CNET: Great apes at San Diego Zoo receive experimental COVID-19 vaccine for animals. “Eight great apes at the San Diego Zoo have each received two doses of an experimental COVID-19 vaccine developed for animals, National Geographic reports. Three orangutans and five bonobos received both shots of the vaccine while distracted by treats, and have reportedly not had any negative side effects. The zoo will soon be able to check for antibodies to know if the vaccine worked as intended.”
Phys .org: Gorilla treated with antibodies recovering from COVID, says US zoo. “An elderly gorilla was recovering from a serious case of COVID-19 after he was treated with cutting-edge synthetic antibodies, the San Diego Zoo said Monday. Veterinarians are now identifying which animals to inject with the zoo’s limited supply of vaccines.”
Earth: New AI software can recognize and track chimpanzees in the wild. “Using more than 10 million images from Kyoto University’s Primate Research Institute (PRI), scientists at the University of Oxford have just developed new artificial intelligence software that can recognize and track the faces of chimpanzees in the wild.”
EurekAlert: These trippy images were designed by AI to super-stimulate monkey neurons. Sounds like Facebook. “To find out which sights specific neurons in monkeys ‘like’ best, researchers designed an algorithm, called XDREAM, that generated images that made neurons fire more than any natural images the researchers tested. As the images evolved, they started to look like distorted versions of real-world stimuli. The work appears May 2 in the journal Cell.”
AP: Chimps varied ‘culture’ matters for conservation, study says. “As researchers learn more about Homo sapiens’ closest living genetic relatives, they are also discovering more about the diversity of behaviors within chimpanzee groups — activities learned, at least in part socially, and passed from generation to generation. These patterns are referred to as ‘traditions’ — or even animal ‘culture.’ In a new study , scientists argue that this diversity of behaviors should be protected as species themselves are safeguarded, and that they are now under threat from human disturbance.”
BBC: Facial recognition tool tackles illegal chimp trade. “Wildlife criminals had better watch out! The same software that recognises you in a friend’s social media post is being adapted to tackle the illegal trade in chimpanzees.”
Tarsier Goggles: a virtual reality tool for experiencing the optics of a dark-adapted primate visual system (Dartmouth Digital Commons)
Dartmouth Digital Commons: Tarsier Goggles: a virtual reality tool for experiencing the optics of a dark-adapted primate visual system . “Tarsier Goggles is a virtual reality (VR) project that allows everyone to experience how a tarsier might see. It serves as a tool to engage in hands-on scientific concepts in optics, perceptual science, and evolutionary biology, and also challenges our own thinking about our environment. The experience is self-guided and allows users to toggle between human and tarsier in order to explore different realistic environments with both sets of eyes. Built in Unity3D with SteamVR for the HTC Vive Pro. For various functionalities like teleportation, splash screens, and tooltips for our tutorial, we use Virtual Reality Toolkit (VRTK), an open source library.” Tarsiers are those primates with enormous eyes. MNN has a good overview.
Futurism: New Facial Recognition Software Tracks and Protects Endangered Primates. “Facial recognition tech doesn’t have to be creepy or dystopian. We can actually use it for good. Case in point: Researchers at Michigan State University (MSU) developed a facial recognition software program that could help save the lives of endangered primates.”
Mongabay: Monkey business: Building a global database of primate conservation studies . “Researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, together with researchers at the University of Cambridge (where I work), have just published the results of a three-year project gathering the data on how well primate conservation initiatives have worked to conserve species from lemurs to chimpanzees. The ‘Primate Synopsis’ collects scientific papers and, where possible, NGO reports, testing conservation ‘interventions’ — actions that conservationists might undertake in order to have a favorable impact on these species.”
New to me: the Primate Films Database. From the homepage: “The Primate Films Database includes information about films featuring wild primates produced since the beginning of the twentieth century. The database contains entries for films (including feature films), TV specials, TV series, and single episodes of series. Currently the Primate Films Database focuses on films in which the main focus is on primates in wild settings, but it may be expanded in the future to include more films focusing on captive primates. The database includes general information about each film such as runtime, the featured species, and the narrator or host. A brief review of each film is also provided which focuses on the film’s usefulness in teaching and educational settings.” The database is available in its entirety as an 82-page PDF.
A new database tracks illegal trade in great apes going back to 2005. “A new database suggests say there has been a dramatic under-reporting of the live, illegal trade in great apes. Around 1,800 orangutans, chimpanzees and gorillas were seized in 23 different countries since 2005, the figures show. Since 90% of the cases were within national borders they didn’t appear in major data records, which only contain international seizures.”
In development: an online database of chimpanzee brains. “[George Washington University] will serve as a brain repository, where scientists can request tissue samples from the university’s collection to be sent to their own labs. The project team also will make available their assemblage of high-resolution MRI scans of chimpanzee brains along with observational data collected from studies on chimpanzees’ motor, social and cognitive skills. With this information, the researchers plan to create an online, searchable database that scientists can easily access. They also will build a detailed chimpanzee brain atlas and gene-expression map that can be used for research on the molecular pathways related to cognition and brain disease.” Please note: there are no live chimpanzees at GWU, and its collection of brains is described as coming from animals “that have died from natural causes at zoos and research centers”.