Saturday, October 01, 2005

Wild gorillas seen using tools for first time, etc

Science news items with my comments in square brackets.

Wild gorillas seen using tools for first time, ABC, September 30, 2005. ... Two female gorillas have been photographed using sticks as tools to get through swampy areas, the first time the apes have been seen doing so in the wild, researchers report. "This is a truly astounding discovery," said Thomas Breuer of the Wildlife Conservation Society and the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany, who led the study. The findings can help shed light on how human beings came to use tools, and also broaden the understanding of how animals use them, the researchers said. "Although there are reports of tool use by captive gorillas, including object throwing and use of tools in feeding, there has been to our knowledge no reported case of tool use in by wild gorillas, despite decades of field research," they wrote in their report, published in the Public Library of Science Biology, an online journal. All great apes use tools in captivity, but scientists have worried this does not necessarily reflect natural behaviour, just something copied from humans. "Tool usage in wild apes provides us with valuable insights into the evolution of our own species and the abilities of other species. Seeing it for the first time in gorillas is important on many different levels," the report said. They describe the two instances in the northern rain forests of the Republic of Congo. "We first observed an adult female gorilla using a branch as a walking stick to test water deepness and to aid in her attempt to cross a pool of water at Mbeli Bai, a swampy forest clearing in northern Congo," Mr Breuer and his international colleagues wrote. In the second case, they saw another pull up a dead shrub. "She forcefully pushed it into the ground with both hands and held the tool for support with her left hand over her head for two minutes while dredging food with the other hand," they wrote. "Efi then took the trunk with both hands and placed it on the swampy ground in front of her, crossed bipedally on this self-made bridge, and walked quadrupedally towards the middle of the clearing." Chimpanzees, closely related bonobos and other apes have also been seen using tools in the wild - for instance, to catch termites. Other animals such as crows have been seen using them. But never wild gorillas. "Information on tool use and factors favouring tool use in wild apes helps us to understand its importance in the evolution of our own species," Mr Breuer and his colleagues, Mireille Ndoundou-Hockemba and Vicki Fishlock wrote. The gorillas live in a protected area, and the researchers said this was key. "These protected areas are not only important for the conservation of species they contain, they also hold the key to comparing our own development as a species with our next of kin," Mr Breuer said. ... [Also in The Australian, BBC, CBS & CNN. That this minimal use of tools (if one can call a stick even that) is the best that primatologists have seen in apes in the wild, only underlines the uniqueness of humans. I have added this to my "Problems of Evolution" book outline, PE 14.1.5 Man ... Uniqueness ... Tools"]

Oxygen Helped Mammals Grow, Study Finds, ABC News/AP, Sep. 29, 2005 - Mammals, once tiny creatures scampering on the forest floor, grew larger as the amount of oxygen in the air increased over millions of years, a new study says. Today mammals, ranging from dogs and cats to elephants, dolphins and people, dominate the planet. It's a success story Paul G. Falkowski ... and colleagues say was helped by the more than doubling of oxygen in the air over the last 205 million years. Their findings are published in Friday's issue of the journal Science. The researchers measured samples of material deposited on the seafloor going back millions of years. By measuring the amount of carbon-13 in the samples they were able to estimate the amount of oxygen in the atmosphere at a particular time. They found that the air contained only about 10 percent oxygen at the time of the dinosaurs. By 50 million years ago the oxygen level had risen to 17 percent and it was 23 percent 40 million years ago, they reported. Currently the air contains about 21 percent oxygen. The rise of oxygen "almost certainly contributed to evolution of large animals," the researchers reported. The oxygen needs of mammals and birds are three to six times as high as reptiles. The impact of an asteroid or meteorite about 65 million years ago is thought to have contributed to the demise of the dinosaurs. Their elimination also created an opportunity for the rise of mammals. There was an increase in small and medium-sized mammals in the first few million years after the end of the dinosaurs, the researchers reported. A second surge, from medium to large sizes, was seen between 50 million and 40 million years ago, they reported. ... [Also at CNN & Livescience: Another fine-tuned parameter without which we would not be here! I have added this to my "Problems of Evolution" book outline, PE 6.4.5 "Earth's fitness for life ... Oxygen"]

Why Kyoto will never succeed, by Blair, Daily Telegraph, Patrick Hennessy and James Langton, 25 September 2005 ... Tony Blair has admitted that the fight to prevent global warming by ordering countries to cut greenhouse gases will never be won. ... The Prime Minister said "no country is going to cut its growth or consumption" despite environmental fears. Mr Blair's comments, which he said were "brutally honest", mark a big environmental U-turn and will dismay Labour activists. They were made earlier this month in New York, at a conference on facing up to "global challenges ... Blair, who has been seen up to now as a strong supporter of the Kyoto Treaty, effectively tore the document up and admitted that rows over its implementation will "never be resolved." ... "I would say probably I'm changing my thinking about this in the past two or three years. I think if we are going to get action we have got to start from the brutal honesty about the politics of how we deal with it. "The truth is, no country is going to cut its growth or consumption substantially in the light of a long-term environmental problem. "Some people have signed Kyoto, some people haven't signed Kyoto, right? That is a disagreement. It's there. It's not going to be resolved." ... Mr Blair admitted that there would probably never be a successor treaty to Kyoto, which expires in 2012, and said the "answer" was merely to try to introduce "incentives" for business and large-scale energy users to make cut-backs. He said: "To be honest, I don't think people are going, at least in the short term, to start negotiating another major treaty like Kyoto." One of the problems surrounding the Kyoto Treaty was that the harsh carbon emissions targets did not apply to developing countries such as China and India. ...: "China and India... will grow. They are not going to find it satisfactory for us in the developed world to turn around and say, 'Look, we have had our growth. You have now got yours so we want you to do it sustainably even if we haven't'."... [Prime Minister Blair puts his finger on the fundamental problem. "no country is going to cut its growth or consumption substantially in the light of a long-term environmental problem." This is why when runaway global warming proves to be globally catastrophic and beyond the ability of any one nation to address, governments will cede power to a World Environment Organisation. It is out of such an organization that I expect Antichrist (1 Jn 2:18, 22; 4:3; 2 Jn 1:7; 2 Th 2:1-4; Rev 11:1-8; 13:2-18) will emerge. See my posts of 08-Sep-05 and 03-Sep-05 on this. See also my posts of 17-Sep-05 & 11-Sep-05 on global warming being part of the Great Tribulation. See also other posts 29-Sep-05 & 12-Aug-05 on global warming.]

Stephen E. Jones, BSc (Biol).
"Problems of Evolution"

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