Monday, May 15, 2006

You'll Never Make A Monkey Out of Me

Recently eaten: seafood rice
Recent annoyance: ice cold showers

Throwing out intelligent design for the moment, most people have embraced Darwin's Theory of Evolution and there is substantial scientific evidence to suggest we are closely related to apes. New studies have shown that monkeys are catching up to us in the few mannerisms that have separated us from our ape cousins in the past: alcoholism and pornography.

Drunk Monkeys Mirror People
Monkeys drink more alcohol when housed alone, and some like to end a long day in the lab with a boozy cocktail, according to a new analysis of alcohol consumption among members of a rhesus macaque social group.

These and other observed behaviors strongly correspond with human patterns of alcohol use. Researchers attribute a predisposition to alcohol abuse in some monkeys and people to a combination of genetic and environmental factors.

In the study subjects, "blood alcohol levels often exceeded the .08 percent level, which is the legal limit for most states in the U.S.," said Scott Chen, one of the study’s authors and a researcher at the National Institutes of Health Animal Center in Maryland.

The study, recently published in the journal Methods, also found that booze affects monkeys much the same way it affects people.

"It was not unusual to see some of the monkeys stumble and fall, sway, and vomit," Chen added. "In a few of our heavy drinkers, they would drink until they fell asleep."

Monkeys Pay to View Sexy Photos
When given the choice between a photo of a low-status male with a high juice reward and a photo of a female's hindquarters, the male test subjects refused the extra juice so that they could gaze at the sexy female images. They also "paid" with juice to see photos of high-status males.

Conversely, the male monkeys required extra payment, meaning more juice, to view the faces of low-status males and females.

"We think that the monkeys value orienting towards all kinds of social information, but some types of information are worth more than others," Deaner told Discovery News.

The study determined that when males look at high-status males they pay attention, but do not make sustained eye contact. Deaner said long looks could signal aggression and, under normal circumstances, could pose a potentially costly threat of violence.

Males did not look away as quickly when they admired the females' behinds.

"Viewing the hindquarters of a female, on the other hand, may provide a benefit, but no potential cost," Deaner explained, and added that males likely check out the color and size of the female's perineum, or her genitalia. A large, red perineum generally means that she is ovulating.

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