Tuesday, February 28, 2017

#ElephantTuesdays: ELEFACTS 🐘

This is the last entry of the Elephant Tuesdays blog, and as a kind of farewell, I would like to shortly name some interesting facts about elephants that you might not know. 

Did you know that…?

Elephants are right-trunkers and left-trunkers; they show side preferences when moving their trunks and forefeet for feeding, uprooting and grabbing vegetation (Keerthipriya, P.; Tewari, Rachna; Vidya, T.N. C. Journal of Comparative Psychology, Vol 129(4), Nov 2015, 377-387

Scientists agree that joy is an emotion that most of the mammals experience. It has been agreed that rats engage in joyful plays like apes, and that they have evolved a gargalesis tickle response. I couldn´t find any scientific written evidence of elephants showing gargalesis, but there are tons of personal experiences among animal keepers and elephant experts that would support it 
It´s been often witnessed that elephants suffering from physical pain caused by wounds resulting from chains, hooks, amputations, etc. press their forehead against a wall or bite their trunk to reduce pain. 

In order to draw any scientific conclusion about something, science requires that we be able to measure it. We cannot measure emotions, so although it is a fact that elephants do produce tears, it is not scientifically certain that these tears are the result of an emotional response. 

Elephants are known to be excellent swimmers and have been documented to spend hours in deep water swimming with just their trunks above the water line.
It is the only animal that can snorkel at depth. From a physiological point of view, this fact would be impossible, as the resulting pressure differences require special lung structures, and specifically, changes in the pleural membranes and pleural space. An autopsy conducted in 1681 on an elephant revealed that the elephant´s lungs are unusual; they have connective tissue in their pleural space, instead of liquid. As breathing while being underwater must generate enormous pressures to expand their lungs against the water pressure, they need a very strong and thick muscle around their lungs.

At very high temperatures and with no near water available, elephants will often introduce their trunks inside their mouths to get saliva and spray it on their bodies to get refreshed.

What does the largest terrestrial mammal have in common with a moth?

They are pheromone fellows; elephants share an attraction to (Z)-7-dodecenylacetate, a female urine pheromone that provokes a high frequency of chemosensory responses in males prior to and during mating, with 140 species of moth (Rasmussen et al., 1996). Such coincidences are a consequence of convergent evolution.


National Geographic:

National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI): 

Biology, Medicine, and Surgery of Elephants, Murray E., Fowler and Susan K. Mikota (2006)

Pheromones: Convergence and contrasts in insects and vertebrates,Tristram D. Wyatt (in Wyatt, TD (2003) Pheromones and Animal Behaviour: Communication by Smell and Taste. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge)

Von Elefanten und Menschen, Kurt, Fred (2014)

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Restless Star classifications done!...but still LOTS of chimps to match and name!

Thanks to everyone for helping us complete our 12th site on Chimp&See!!! You make it all possible :D

In total we had 63,428 video clips classified - one of our biggest sites yet!

Restless Star took us to east Africa and was jammed packed with chimps, gorillas and some tourists! we also had a few surprises along the way like a red duiker and l'hoests monkey hanging out (found by ksigler), some great galago/bushbaby vocalizations and bounciness (found by AnLand), gorgeous red duiker and black-fronted duiker selfies (found by Snorticus and daleh), a melanistic golden cat named Hootch (this clip for example as found by jwdiness), some sweet elephants (found by Snorticus) and a pretty perfect jackal portrait (thanks to Snorticus and zoogirl1).

Not only did we have some mega chimp groups but we were also treated to calmer moments like super peaceful David, just hanging out on a vine (found by Corcaroli and named by puddock) and the sweetest juvenile gorilla hug ever (found by AnLand)!

Restless Star has also been super exciting since it seems we have multiple large chimp groups caught on the cameras! You can check out the evidence in the discussions like this one and this one.

Check out our best of Restless Star highlight reel:

Chimp Matching at RestlessStar!
A whopping 98 (!!!) chimps have been identified and 45 of them matched and named at Restless Star! There are still LOTS of open discussion boards and 53 unnamed chimps waiting for people to weigh in on! You can find the discussions needing attention by checking out the Restless Star Discussion Board and looking for the discussions highlighted with asterisks ** (make sure to check out all the pages on the board!)

If you are new to chimp matching this is a great way to start. Check out the discussion, look at the proposed matches and see if you think the chimps match or not, then post with your thoughts and comments :) every person's opinion helps and very often we let people who help with the discussions give the names to the chimps - so join in!

An extra big THANK YOU and pant hoots to our science team mod Maureen McCarthy who has been overseeing all the chimp matching at Restless Star! And as always a big round of pant hoots to our amazing mods who keep everything running smoothly every day! Thank you ksigler, AnLand, jwidness, yshish and Quia

What's next?
Right now classification focus will continue at our west African site "Aged Violet" for a little while longer. But we hope to be uploading another site as soon as possible! So go to chimpandsee.org and classify some videos today!

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

#ElephantTuesdays: Sense and sensibility; our big-brained fellows 🐘

The animal psychology defines intelligence as the ability to solve problems, to learn and to deal with new situations, and the size and complexity of the elephant´s brain certainly reflect this fact.

The elephant brain is the largest among terrestrial mammals, and weighs between 4,5 and 6,5 kilograms. The brains of both African and Asian elephants exhibit features comparable to those of some of the cetaceans and the great apes, including humans. 

 Decades of scientific research have been showing that elephants are among the most intelligent and emotionally complex animals.

According to Dr. Jane Goodall, “A tool-using performance in an animal or bird is specified as the use of an external object as a functional extension of mouth or beak, hand or claw, in the attainment of an immediate goal. This goal may be related to the obtaining of food, care of the body, or repulsion of a predator, intruder.”. In this sense, the ability of elephants to manufacture and use tools to solve problems creatively is a good example of intelligence. They use a wide variety of tools both in wild and captive scenarios, for example to reduce ectoparasites, for thermoregulation and to get and manipulate food by using their finger-like tip of their prehensile trunk

In the following video, the adult female is removing some ground and taking a sand bath for thermoregulation and/or reducing parasites; according to the tool use definition, it wouldn´t be appropriate to talk about tool use in this particular case as she is not using any external object to achieve her goal, but it is interesting how she uses her right leg as a shovel to fill up her trunk with sand:

original video: ACP000cg74

Like humans, great apes and dolphins, as large-brained species showing a greater developed cerebral cortex, elephants have the amazing capability to learn complicated tasks and retain that information for longer. They have been seen sticking wood pieces between their trunk and a tusk and keeping them for the right moment to be used; this fact reflects the planning skills of intelligent species:

Original video: ACP000cgv8

The empathic behavior in elephants is another sign of intelligence, and can be seen for example in allomothers assisting a female while giving birth by surrounding her and the newborn in a protective and supportive manner

Consciousness is one more potential proof of intelligence; apart from humans and apes, dolphins and elephants are also known to possess the capacity to recognize themselves in a mirror (a standard test of self-awareness).

Elephants show social and ecological memory: they recognize a large number of individuals in their own herd or in others. They remember resources such as the location of ephemeral water sources or food available.

Here´s a heart touching tale about elephants remembering their own kind:
Two elephants called Shirley (~53) and Jenny (~30) met in The Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee after 23 years apart. Their reactions showed obvious signs that they knew each other. Shirley started to display mothering behavior, like protecting Jenny from the sun and harm. They spent the rest of their lives together like mother-daughter. It was then known that Shirley and Jenny had been together in a circus when Jenny was a calf. See what happens when they meet:


Self-recognition in an Asian elephant; Joshua M. Plotnik, Frans B. M. de Waal, Diana Reiss (2006)


Biology, Medicine, and Surgery of Elephants, Murray E., Fowler and Susan K. Mikota (2006)

Von Elefanten und Menschen, Kurt, Fred (2014)

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Happy #Caturday! African golden cats

Happy #Caturday! African golden cats (Caracal aurata) are small wild cats living in the forests of West and Central Africa. The fur coloration varies from grey to reddish-brown and melanistic (black) individuals are also known. The Chimp&See camera trap footage shows some of these variations.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

#ElephantTuesdays: About Emotions 🐘

Elephants are known to have the ability to express emotions. In the same way like humans and chimpanzees do, they can express sadness, empathy, stress, anger, joy, etc. 

Adolescents and juveniles can get easily annoyed or angry with each other. In the clip below, the adolescent in front of the camera gets annoyed by the juvenile approaching from behind, trying to put it away with its trunk from what it was first exploring on the ground, ears flapping. The juvenile leaves bothered with its tail up: so the sequence here would be: adolescent finds something interesting on the ground, juvenile wants to check it too with its trunk but the adolescent gets annoyed by it; juvenile leaves bothered like saying: "ok, it´s all yours!": 

original video: ACP00001vl

We have already talked about their strong social bonds, but have a look at this sequence: there´s a young individual afraid of something in its way and not daring to go through. Tail up, and walking stressed back and forth. The next individual (a juvenile, I would say female) rapidly approaches and touches it with its trunk in a comforting way. The third one does the same thing, trunk touch and approaching to explore the potential danger; it´s a male, excited by the situation with his penis out and flapping ears. Look at the first individual´s reaction when it´s touched by the trunks! it just calms down, accepts to keep walking and follows its `saviors`. Interesting video showing fear, stress and empathy resulting in protection, support and guidance: 

original videos: ACP000cb8k ACP000cb8l ACP000cb8n 

See how they react when they experience a stressful situation (in the case of the video below, the camera is the stressing factor). Tails up, ears flapping. If male, penis out, and if brave enough, ears out and walking in the direction of the potential danger in a threatening way:

original videos: ACP0000b7b , ACP000chqo 

They are as well known to show a special interest when it comes to a relative´s death. 
I´m sure you have heard about the elephant´s graveyard story; it tells that elephants have “graveyards” where they go when they feel that their end is coming closer, and it is certainly a beautiful story to believe in. However, let me just play the “killjoy” here. The reality is that as they get older, they start to lose their molars (remember?) and they need to feed on soft and wet plants that they can easily chew. So they go to the river sides where there are plenty of those plants. They would stay there until they die of starvation and then their bodies flow down the river and end up in a dryer place where the water can´t drag the body anymore. If there were some elephants dying near the same river, the result is a gather place with dead elephant bodies. That´s what local people see, and this fact along with the belief in the elephant´s huge intelligence make this beautiful graveyard story.

It´s been often documented that when an elephant dies, its group (or a different group) stays around the dead body for a while (sometimes even days), just standing and exploring it with their trunks and feet. If you think of the elephant´s need of feeding during many hours a day to get all the nutrients that they need, the fact that they just stay beside a body for hours, "wasting" their precious feeding time, is very surprising. 

Although there are plenty of images showing that they express emotions in front of a relative´s dead body, still there´s little scientific evidence of the reasons why they do it. But they do it… letting aside the scientific explanation, I myself have witnessed awesome scenes. 
Let me tell you a story that I heard about:

Some years ago, in a zoo in Germany, there was a group of female elephants living together for several years. So one day one of those ladies died. In order to avoid a macabre scene for the visitors, the workers in the zoo had to `prepare´ her body inside the elephant house to be transported in a truck out of the zoo. The other three elephants were of course outside during that procedure. The body was then transported in the food truck, and covered with a canvas. They had to drive the food truck with the covered dead elephant body all along the pathway in front of the elephant enclosure where the others stayed. Right when the truck was driving in front of them, all other females went close to the fence and stretched their trunks, sniffing the air. This fact alone was not that special, as they used to do it when the food truck was driving along every day. What was really surprising was that this time they started to trumpet out loud in the direction where their dead group member was being taken.  Amazing, isn´t it?


Save The Elephants: http://www.savetheelephants.org/about-elephants-2-3/elephant-news-post/?detail=rare-video-shows-elephants-mourning-matriarch-s-death

Upali.ch : http://de.upali.ch/zahne-zahnwechsel-stosszahne/

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Chimp&See: Bats and rodents

Did you know that together bats and rodents make up over half of all mammal species?  Not only that, but both groups can be found on all continents except for Antarctica, and in many different kinds of habitats.  But it's ok if bats and rodents aren't your favorite animals at Chimp&See, because they actually appear in only a small portion of all the camera trap videos.  Rodents are hard to catch on camera because many species are small and don't like to be out in the open.  Bats are tough because they fly so quickly that they're usually gone before the camera has a chance to record them. In fact, many of our videos with bats are actually triggered by another animal!  

Here are a couple of fun videos found by Corcaroli and DataDroid, each showing both a bat and a rodent.

Original videos: ACP000erzkACP0003wwl