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The Pyrenean ibex, an impressive mountain goat that lived in the central Pyrenees in Spain, went extinct in 2000. But a...
Tight budgets are forcing NASA to consider turning off one or more planetary science projects that have completed their...
Ebola is not a stranger to West Africa—an outbreak in the 1990s killed chimpanzees and sickened one researcher. But the...
In an as-yet-unpublished report, an international panel of geoscientists has concluded that a pair of deadly...
Tropical disease experts tried and failed before to eradicate yaws, a rare disfiguring disease of poor countries. Now,...
Since 2002, researchers have reported that agricultural communities in the hot and humid Pacific Coast of Central...
Balkan endemic kidney disease surfaced in the 1950s and for decades defied attempts to finger the cause. It occurred...
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Hug It Out, Monkey
21 February 2007 (All day)
We all do it: Give friends and family a peck on the cheek, a quick hug, or maybe even a nose rub to say hello. It's a way of assuring each other that we have no hostile intent, anthropologists say. Now, primatologists report that spider monkeys embrace intensely after a period of separation for exactly the same reason.
Like humans and chimpanzees, spider monkeys (Ateles geoffroyi) live in small groups that split apart to feed or hunt (or shop at Saks) and then rejoin later in the day. For years, researchers have noticed that these monkey reunions are often accompanied by public displays of hugging. "They give a quick call and look intensely at each other, and then briefly wrap each other in their long arms in what's almost a passionate embrace," says Filippo Aureli, a primatologist at Liverpool John Moores University in the U.K. In some cases, the monkeys even curl their tails around one other.
To decipher the social meaning of these embraces, Aureli and primatologist Colleen Schaffner of the University of Chester in the U.K., studied two spider monkey communities on Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula. After analyzing some 195 "fusion events"--the moment when the monkeys got back together--the researchers noticed a distinct pattern. Individuals that embraced upon meeting again seldom behaved aggressively toward each other or the rest of the group. "This is always a time of potential friction and when they're most prone to fight," says Aureli, "because of the limited supply of food or other resources." Hugging is "their way of conflict management," he says. The team reports its findings online this week in Biology Letters.
"It's a valuable study," says Frans de Waal, a primatologist at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia. "It shows how important greetings are in these fission-fusion societies, including our own."