. In the early 1980s, more Ramapithecus fossils were unearthed, including fragments of the face. They showed that the ape looked like an orangutan, not a human.

Palaeontologists were astonished, but molecular scientists were not. By now they had established that humans, chimps and gorillas were all closely related and shared a common ancestor within the last 11 million years or so, and that orangutans were slightly more distant relatives with a deeper prehistory. According to their thinking, a 14-million-year-old ape would be unlikely to look distinctly human, because it predated the appearance of the human lineage. But it might well look orangutan-like.

"The molecular people said 'See? We were right all along!'," says Schwartz.

In the 1980s and 90s, the molecular community built on such successes.

More sophisticated molecular techniques became available, allowing the scientists to compare apes in minute detail at the genetic level and work out which were most closely related to humans.

"The gorilla held out as a pretty good candidate," says Owen Lovejoy, an anthropologist at Kent State University in Ohio. "But eventually the chimpanzee won out."

    By seven million years ago the European and Asian apes had vanished

Final confirmation that chimpanzees (and the closely related bonobos) are humanity's sister came in 1997, and it seemed to some that the LCA debate was drawing to a close. Huxley's work in the 1860s had encouraged many scientists to see the LCA as chimp-like, and the molecular work of the 1980s and 90s seemed to vindicate the idea.

"There began to be a more general acceptance of the implications that the LCA was likely to be more chimp-like," says Young.

This was not the only conclusion from the molecular work. The DNA studies also put an approximate date on the human-chimpanzee split: six or seven million years ago. It was a figure that considerably narrowed down the search for the LCA.

The fossil record shows that apes were widespread across Africa, Europe and Asia about 20 million years ago – at this time the world really was the Planet of the Apes. But by seven million years ago the European and Asian apes had vanished. If chimpanzees and humans split at this time, the LCA must have lived in Africa – in the same sort of environments occupied by modern chimps.

By the early 2000s, some physical anthropologists were even describing African apes like the chimpanzee as time machines into the earliest stages of human evolution.

The story should end there, but it does not. Surprisingly, the last 15 years has actually seen popular opinion begin to swing away from the idea of a chimp-like LCA, and towards a model closer to that argued by people like Straus in the 1940s.

There are several factors that explain the recent rethink. A more thorough understanding of chimp and gorilla anatomy helped.

There had been murmurings for some time that gorillas and chimpanzees (and bonobos) might not knuckle-walk in quite the same way. In 1999, Mike Dainton and Gabriele Macho at the University of Liverpool, UK, looked at the idea more formally. From subtle differences in the way gorilla and chimpanzee wrist bones change as the apes grow from juveniles to adults, Dainton and Macho concluded that the two may have evolved knuckle-walking independently.

Over the following decade, other researchers reported similar findings. By 2009, Tracy Kivell – now at the University of Kent, UK – and Daniel Schmitt at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina, were arguing that humans did not evolve from a knuckle-walking LCA.

Kivell says the 2009 paper received quite a lot of attention. She thinks this might be because it was published just a few months before one of the most complete and potentially important fossils for understanding human evolution was officially unveiled – one that some people think blows a huge hole in the idea that the LCA was chimp-like.

Late in 2009, a research team including Tim White and Owen Lovejoy published a collection of research papers describing the remarkably well-preserved skeleton of "Ardi" – a 4.4-million-year-old fossil of the species Ardipithecus ramidus, which White and his colleagues had discovered in Ethiopia.

    Put simply, Ardi looked "primitive"

White and Lovejoy's careful analysis strongly suggested that Ardi habitually walked on two legs when she was on the ground. It was one of many features that suggested to them that Ardi should be considered an early human, or hominin – one that lived just a few million years after the LCA, and so provides us with our best idea yet of exactly how it looked.

This conclusion was significant, because in many respects Ardi's anatomy is not at all chimp-like. It is very unlikely she was either a knuckle-walker or a brachiating ape.

Ardi lived in a forest setting and must have spent time in trees as well as on the ground. But her anatomy suggests she was adapted to move around in those trees almost like a large monkey might, moving cautiously on feet that – unlike gorilla and chimp feet – seem to have been unsuitable for wrapping around branches for grip.

Put simply, Ardi looked "primitive" – and that suggested that the LCA looked primitive too.

Of course, the Ardi analysis was not uncontroversial. One of the implications of their interpretations was that all sorts of anatomical features shared by gibbons, orangutans, chimps and gorillas must have evolved independently in each of these apes.

    People have begun to question what was an emerging consensus

"I think they took it a little too far," says Kivell. "Their model means that there is a lot of parallel evolution across all apes. I still think comparative studies with chimps and other African apes can provide a lot of insight into our own evolution."

Sergio Almécija at the George Washington University in Washington DC agrees. "I do believe that chimps could represent good models for the LCA for certain aspects – for instance body size, perhaps cognition," he says. But his own research has also helped to emphasise that chimps might not simply be living time machines from the time that the LCA was alive.

In 2015, for instance, Almécija and his colleagues published an analysis of ape hands that emphasised just how much the length of digits has evolved in chimpanzees since they split from the LCA. Judging by fossil evidence from earlier apes, human hands are surprisingly primitive in appearance – notwithstanding the fact that we evolved an opposable thumb after the split from the LCA.

Even the biologists studying modern primates are finding evidence that the LCA may not have been chimp-like.

In one 2013 study, Pavel Duda and Jan Zrzavý at the University of South Bohemia in the Czech Republic used what is known about living ape behaviour – and about the shape of the ape evolutionary tree – to try to estimate when certain traits first evolved. They suggested that sexual intercourse lasted longer in the LCA than in chimpanzees, and that the LCA males devoted more time to looking after offspring than chimp males do.

    Apes were still flourishing in Europe as well as Africa 13 million years ago

Decades after Straus and a few other anatomists had argued that the chimpanzee was a poor model for the LCA, mainstream opinion has moved their way. "There has been a community shift, where people have begun to question what was an emerging consensus for a chimp-like LCA," says Young.

But even that is not the end of the story. There are still "chimp-like LCA" advocates out there, and they are fighting back.

For instance, in 2015 Young and his colleagues argued from the study of ape shoulder blades that the LCA might have had some features in common with chimps and gorillas after all, hinting that it might actually have been a brachiating ape. Such a conclusion would not have been controversial if it had been published a decade or so ago, Young says – but mainstream thought has shifted so far from the chimp-like LCA concept that the paper did, in fact, face some criticism.

Of course, only if and when fossils of the LCA itself come to light will the debate finally draw to a close. But the search for those crucial fossils is no longer quite as straightforward as it once seemed. In the last five years, some geneticists have begun to question whether the molecular clocks they use to estimate when the LCA lived are being read correctly. It is possible, they say, that the LCA might actually have lived 13 – not seven – million years ago.

Apes were still flourishing in Europe as well as Africa 13 million years ago, which means that in principle the LCA might have lived there.

Possible support for that idea comes from a 2015 analysis of an ape called Dryopithecus that lived in both Africa and Europe about 12.5 million years ago. David Begun, an anthropologist at the University of Toronto in Canada, concluded that Dryopithecus might be an early relative of the gorilla, and suggested that the LCA of humans and chimps might consequently have lived about 10 million years ago.

"It is not impossible that the LCA was European," says Begun – although there is no direct evidence for that yet, and he still favours the idea it was African.

There are also a few researchers who take a completely different view.

    There is not yet universal agreement

For instance, Schwartz is adamant that it is orangutans, not chimpanzees, that are our sister species. It is an idea he first developed in the 1980s – before, he says, anthropologists "caved in" and conceded that molecules and not anatomy were the ultimate arbiters of the shape of the ape family tree.

Schwartz thinks DNA is not the infallible witness on evolution many assume it to be, and that there are many anatomical and behavioural similarities between humans and orangutans that should not simply be ignored. For instance, both have thick layers of enamel on their teeth, and female orangutans (like women) do not "advertise" to males when they are most fertile – something biologists call oestrus. "Orangs are the only other mammal I know of that don't have oestrus," says Schwartz.

To be clear, few researchers agree with Schwartz. But even putting his ideas to one side, it is clear that there is not yet universal agreement on the LCA.

It is true that, today, some researchers have a well-thought-through idea of what the LCA looked like and how it behaved. The trouble is that other researchers have equally well-reasoned models that suggest an LCA that looked and behaved in a completely different way. And that puts the research community in a bit of a quandary.

In principle, fossilised remains of the LCA might come to light any time. They might even be discovered this very year. But because there is so little agreement on what the LCA should look like, researchers will interpret the fossils differently.

"It's a problem that we might encounter," says Almécija. "Are we going to be able to recognise the LCA when we find it?"

 on: May 25, 2017, 06:14 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Rad
Chimps filmed grieving for dead friend

An extraordinary film reveals never-before-seen behaviour   

By Matt Walker

A unique, remarkable and intimate film may change the way we think about animals, and their ability to feel grief.

The newly-published film captures the solemn reactions of a group of chimpanzees who discover the dead body of a friend.

For 20 minutes, the chimpanzees quietly gather around their friend, despite offers of food to tempt them away. They gently touch and sniff his body, with chimps who were closer friends with the deceased appearing to be the most upset.

An older female chimp then attends to the dead ape, tenderly attempting to clean his teeth with a stem of grass.

Excerpts of the film can be viewed here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nM9GLhuPDXA

The incident occurred at the Chimfunshi Wildlife Orphanage Trust in the Copperbelt region of northwestern Zambia.

Chimps living here had been either rescued from the illegal wildlife trade years earlier, or born into the community since.

The ape that died was a 9-year-old chimpanzee known to human observers as Thomas.

He lived in a group of 43 chimpanzees, in a large outdoor enclosure full of dense forest.

Close friends

Thomas was a highly social and gregarious member of his troop.

Having lost his own mother when he was five-years-old, he had developed a particular friendship with another older male called Pan.

“The male Pan had adopted Thomas, which is very special in chimpanzee community,” primatologist Dr Edwin van Leeuwen explained to BBC Earth.

The two of them used to spend a lot of time together, often greeting, provoking and playing with other passing chimps.

Tests later conducted on Thomas’s body suggest he died from viral and bacterial infections that made it difficult for him to breathe.

When the troop of chimpanzees discovered Thomas, Pan is recorded on film acting unusually, repeatedly visiting and defending the body of his friend.

Dr van Leeuwen studies at St. Andrews University in Scotland, UK, the Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics, in Nijmegen, The Netherlands and at the Chimfunshi Wildlife Orphanage Trust.

He and colleagues from the chimp orphanage published their video and research of the incident in the American Journal of Primatology.

“It seems to be the most detailed and informative video out there,” says Dr van Leeuwen.

He and colleagues shot the film after discovering Thomas’s body lying close to a fence at the edge of the large enclosure, which is so big the chimpanzees inside often can’t be spotted.

But the troop soon emerged to discover Thomas’s body in front of the researchers watching from the other side of the fence.

Quiet and tender

It is clear the chimpanzees were aware something was wrong, and they gathered next to Thomas, lying on his back.

What surprised the researchers most was the way the chimps sat quietly around their deceased friend for long periods.

“Chimps never do that in other contexts,” says Dr van Leeuwen. “There is always something going on.”

Usually, they will groom, play or eat with each other, vocalise, and, on occasion, be aggressive. But 22 of the chimps came up to look at Thomas, with nine gently touching him, with one, a female named Noel, then touching her own lips.

The chimps didn’t inspect the body and then leave, which also surprised the primatologists, especially as the discovery of Thomas’s body coincided with feeding time, when the apes could hear food being put out on the other side of the enclosure by orphanage staff.

After more than 17 minutes, the dominant female of the group, a chimp called Violet, slapped Thomas’s body.

“Her behaviour is not so striking, she could have done the same in other contexts,” explains Dr van Leeuwen. Or it may have been a way for Violet to check on Thomas’s condition, to see if he was capable of reacting.

But Pan’s behavior is harder to explain.

“The frequent visiting of Pan, his swatting away of a bold youngster who tries to move the dead body, his display over the body are striking, interesting, unusual,” says Dr van Leeuwen.

Pan's assertiveness was especially remarkable as he is not the alpha male of the group.

At the end of the film, Noel then tended to Thomas’s body.

“Noel's tooth cleaning is very interesting because such a physically intimate behaviour almost never occurs in chimpanzees,” says Dr van Leeuwen.

“And she preferred doing this over getting lots of nice food offered by the keepers,” he says, explaining that the staff tried to encourage her away from the body so they could remove it from the enclosure.

Affected by death

Dr van Leeuwen and his colleagues say care needs to be taken interpreting such behaviour.

But they have been able to compare the chimpanzees' reaction to Thomas’s body, to other incidents, including at the orphanage, where younger infant chimps have died, including the video below.

And it seems that the chimpanzees are more affected by the death of older individuals, with whom, over time, they have formed more meaningful relationships and closer social ties.

The latest video also suggests, that, as in humans, apes are more impacted by the death of their friends.

“If we had been looking at humans instead of chimpanzees, we would have said that individuals are more affected by the loss of a friend than by the loss of anybody else, and that you can tell this by seeing how friends behaved more compassionately to the body than non-friends,” says Dr van Leeuwen.

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