Thursday, June 22, 2006

Wednesday/Thursday

Mutterings continued.

Had dinner last night with TUS. Leece and I had nachos - too many nachos. Retro Betty's juicer had broken down, so I couldn't have a Cosmos (watermelon and...other stuff) and they'd run out of bread so Maureen couldn't have a toasted ham, cheese and tomato sandwich. Conversations were wide-ranging and varied and included ponderings on the possibilities of birds with venomous beaks (if varanid lizards - that's your monitors, dragons, etc - can have venomous fangs (and not just disgusting breath and toxic teeth from too little flossing), and your bird is a descendent of similar critters ... All I'm saying is, your budgie may not be as innocent as it looks.

My leggies hurt. I discovered this morning that the carpet layers had done a shit job of putting all the library books back in order, so I've spent most of the day kneeling down, standing up, kneeling down, etc etc putting things to rights. Still not finished - most of 591.51 etc are still on the floor. I've decided that Dewey must have been taking the piss when setting up his decimal system. I mean, is it really necessary to cross reference a book to 10 decimal places??

Non-human primate news:

From Scientific American - Foraging Monkeys Make Use of Meteorology

Apparently humans aren't the only primates that plan outdoor events based on weather.

Gray-cheeked mangabey monkeys rely on recent trends in temperature and solar radiation to forage for figs and insect larvae, report Karline Janmaat and her colleagues of the University of St. Andrews in Scotland. The results support a lesser-studied notion that primate cognition evolved to solve problems rooted in ecology--such as foraging--instead of the more favored viewpoint, that cognition evolved as a way to cope within a complex society.

The findings, published today in Current Biology, come from field studies conducted for 210 days in the Kibale National Park of Uganda, where Janmaat mapped out the locations of 80 fig trees, noting whether the trees contained ripe fruit, unripe fruit or no fruit at all. Next, her team followed a group of mangabey monkeys from dawn to dusk, recording their position every 10 minutes using global positioning system (GPS) satellite technology, and observing whether the animals revisited or bypassed fig trees visited earlier. The researchers also recorded the maximum and minimum daily temperatures, as well as the percentage of high-level solar radiation.

They found that if the weather had been warm and sunny--as opposed to cool and cloudy--for a period of about five days, the monkeys were more likely to revisit a fruiting tree. "During the rainy season, the fruit takes really long to ripen--up to two months before they are finally ripe," Janmaat says. "In some periods when it's sunny, it can be in one week. There are big variations. Maybe it's worthwhile for the monkeys to know that."

Sunny weather also increases the likelihood of finding tasty weevil larvae--which infest unripe fruit and develop faster when temperatures are higher. "The monkeys pick the fruit and then they suck the larvae out," Janmaat explains.

In a place where fruit ripens intermittently and often in widely disparate locations, a strategy for efficient foraging could mean the difference between life and death.

From the sublime to the gorblimey - thanks to Fiona for this gem.

Monkey gangs steal England flags

A safari park in Merseyside is urging patriotic football fans to remove England flags from their vehicles to stop gangs of baboons pinching them.

Bosses at Knowsley Safari Park say the 120-strong troop of baboons usually swipe windscreen wipers but have turned to stealing World Cup flags instead.

Safari Park general manager David Ross said: "Many people are wisely removing them before going on the safari drive.

"If they forget the baboons usually take them."

According to Mr Ross, the baboons have built up quite a stash.

He added: "Visitors are certainly enjoying their antics with the flags as it does look like they are showing their support for the efforts of the England team.

"The baboons have always been great fun but they are the vandals of the animal world.

"Our advice to England fans is to remove their flags before they arrive or to use the alternative car-friendly route around the outside of the monkey jungle."

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