Site update

Since I have been really terrible at updating the blog (but pretty good at keeping up with the facebook blog posts) I've added the widget below so that facebook cross posts to the blog.

You shouldn't need to join facebook but can just click on the links in the widget to access the articles. If you have any problems or comments please mail me at arandjel 'AT'

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Meta-analysis of what keeps weight gain at bay: Nuts, Yoghurt, Sleep (and more...)

From the NYTimes
Still Counting Calories? Your Weight-Loss Plan May Be Outdated

It’s no secret that Americans are fatter today than ever before, and not just those unlucky people who are genetically inclined to gain weight or have been overweight all their lives. Many who were lean as young adults have put on lots of unhealthy pounds as they pass into middle age and beyond.

It’s also no secret that the long-recommended advice to eat less and exercise more has done little to curb the inexorable rise in weight. No one likes to feel deprived or leave the table hungry, and the notion that one generally must eat less to control body weight really doesn’t cut it for the typical American.

So the newest findings on what specific foods people should eat less often — and more importantly, more often — to keep from gaining pounds as they age should be of great interest to tens of millions of Americans.

The new research, by five nutrition and public health experts at Harvard University, is by far the most detailed long-term analysis of the factors that influence weight gain, involving 120,877 well-educated men and women who were healthy and not obese at the start of the study. In addition to diet, it has important things to say about exercise, sleep, television watching, smoking and alcohol intake.

The study participants — nurses, doctors, dentists and veterinarians in the Nurses’ Health Study, Nurses’ Health Study II and the Health Professionals Follow-up Study — were followed for 12 to 20 years. Every two years, they completed very detailed questionnaires about their eating and other habits and current weight. The fascinating results were published in June in The New England Journal of Medicine.

The analysis examined how an array of factors influenced weight gain or loss during each four-year period of the study. The average participant gained 3.35 pounds every four years, for a total weight gain of 16.8 pounds in 20 years.

“This study shows that conventional wisdom — to eat everything in moderation, eat fewer calories and avoid fatty foods — isn’t the best approach,” Dr. Dariush Mozaffarian, a cardiologist and epidemiologist at the Harvard School of Public Health and lead author of the study, said in an interview. “What you eat makes quite a difference. Just counting calories won’t matter much unless you look at the kinds of calories you’re eating.”

Dr. Frank B. Hu, a nutrition expert at the Harvard School of Public Health and a co-author of the new analysis, said: “In the past, too much emphasis has been put on single factors in the diet. But looking for a magic bullet hasn’t solved the problem of obesity.”

Also untrue, Dr. Mozaffarian said, is the food industry’s claim that there’s no such thing as a bad food.

“There are good foods and bad foods, and the advice should be to eat the good foods more and the bad foods less,” he said. “The notion that it’s O.K. to eat everything in moderation is just an excuse to eat whatever you want.”

The study showed that physical activity had the expected benefits for weight control. Those who exercised less over the course of the study tended to gain weight, while those who increased their activity didn’t. Those with the greatest increase in physical activity gained 1.76 fewer pounds than the rest of the participants within each four-year period.

But the researchers found that the kinds of foods people ate had a larger effect over all than changes in physical activity.

“Both physical activity and diet are important to weight control, but if you are fairly active and ignore diet, you can still gain weight,” said Dr. Walter Willett, chairman of the nutrition department at the Harvard School of Public Health and a co-author of the study.

As Dr. Mozaffarian observed, “Physical activity in the United States is poor, but diet is even worse.”

Little Things Mean a Lot
People don’t become overweight overnight.

Rather, the pounds creep up slowly, often unnoticed, until one day nothing in the closet fits the way it used to.

Even more important than its effect on looks and wardrobe, this gradual weight gain harms health. At least six prior studies have found that rising weight increases the risk in women of heart disease, diabetes, stroke and breast cancer, and the risk in men of heart disease, diabetes and colon cancer.

The beauty of the new study is its ability to show, based on real-life experience, how small changes in eating, exercise and other habits can result in large changes in body weight over the years.

On average, study participants gained a pound a year, which added up to 20 pounds in 20 years. Some gained much more, about four pounds a year, while a few managed to stay the same or even lose weight.

Participants who were overweight at the study’s start tended to gain the most weight, which seriously raised their risk of obesity-related diseases, Dr. Hu said. “People who are already overweight have to be particularly careful about what they eat,” he said.

The foods that contributed to the greatest weight gain were not surprising. French fries led the list: Increased consumption of this food alone was linked to an average weight gain of 3.4 pounds in each four-year period. Other important contributors were potato chips (1.7 pounds), sugar-sweetened drinks (1 pound), red meats and processed meats (0.95 and 0.93 pound, respectively), other forms of potatoes (0.57 pound), sweets and desserts (0.41 pound), refined grains (0.39 pound), other fried foods (0.32 pound), 100-percent fruit juice (0.31 pound) and butter (0.3 pound).

Also not too surprising were most of the foods that resulted in weight loss or no gain when consumed in greater amounts during the study: fruits, vegetables and whole grains. Compared with those who gained the most weight, participants in the Nurses’ Health Study who lost weight consumed 3.1 more servings of vegetables each day.

But contrary to what many people believe, an increased intake of dairy products, whether low-fat (milk) or full-fat (milk and cheese), had a neutral effect on weight.

And despite conventional advice to eat less fat, weight loss was greatest among people who ate more yogurt and nuts, including peanut butter, over each four-year period.

Nuts are high in vegetable fat, and previous small studies have shown that eating peanut butter can help people lose weight and keep it off, probably because it slows the return of hunger.

That yogurt, among all foods, was most strongly linked to weight loss was the study’s most surprising dietary finding, the researchers said. Participants who ate more yogurt lost an average of 0.82 pound every four years.

Yogurt contains healthful bacteria that in animal studies increase production of intestinal hormones that enhance satiety and decrease hunger, Dr. Hu said. The bacteria may also raise the body’s metabolic rate, making weight control easier.

But, consistent with the new study’s findings, metabolism takes a hit from refined carbohydrates — sugars and starches stripped of their fiber, like white flour. When Dr. David Ludwig of Children’s Hospital Boston compared the effects of refined carbohydrates with the effects of whole grains in both animals and people, he found that metabolism, which determines how many calories are used at rest, slowed with the consumption of refined grains but stayed the same after consumption of whole grains.

Other Influences
As has been suggested by previous smaller studies, how long people slept each night influenced their weight changes. In general, people who slept less than six hours or more than eight hours a night tended to gain the most. Among possible explanations are effects of short nights on satiety hormones, as well as an opportunity to eat more while awake, Dr. Hu said.

He was not surprised by the finding that the more television people watched, the more weight they gained, most likely because they are influenced by a barrage of food ads and snack in front of the TV.

Alcohol intake had an interesting relationship to weight changes. No significant effect was found among those who increased their intake to one glass of wine a day, but increases in other forms of alcohol were likely to bring added pounds.

As expected, changes in smoking habits also influenced weight changes. Compared with people who never smoked, those who had quit smoking within the previous four years gained an average of 5.17 pounds. Subsequent weight gain was minimal — 0.14 pound for each four-year period.

Those who continued smoking lost 0.7 pound in each four-year period, which the researchers surmised may have resulted from undiagnosed underlying disease, especially since those who took up smoking experienced no change in weight.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Marc Hauser resigns from Harvard

Thanks to Vanessa Van D for the link!

from the Boston Globe
Embattled Harvard professor resigns
Hauser due to return after year’s leave
By Carolyn Y. Johnson

Marc Hauser, a well-known Harvard psychology professor who has been on leave since an internal investigation found him guilty of eight counts of scientific misconduct, is leaving the university.

“Marc Hauser has resigned his position as a faculty member, effective Aug. 1, 2011,’’ Harvard spokesman Jeff Neal wrote in an e-mail response to inquiries from the Globe.

Hauser was a popular professor known for his research and writing on the evolutionary underpinnings of morality and the traits that make the human mind distinct from those of animals. He took a leave of absence after a faculty committee concluded a three-year investigation that was first reported last August by the Globe. But he was due to return to the university this fall, a prospect that made many of his former colleagues uncomfortable.

A large majority of the Harvard psychology faculty had voted not to allow him to teach in the department this year, and the dean of the arts and sciences faculty, Michael D. Smith, had supported their position.

“While on leave over the past year, I have begun doing some extremely interesting and rewarding work focusing on the educational needs of at-risk teenagers,’’ Hauser wrote to the dean in a brief resignation letter, dated July 7, that Harvard released. “I have also been offered some exciting opportunities in the private sector. While I may return to teaching and research in the years to come, I look forward to focusing my energies in the coming year on these new and interesting challenges.’’

Hauser did not respond to e-mail and voice-mail messages requesting a comment.

His resignation brings some resolution to the turmoil on campus over his status, but it still leaves the scientific community trying to sort out what findings within Hauser’s large body of work they can trust. Three published papers led by Hauser were thrown into question by the investigation; one was retracted and two were corrected. Problems were also found in five studies that were either not published or corrected prior to publication.

“What it does do is it provides some sort of closure for people at Harvard. . . . They were in a state of limbo,’’ said Gerry Altmann, editor of the journal Cognition. Based on information provided to him by Harvard last year, Altmann said, the only plausible conclusion was that some of the data in a study published in his journal in 2002 and retracted last year had been fabricated.

“There’s just been this cloud hanging over the department,’’ Altmann said. “. . . It has no real impact on the field more broadly.’’

Harvard has said it is cooperating with a federal investigation into Hauser’s research, which is believed to be continuing. A spokeswoman for the Office of Research Integrity in the Department of Health and Human Services said the agency cannot confirm or deny any ongoing investigations

In an unusual step, Smith wrote a letter to the faculty last year explaining that Hauser had been found “solely responsible’’ for eight instances of scientific misconduct, a serious transgression. The problems, Smith wrote, were not the same in each case, but involved “data acquisition, data analysis, data retention, and the reporting of research methodologies and results,’’ concerns that encompass many key aspects of scientific research.

The dean’s letter detailed a list of possible sanctions in such cases, including involuntary leave and restrictions on a faculty member’s ability to apply for research grants or advise students, but also said that specific actions are kept confidential.

When asked whether there had been pressure on Hauser to resign or whether a settlement had been negotiated, Neal referred to Hauser’s letter, which does not address those issues.

“I’m deeply saddened by the whole events of the last year,’’ Steven Pinker, a psychology professor at Harvard, said yesterday. “Marc is a scientist of enormous creativity, energy, and talent.’’

Hauser is a prolific researcher and public intellectual whose work was featured in newspapers and on television, sparking people’s imagination. He ran a primate laboratory at Harvard, and much of his research explored the abilities of cotton-top tamarin monkeys in such domains as language and math.

He authored a popular book, “Moral Minds,’’ and more than 200 scientific publications and was voted one of Harvard’s most popular professors. His scientific collaborators have included top researchers in disciplines from psychology to linguistics.

In his two-paragraph resignation letter, Hauser wrote, “During my 18 years at Harvard, it has been a great pleasure to teach so many bright and talented students and to work with so many dedicated colleagues.’’

Problems with three published papers were found during the Harvard investigation. One, the 2002 Cognition paper, was retracted. In the two other cases, the papers were corrected. Researchers repeated the experiments after missing field notes and videotapes were discovered. In both those papers, published in the journals Science and the Proceedings of the Royal Society B, the repeated experiments supported the original findings.

Another researcher in Hauser’s field, Michael Tomasello, codirector of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Germany, said yesterday that Hauser’s departure was not unexpected.

“Once they didn’t let him teach - and there are severe restrictions in his ability to do research - you come to the office and what do you do all day?’’ he said. “People in the field, we’re just wondering; this doesn’t change anything. We’re still where we were before’’ concerning the other studies.

11 Animal Species About to Go Extinct

Anna M. just sent this my way and asked me to post, and I am much obliged - MA

To see the whole list go to:

Some endangered species get all the attention. Polar bears, pandas, and Siberian tigers are hotshots in mainstream conservation campaigns and are featured in various commercials, complete with melodramatic music and emotional appeals. But there are many animal species that are just as close or closer to extinction than these select few. And many of them are equally cute. The following animals are all considered to be critically endangered and could disappear within our lifetimes.

Golden-Mantled Tree Kangaroo Less famous than its ground-dwelling, boxing relatives, the golden-mantled tree kangaroo (pictured above) has jumped onto the list of species facing extinction. It looks similar to a kangaroo or wallaby, but has strong forearms and a long ringed tail. Tree kangaroos also have rubbery soles on shorter, wider feet to make them more adept at climbing than kangaroos on the ground. Though they are slow and clumsy on land, tree kangaroos move expertly through trees, wrapping their forearms around a limb and using the hind legs to propel themselves up. They also leap with ease between trees. The golden-mantled tree kangaroo lives in the forested areas of a mountain range in Papua New Guinea and was discovered in Indonesia in 2006 by a group of scientists. As more of the forest is cleared away to be made into cultivated land, the tree kangaroo's home is shrinking -- bad news when it has been run out of 99% of its historical habitat range. In 2008 there were only 250 of its kind left, and experts expect the number to drop under 200 in the next 10 years or so.

Siau Island Tarsier This Gremlin-esque little guy comes, unsurprisingly, from the island of Siau in Indonesia. Tarsiers are nocturnal primates with extremely large eyes, soft fur, and long fingers and feet. Researchers believe the Siau Island tarsier numbers in the low thousands, and local residents have said they've seen fewer and fewer of these tarsiers during the past 10 years. Take into account that more than half of the animal's home is an active volcano and that the island's human population is rumored to regularly eat five to 10 tarsiers in one sitting, and the future's not looking good for this species. In fact, it was put on the 2008-2010 list of the 25 most endangered primates, ranking up there with heavyweight names like the Sumatran Orangutan and Cross River Gorilla.

Pygmy Three-Toed Sloth A slightly smaller version of your average sloth found only on one small island off the coast of Panama, the pygmy three-toed sloth is inching its way toward extinction with presumably fewer than 500 of its kind remaining. Though apparently not helping it survive human threats, this sloth's set of skills includes the ability to turn its head 360 degrees and to grow algae on its fur. The algae is thought to be a sort of camouflage, but it hasn't been able to protect the sloth from fishermen, who hunt the sloths and can spot them easily in their habitats near open sea. And while sloths have gotten a bad name for being lazy, what with the whole seven deadly sins thing, maybe that reputation will help them in this instance. Hopefully when it comes to extinction, these sloths will go very slowly.

To see the rest, go to:

In celebration of Mendel's birthday Google has a great doodle :)

Just go to today

Watch for free - Richard Dawkins: The Greatest Show on Earth

From Top Documentary Films

When he has that fire in his belly, Richard Dawkins is arguably the greatest living popularizer of evolution.

His foundational work, The Selfish Gene, inspired a generation of evolutionary biology students, while The God Delusion was a powerfully effective self-esteem booster for atheists in the closet.

With his new book, splendidly titled The Greatest Show on Earth, Dawkins joins other popularizers in what has become almost a rite of passage – to make the case for evolution to the general public.

It’s like the ring the bell game at the county fair where every able young male feels obliged to step up and swing the giant mallet.

Mystery of mole's second thumb solved

By Jennifer Carpenter

The extra digit plays a crucial role in mole digging proficiency

Scientists have discovered how one of the world's best diggers got its "extra thumb".

Comparing the mole's digits with those of its close relative, the researchers looked for molecular clues to the anatomical oddity.

The results show that the mole's second thumb is not a real digit but starts out as a wrist bone, the scientists report in Biology Letters.

The extra appendage helps propel the mole through its subterranean world.

The very early four-legged land vertebrates, such as Acanthostega and Ichthyostega, that dragged themselves from the muddy waters on to land had five, six, seven, even eight fingers. But evolution seems to have favoured the five-fingered.

And so today, whether they have paws, claws or hands, most vertebrates have five digits. The exceptions, such as hoofed animals and birds have all descended from five-fingered ancestors.

In today's world, the giant panda and the mole are anomalies among vertebrates: both have a second thumb, giving them a total of 12 digits.

A fake
Their extra thumbs are considered adaptations to their modes of life.

The panda uses its thumbs to better grip its favourite bamboo food, while the mole's shovel-like claws are probably an adaptation to its dirt-filled tunnels.

Now new research suggests that the mole's second thumb, just like the Giant panda's, is a fake.

Developmental biologist Christian Mitgutsch, and his colleagues, from the University of Zurich, Switzerland, looked at the hands of eight mole species, and compared them with those of their close relative, the shrew.
Skeletal image of hand (Credit: C.Mitgutsch/Zurich)

By looking at the developing paws of the mole, Dr Mitgutsch was able to see that genes that usually turned on at the beginning of digit development did not show up when the mole's thumb started to form.

What is more, these cells did not start to extend into a finger-like protrusion until after the five other digits were well on their way to being fully formed.

Them wrist bones
However, what clinched it for Dr Mitgutsch was when he and his team showed that the second thumb seems to grow from tissue that usually develops into wrist bone, and not finger bone.

All of the eight mole species had some form of extra thumb, Dr Mitgutsch explained, but some did not develop past a small milimetre-long bone at the bottom of their paws, while others, like the Iberian mole, Talpa occidentalis, had a second thumb that matched the length of its five other fingers.

The researchers suspect that the mole's hormones are responsible for the six-finger quirkiness.

Female moles possess both ovararian and testicular tissue, and therefore have high levels of testosterone compared to species where individuals are either one sex or the other.

Exposure to high levels of testosterone - a known bone builder - in the uterus has been linked to polydactylism, a condition where people are born with extra fingers and toes.

However, there is more work to do before researchers can point the finger at testosterone when it comes to the mole's extra digits.


Mitgutsch C, Richardson MK, Jiménez R, Martin JE, Kondrashov P, de Bakker MAG, Sánchez-Villagra1 MP, Sánchez-Villagra1 MR (2011) Circumventing the polydactyly ‘constraint’: the mole's ‘thumb’. Biology Letters doi: 10.1098/rsbl.2011.0494

Talpid moles across all northern continents exhibit a remarkably large, sickle-like radial sesamoid bone anterior to their five digits, always coupled with a smaller tibial sesamoid bone. A possible developmental mechanism behind this phenomenon was revealed using molecular markers during limb development in the Iberian mole (Talpa occidentalis) and a shrew (Cryptotis parva), as shrews represent the closest relatives of moles but do not show these conspicuous elements. The mole's radial sesamoid develops later than true digits, as shown by Sox9, and extends into the digit area, developing in relation to an Msx2-domain at the anterior border of the digital plate. Fgf8 expression, marking the apical ectodermal ridge, is comparable in both species. Developmental peculiarities facilitated the inclusion of the mole's radial sesamoid into the digit series; talpid moles circumvent the almost universal pentadactyly constraint by recruiting wrist sesamoids into their digital region using a novel developmental pathway and timing.

Missing Gene Helps Mice Run for Hours

Lab mice usually take only an occasional jaunt on their exercise wheels. But mice missing a gene called IL-15Rα run for hours each night, a new study reveals. And the gene doesn't just make a difference to mice—it might also be linked to the ability of long-distance athletes to outperform the rest of us.

Previous studies had suggested that IL-15Rα is important for muscle strength. In experiments on cells grown in a Petri dish, the gene seemed to control the accumulation of proteins necessary for muscle contraction. But IL-15Rα had never been studied in a living animal.

In the new research, physiologist Tejvir Khurana of the University of Pennsylvania and his colleagues genetically engineered mice to lack the IL-15Rα gene. The changes were dramatic. Each night, according to sensors on the wheels in the mice's cages, the modified mice ran six times farther than normal mice.

But these behavioral quirks weren't quite enough to convince Khurana of the effect on muscles. Lack of the IL-15Rα gene could just be making the mice jittery or giving them extra energy. So the researchers dissected muscles from the longer-running mice. The muscles sported increased numbers of energy-generating mitochondria and more muscle fibers, indicating that they tired less easily. And when the researchers stimulated them with electricity, the muscles continued to contract for longer than normal, taking longer to use up their energy stores, the team reports today in The Journal of Clinical Investigation.

Mice, like humans, have two types of muscles. Fast-twitch muscles, such as the muscles in our fingers, allow more precise movements but tire faster, whereas slow-twitch muscles, like those in our back, are more resistant to fatigue but don't allow such precise movements. Removing the IL-15Rα gene, Khurana says, coaxed the mice's fast-twitch leg muscles to turn into slow-twitch muscles.

To study whether IL-15Rα might also affect human endurance, Khurana collaborated with a group of researchers in Australia who keep a library of genetic samples from Olympic and world-class athletes. They found that certain variants of the IL-15Rα gene were more common in endurance athletes like long-distance cyclists and rowers than they were in sprinters. More than three-quarters of long-distance triathletes had one type of variant, for example. Although researchers don't know yet what functional differences the gene variants might have, the finding suggests that the most successful endurance athletes might have a variant that gives their muscles extra endurance.

Biologist Ronald Evans of the Salk Institute for Biological Studies in San Diego, California, says the new study adds to the picture of how endurance is controlled at a molecular level. Evans has characterized the effects of a separate protein called PPARδ, which gives mice extra running endurance as well as enhanced fat-burning abilities. Mice lacking IL-15Rα showed an increase in PPARδ activity, though it's not clear whether the genes directly interact and work through the same mechanisms.

Psychological factors could also be at play. "In a case like this, it's hard to know how to connect the hyperactivity component to the endurance component," Evans says. Even if the mice's muscles have extra endurance, he says, why do they voluntarily run so much more than normal mice?

Still, Khurana says the work raises the possibility that drugs blocking IL-15Rα could one day enhance endurance. Of course, researchers don't know whether such a drug would have other side effects, because the IL-15Rα gene is expressed in many tissues in the body, not just muscles. So for now, if you want to become a better athlete, it's probably best to just lace up your sneakers and get some old-fashioned exercise.

Pistilli1 EE, Bogdanovich S, Garton F, Yang N, Gulbin JP, Conner JD, Anderson BG,Quinn LS, North K, Ahima RS, Khurana1 TS (2011) Loss of IL-15 receptor α alters the endurance, fatigability, and metabolic characteristics of mouse fast skeletal muscles J Clin Invest. doi:10.1172/JCI44945.

IL-15 receptor α (IL-15Rα) is a component of the heterotrimeric plasma membrane receptor for the pleiotropic cytokine IL-15. However, IL-15Rα is not merely an IL-15 receptor subunit, as mice lacking either IL-15 or IL-15Rα have unique phenotypes. IL-15 and IL-15Rα have been implicated in muscle phenotypes, but a role in muscle physiology has not been defined. Here, we have shown that loss of IL-15Rα induces a functional oxidative shift in fast muscles, substantially increasing fatigue resistance and exercise capacity. IL-15Rα–knockout (IL-15Rα–KO) mice ran greater distances and had greater ambulatory activity than controls. Fast muscles displayed fatigue resistance and a slower contractile phenotype. The molecular signature of these muscles included altered markers of mitochondrial biogenesis and calcium homeostasis. Morphologically, fast muscles had a greater number of muscle fibers, smaller fiber areas, and a greater ratio of nuclei to fiber area. The alterations of physiological properties and increased resistance to fatigue in fast muscles are consistent with a shift toward a slower, more oxidative phenotype. Consistent with a conserved functional role in humans, a genetic association was found between a SNP in the IL15RA gene and endurance in athletes stratified by sport. Therefore, we propose that IL-15Rα has a role in defining the phenotype of fast skeletal muscles in vivo.

Social networking for locusts


Insect swarming is created by the same kind of adaptive-network mechanisms that humans adopt for social networks, researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Physics of Complex Systems have determined.

The researchers used ideas from studies on opinion formation in social networks, such as Facebook and Twitter, and applied them to a study of 120 locusts marching in a ring-shaped arena in the lab.

Locusts “like” each other — really like

Locusts rely heavily on swarming because they are cannibalistic. The researchers found that the social interactions involved convincing others to walk in the same direction as they march across barren deserts, keeping track of each other so they can remain within striking distance to consume one another — a cruel but efficient survival strategy.

“We don’t necessarily pay more attention to those doing the same as us, but many times [we pay more attention] to those doing something different,” said Gerd Zschaler of the Max Planck Institute.

Ref.: Gerd Zschaler, et al., Adaptive-network models of swarm dynamics, 2011; [DOI:10.1088/1367-2630/13/7/073022]

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Skateboard wheel art - the Darwin series

My friend Jim F (of Don Ernesto fame : sent me these super cool skateboard wheels he had comissioned before he moved to the field

You can find out more about them here (and scroll down, there are also T shirts!)

New planet of the apes trailer

I know I seem like a bit of a propaganda machine for this movie today - but it really looks incredible! and hopefully the message on the really nasty side of keeping apes in captivity might really make people take notice of an issue I think a lot of people on this page feel really passionate about! spread the word :)

Thanks to Jim F for the link!

Rise of the planet of the apes has a VERY clever marketing campaign

Rise of the planet of the apes - has a whole set of viral videos for their marketing campaign including a mockumentary about idi amin's chimps trained to use machetes to protect him - they are VERY well done and believable, check em all out here:​eswillrise
Thanks to Lissa O for the link!

and some are very much based in reality

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

FTW!: The new science of triumph

Why Winners Win at…
The new science of triumph in sports, business, and life.
From Newsweek

Andre Agassi Was losing. A lot. After a meteoric start to his professional tennis career, with the best return and fastest reflexes in the game, Agassi had become a chronic underachiever by the early 1990s, dropping early matches and choking in finals alike. And in Key Biscayne, Fla., in March 1994, he was set to lose again—badly—this time to a Pete Sampras who had been nearly incapacitated by food poisoning just moments before the match was to begin.

Frustrated and rudderless, Agassi agreed to have dinner with a prospective new coach, a man whose tennis he didn’t much admire. Brad Gilbert was the anti-Agassi, a moderately talented junker who in his own career had eked out matches he had no right to win. His book about tactics, just published, was titled Winning Ugly. At dinner in Key Biscayne, Agassi wanted an honest assessment of his game. Why did he keep losing to less skilled players?

Gilbert excoriated him for trying to play with perfection. Instead of risking a killer shot on every point, why not keep the ball in play and give the other guy a chance to lose? “It’s all about your head, man,” Gilbert said, as Agassi recalls in his memoir, Open. “With your talent, if you’re fifty percent game-wise, but ninety-five percent head-wise, you’re going to win. But if you’re ninety-five percent game-wise and fifty percent head-wise, you’re going to lose, lose, lose.”

Agassi hired him on the spot. An immediate losing streak ensued, as Gilbert razed and rebuilt his game. But gradually Agassi began to pull out wins in matches that the old Agassi would have lost, and five months later he bulldozed his way to his first U.S. Open championship. “I fall to my knees,” Agassi writes of the moment in Open. “My eyes fill with tears. I look to my box ... You know everything you need to know about people when you see their faces at the moments of your greatest triumph. I’ve believed in Brad’s talent from the beginning, but now, seeing his pure and unrestrained happiness for me, I believe unrestrainedly in him.” At last his head was clear. Symbolically, and seismically, Agassi shaved his iconic glam locks—and punked Sampras in four sets to win his second straight Grand Slam, the 1995 Australian Open, en route to his first career No. 1 ranking. There would be more losses, many more, in his long career. But Andre Agassi had learned how to win.

What is it that separates winners from losers? The pat answer is that, in sports at least, winners simply have certain things that mortals don’t—as one might conclude from watching the suddenly indefatigable Novak Djokovic, the Wimbledon and Australian Open champion, who has lost exactly once in his first 49 matches this year. But fitness doesn’t tell the full story. “There are more players that have the talent to be the best in the world than there are winners,” says Timothy Gallwey, the author of several books about the mental side of tennis, golf, and other pursuits. “One way of looking at it is that winners get in their own way less. They interfere with the raw expression of talent less. And to do that, first they win the war against fear, against doubt, against insecurity—which are no minor victories.”

Defined that way, winning becomes translatable into areas beyond the physical: chess, spelling bees, the corporate world, even combat. You can’t go forever down that road, of course. The breadth of our colloquial definition for winning—the fact that we use the same word for being handed an Oscar as for successfully prosecuting a war—means that there is no single gene for victory across all fields, no cerebral on-off switch that turns also-rans into champions. But neuroscientists, psychologists, and other researchers are beginning to better understand the highly interdisciplinary concept of winning, finding surprising links between brain chemistry, social theory, and even economics, which together give new insight into why some people come out on top again and again.

One area being disrupted relates to dominance, a decent laboratory stand-in for winning. Scientists have long thought that dominance is largely determined by testosterone: the more you have, the more likely you are to prevail, and not just on the playing field. Testosterone is desirable in the boardroom, in the courthouse, and in other scenarios that reward risk and bold action. Twenty-five years ago, scientists proved the hormone’s role in winning streaks: a win gives you a jolt of T, which gives you an edge in your next competition, which gives you more T, and so on, in a virtuous sex-hormone feedback loop.

Last August, though, researchers at the University of Texas and Columbia found that testosterone is helpful only when regulated by small amounts of another hormone called cortisol. What’s more, for those with a lot of cortisol in their blood, high levels of testosterone may actually impede winning.

Across Columbia’s campus, professors at the business school are putting this dominance science into practice, swabbing saliva samples from M.B.A. students to measure both hormones. Each subject is then given a prescription to get the two steroids into ideal balance: eat whole grains and cut out coffee to lower the cortisol; hit the weight room and take vitamin B to raise testosterone. Just before a crucial confrontation, standing in a certain “power pose” can calibrate the hormones temporarily. The ideal leader, says Prof. Paul Ingram, is “calm, but with an urge towards dominance.” (Picture Apple CEO Steve Jobs onstage, unveiling a blockbuster product.) It’s true for both men and women, and in theory it all adds up to winning a contract, winning a promotion, winning the quarter.

New science like this illuminates winners of the past. It’s a peek inside the bloodstream of perhaps the most thrilling competitor to ever eviscerate his opponents at a pensive task: Bobby Fischer, the chess champion. “For Fischer, there was a relentless desire to decimate his opponent,” says Liz Garbus, the director of the new documentary Bobby Fischer Against the World. “Bobby took delight in how he made his opponent ill. There was something of a sadism to the way he approached it.” Before his legendary showdown with Russian archnemesis Boris Spassky in Iceland in 1972, which would determine the world’s No. 1 player, Fischer underwent extensive weight and endurance training; he told a strength coach that he wanted to physically break Spassky’s hand the first time they shook. As the match approached, Fischer hemmed and hawed and would not show up, issuing increasingly bizarre demands and exasperating his foe before play had even begun. “I don’t believe in psychology,” Fischer said of the mind games. “I believe in good moves.”

With the world watching, he did eventually arrive in Reykjavik, and with the match tied 2½ to 2½, Fischer coolly uncorked a move that caught Spassky with his pants down: pawn to c4. Fischer always, always opened with his king’s pawn; it was the only configuration Spassky had prepared for, and in this uncharted territory the Russian was helpless. Fischer’s relentless belligerence had crescendoed to a sublime and understated play, which he followed with further aggression. Spassky never recovered. He managed just one win in the next 15 games, and Fischer and his mind and the testosterone-cortisol cocktail within were No. 1 in the world.

What’s better than winning? Doing it while someone else loses. An economist at the University of Bonn has shown that test subjects who receive a given reward for a task enjoy it significantly more if other subjects fail or do worse—a finding that upends traditional economic theories that absolute reward is a person’s central motivation. It’s one of several new inroads into the social dynamics of winning yielded by neuroeconomics, a trendy new field that mixes elements of neuroscience, economics, and cognitive psychology to determine why people make the choices they do—even, or especially, the irrational ones.

Neuroeconomic studies often involve the dopamine system, a part of the brain that is highly involved with rewards and reward anticipation. Dopamine receptors seem to track possibilities—an arcing tennis ball that may land in or out—and how expected or unexpected they are. For fans, it helps to explain why a win by a No. 1 seed over an unranked challenger is no big deal, while underdog victors like the 1980 U.S. Olympic hockey team are so electrifying.

A similar kind of expectation management occurs in the minds of athletes themselves, says Scott Huettel, the director of Duke University’s Center for Neuroeconomic Studies. If you ranked an Olympic event’s three medalists by happiness, the athlete winning gold obviously comes first. What’s fascinating, Huettel says, is that the bronze medalist is second-most delighted, and the silver finisher is most distraught. “People’s brains are constantly comparing what happened with what could have happened,” he says. “A bronze medalist might say, ‘Wow, I almost didn’t get a medal. It’s great to be on the stand!’ And the silver medalist is just thinking about all the mistakes he made that prevented him from winning gold.”

All countries love winning, of course. But America, a nation born through victory on the battlefield, has a special relationship with the practice. “When you here, every one of you, were kids, you all admired the champion marble player, the fastest runner, the toughest boxer, the big-league ballplayers, and the All-American football players,” Gen. George S. Patton once told a gathering of U.S. Army troops in England. “Americans love a winner,” Patton thundered. “Americans will not tolerate a loser.” The next day was June 6, 1944, D-Day, and these were the men who would invade Normandy. We know where that one goes in the win-loss column.

But why do we admire winners—and put so much of our own happiness at stake when watching them compete? At some level of the brain, we think we are the guys in the fray. On Nov. 4, 2008, the night of the most recent presidential election, neuroscientists at Duke and the University of Michigan gave a group of voters some chewing gum. They collected samples at 8 p.m., as the polls closed, and again at 11:30, as Barack Obama was announced the winner. Testosterone levels normally drop around that time of night, but not among Obama supporters—while testosterone plummeted in gum taken from the men who had voted for John McCain.

Vicarious participation, the scientists concluded, mirrors what happens to the principal competitors themselves; the same thing happens in men who watch football and basketball—and, it follows, any other fiercely fought contest, from Andre Agassi’s greatest matches to Bobby Fischer’s run at the Russians. Why do Americans love a winner? Because it lets us love ourselves.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Diver Snaps First Photo of Fish Using Tools

From Science Now

While exploring Australia's Great Barrier Reef, professional diver Scott Gardner heard an odd cracking sound and swam over to investigate. What he found was a footlong blackspot tuskfish (Choerodon schoenleinii) holding a clam in its mouth and whacking it against a rock. Soon the shell gave way, and the fish gobbled up the bivalve, spat out the shell fragments, and swam off. Fortunately, Gardner had a camera handy and snapped what seem to be the first photographs of a wild fish using a tool.

Tool use, once thought to be the distinctive hallmark of human intelligence, has been identified in a wide variety of animals in recent decades. Although other creatures don't have anything quite like a circular saw or a juice machine, capuchin monkeys select "hammer" rocks of an appropriate material and weight to crack open seeds, fruits, or nuts on larger "anvil" rocks, and New Caledonian crows probe branches with grass, twigs, and leaf strips to extract insects. In addition to primates and birds, many animals, including dolphins, elephants, naked mole rats, and even octopuses, have shown forms of the behavior.

Tool-using fish have been few and far between, however, particularly in the wild. Archerfish target jets of water at terrestrial prey, but whether this constitutes tool use has been contentious. There have also been a handful of reports of fish cracking open hard-shelled prey, such as bivalves and sea urchins, by banging them on rocks or coral, but there's no photo or video evidence to back it up, according to Culum Brown, a behavioral ecologist at Macquarie University in Sydney, Australia, and a co-author of the present paper, to be published in a forthcoming issue of Coral Reefs.

The tuskfish caught on camera was clearly quite skilled at its task, "landing absolutely pinpoint blows" with the shell, Brown says. A scattering of crushed shells around its anvil rock suggests that Gardner didn't just stumble upon the fish during its original eureka moment. In fact, numerous such shell middens are visible around the reef. Blackspot tuskfish, members of the wrasse family, are popular food fish, so it's surprising that its shell-smashing behavior has remained unknown, Brown says. "My feeling is that when we go out and really look for it, it'll turn out to be common."

"I absolutely loved it," says ethologist Michael Kuba of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem of the finding. Last year, Kuba and two colleagues documented stingrays in a laboratory forming jets of water with their bodies to flush food out of a pipe. But solid external objects like rocks are harder to dismiss as tools than water jets, Kuba says, and examples from the wild avoid concerns about whether a behavior elicited in the lab is "natural."

Primatologist Elisabetta Visalberghi of the Institute of Cognitive Sciences and Technologies in Rome is less convinced. Visalberghi, who documented the hammer-wielding monkeys, adheres to a stricter definition of tool use that requires the animal to hold or carry the tool itself, in this case the rock. "The form of tool use described [in tuskfish] is cognitively little demanding and present in a variety of species. Often it has been labeled as proto-tool use because the object used to open the shell is still, fixated to the sea bottom, and not portable as stone tools used to crack open nuts by chimpanzees or capuchin monkeys are," she writes in an e-mail. Seagulls dropping shellfish onto hard surfaces to crack them or lab rats pushing levers to get rewards would join tuskfish in the category of proto-tool—but not true tool—users.

Brown acknowledges that exactly what constitutes tool use is controversial. But he argues that it's not logical to apply the same rules to fish as to primates or birds. For one thing, fish don't have anything but their mouths to manipulate tools with, and for another, water poses different physical limitations than air. "One of the problems with the definition of tool use as it currently stands is it's totally written for primates," he says. "You cannot swing a hammer effectively underwater."

Jones AM, Brown C, Gardner S (2011) Tool use in the tuskfish Choerodon schoenleinii? Coral reefs DOI: 10.1007/s00338-011-0790-y

Bonobo Alive, new webpage and NGO protecting wild bonbos in DR-Congo

Bonobo-alive launched their webpage today - you can check it out at

Mbeli Bai has a facebook page

Check it out here:

Friday, July 8, 2011

Take 2 minutes and fill out this elephants & ivory survey please

via Dan Bucknell from Elephant Family, who posted this on facebook today
"Sorry to be a work bore, but we're running a very quick questionnaire on what people know and think about ivory - a nice little lunchtime exercise that would help us if you'd be happy to fill it in. Cheers"

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Magnets destroy tumours in mice without side effects

Magnetic Nanoparticles Fry Tumors
From Science NOW

Any parent fretting over a child's fever knows that temperatures just a few degrees above normal can kill. But cancer researchers have now found a way to make high temperatures heal. In a new study, a team found that injecting mice with tiny magnets and cranking up the heat eliminated tumors from the animals' bodies with no apparent side effects.

The idea of killing cancer with heat isn't new. Researchers know that, like normal cells, cancer cells start to die when the mercury rises above 43˚C. The trick is figuring out how to kill the cancer without harming the body's own cells. One promising idea, known as magnetic hyperthermia, involves injecting minuscule "nanoparticles," basically microscopic lumps of iron oxide or other compounds, into tumors to make them magnetic. The patient is put into a magnetic field that reverses direction thousands of times every second. The magnetic nanoparticles are excited by the applied field and begin to get hot, heating and potentially destroying the surrounding cancer tissue. Because healthy tissue is not altered by the magnetic field, it does not heat up and is not damaged.

But the therapy has yet to make its way to the clinic, with only a single reported trial in humans (with modest success). This is largely because conventional nanoparticles interact only weakly with the applied field, so quite a large dose is needed to generate enough heat to damage the tumor. Although nanoparticles aren't particularly toxic, in large quantities they can trigger the body's immune system to attack them, causing allergic reactions.

Nanoscientist Jinwoo Cheon of Yonsei University in Seoul and colleagues set out to create a nanoparticle that would get hotter than traditional nanoparticles so that not as many would need to be injected into the body. They made two-layer nanoparticles, each containing a core of one magnetic mineral inside a shell of another. Because of an esoteric interaction between the two minerals, called exchange coupling, these "core-shell" nanoparticles interacted far more strongly with the magnetic field than do traditional nanoparticles and released up to 10 times as much heat. That means one would need to give only 10% of the original dose to patients to achieve the same degree of hyperthermia as with traditional nanoparticles.

The team tested its technique on three mice whose abdomens had been grafted with cells from human brain cancer. The researchers injected the tumors with core-shell nanoparticles and placed the mice inside a coil of wire (see illustration). They turned on an alternating current in the coil, creating an alternating magnetic field. Although the researchers weren't able to measure the precise temperatures inside the tumors, their estimates are between 43˚ and 48˚C. After 10 minutes, the team removed the mice from the coil and monitored the tumors for the next 4 weeks.

All traces of cancer disappeared from the mice with no apparent side effects
, the team reported online 26 June in Nature Nanotechnology. For comparison, another group of mice were treated instead with a single dose of doxorubicin, a traditional anticancer drug. Although it initially shrunk some of the tumors, they grew back to four times their original size by the end of the trial. Heat treatment after an injection of traditional iron oxide nanoparticles had no significant effect on the tumors.

Nanoengineer Naomi Halas of Rice University in Houston, Texas, is impressed. "This group has solved the key impasse that has arrested the development of magnetic nanotherapies, that is, the weak response of the nanoparticle to the applied magnetic field," she says. "I am so happy that more of these types of nanoparticle-based hyperthermal therapies are being developed to increase the arsenal of weapons against cancer."

Lee J-H, Jang J-t, Choi J-s, Moon SH, Noh S-h, Kim J-w, Kim J-G, Kim I-S, PArk KI, Cheon J (2011) Exchange-coupled magnetic nanoparticles for efficient heat induction. Nature Nanotechnology doi:10.1038/nnano.2011.95

The conversion of electromagnetic energy into heat by nanoparticles has the potential to be a powerful, non-invasive technique for biotechnology applications such as drug release, disease treatment and remote control of single cell functions, but poor conversion efficiencies have hindered practical applications so far. In this Letter, we demonstrate a significant increase in the efficiency of magnetic thermal induction by nanoparticles. We take advantage of the exchange coupling between a magnetically hard core and magnetically soft shell to tune the magnetic properties of the nanoparticle and maximize the specific loss power, which is a gauge of the conversion efficiency. The optimized core–shell magnetic nanoparticles have specific loss power values that are an order of magnitude larger than conventional iron-oxide nanoparticles. We also perform an antitumour study in mice, and find that the therapeutic efficacy of these nanoparticles is superior to that of a common anticancer drug.

Gay Scientists Isolate Christian Gene

Thanks to Jesse D for the link! is a very cool forum whose purpose is to help coordinate in one place the information needed to better develop and apply DNA barcoding technology to the fight against unsustainable trade in wildlife.

To find out more visit their website and join the facebook cause here:

Monday, July 4, 2011

TOTAL FAIL: Italians protest re-introduced endagered bear attacks by hosting bear-meat banquet. Party raided by police, everyone loses.

FRom the guaridan via Traffic
Italian police break up bear-meat banquet laid on by Berlusconi allies
Meal was a protest against reintroduction of bears to Dolomites, says Northern League

Police have broken up a banquet of bear meat hosted by Silvio Berlusconi's powerful coalition partner in northern Italy after government ministers and animal rights groups described the event as scandalous.

The order to down cutlery came as about 200 people lined up to devour grilled and stewed bear at a rally in Imer in the Italian Dolomites organised by the Northern League.

Organisers said they had bought the meat legally in Slovenia to get round a ban on bear hunting in Italy, but food safety officers from Italy's paramilitary carabinieri police objected to the lack of import documentation for the 50kg of meat.

Speaking at the event, Enzo Erminio Boso, a former League senator, said he suspected the raid had been arranged by members of Berlusconi's People of Liberty party who earlier demanded that League leader Umberto Bossi halt proceedings.

Foreign minister Franco Frattini and tourism minister Michela Vittoria Brambilla had condemned the bear feast as "a scandalous initiative", while environment minister Stefania Prestigiacomo described the get-together as "barbarous".

In his blog, Frattini said the banquet was particularly offensive since Italian bears were "almost extinct and we are trying with great effort to bring them back to the mountains that have hosted them for centuries".

The brown bear population has risen to about 35 in and around the Dolomites after 10 were reintroduced there a decade ago. But instead of celebrating their return, some locals have complained that the bears are attacking chickens and sheep. Claims made for lost livestock rose to ¤100,000 (£90,000) last year, and farmers were fed up, said Maurizio Fugatti, an MP for the devolutionist and anti-immigrant Northern League.

Hence the banquet, which, said Fugatti, had been planned to "send a clear signal to citizens who have the right to reconquer their territory and freely circulate".

To protect locals from marauding bears, he added, "we prefer to eat them like this."

Fugatti said half of the bear meat had been cooked for the cancelled banquet but the remainder was frozen and ready for a new dinner date should the paperwork be put in order.

"The idea was to attract attention to a bear repopulation plan which has got out of hand, resulting in locals being followed by bears through woods normally frequented by families. Even if the banquet doesn't happen, we have made our point," he went on.

The Northern League has long specialised in controversial statements and stunts. In 2007 Senator Roberto Calderoli proposed dissuading Muslims from building a mosque in Bologna by parading a pig across the chosen site, defiling it.

Massimiliano Rocco, an officer with the WWF in Italy, praised the police raid on the banquet: "If they wanted to provoke debate about the right way to manage the bears in the area, there was no need to illegally import the meat of a protected species."

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Women have better gaydar when ovulating

Is He Gay? Ovulating Women Can Tell

From Time & Men's Health

Ovulation is a really useful biological function. Not only does it facilitate pregnancy — though sperm are in no short supply, the ephemeral egg appears just once a month — but new research finds that it also helps a woman select potential partners by enhancing her "gaydar."

All this complex sexual decision-making is going on behind the scenes, according to a study published online this week in the journal Psychological Science that found that straight women at their peak period of fertility are far more accurate than non-ovulaters at sussing out who's gay and who's not just by looking at a man's face.

"We consistently find that people have no idea they are able to do this," says Nicholas Rule, an assistant professor of psychology at the University of Toronto and the study's lead author. "They come out of the experiment completely frustrated and say, This is so hard, no one can do this, and then we look at the data and they're doing amazingly well."

Rule and colleagues at Tufts University put 40 Tufts undergraduate women — all of whom were heterosexual and ovulating — through three experiments designed to test their hypothesis that women pay more attention to men's sexual orientation when they're extremely fertile.

First, the participants were asked to look at 80 images of men's faces; half the photos — which were similar in terms of expression and attractiveness — belonged to gay men, while the other half featured straight men. A participant's ability to determine the sexual orientation of the men in the photos was closely associated with how close she was to peak ovulation.

"The closer you get to peak ovulation, accuracy goes up, up, up, peaks at ovulation, then starts to go back down again," says Rule. "There is a linear effect."

Then, researchers substituted 100 female faces — half straight, half lesbian — and performed the experiment again. This time, they found no association between fertility and so-called gaydar, an informal term referring to the ability to intuit a person's sexual orientation.

"It's not just that women are more attentive to nonverbal cues around ovulation," says Rule. "It's really something specific about paying attention to men's sexual orientation."

Finally, researchers went a step further, asking half the female subjects to read a sexy story in order to "induce reproductive thinking" before repeating the previous two experiments with both groups. The women who'd read the tale — a hokey-sounding beach romance about meeting a handsome guy on an island — were even more successful at predicting sexual orientation than the control group, an outcome that Rule says proves that women's brains are evolutionarily primed for mating during ovulation.

This is hardly the first time that ovulation has been shown to alter women's behavior. Previous research has found that women are quicker to identify a man's face than a woman's face near ovulation; subsequent analysis divined that the opposite held true for lesbians: they were faster to pick out a woman's face. Last year, another study in Psychological Science found that ovulating women are half as likely to call their dads. Why? Because incestuous relationships are more likely to produce problematic offspring, women are unconsciously shunning pop at their most fertile time of the month.

Taken as a whole, the entire body of research suggests that when women have the greatest chance of getting pregnant, they are unconsciously making judgments and perceptions that maximize that possibility.

"Around ovulation, the mind is reallocating its resources in ways that are relevant evolutionarily," says Rule. "It shows us that the link between body and mind is greater than we often think."

Rule NO, Rosen KS, Slepian ML, Ambady N (2011) Mating Interest Improves Women’s Accuracy in Judging Male Sexual Orientation. Psychological Science doi: 10.1177/0956797611412394


People can accurately infer others’ traits and group memberships across several domains. We examined heterosexual women’s accuracy in judging male sexual orientation across the fertility cycle (Study 1) and found that women’s accuracy was significantly greater the nearer they were to peak ovulation. In contrast, women’s accuracy was not related to their fertility when they judged the sexual orientations of other women (Study 2). Increased sexual interest brought about by the increased likelihood of conception near ovulation may therefore influence women’s sensitivity to male sexual orientation. To test this hypothesis, we manipulated women’s interest in mating using an unobtrusive priming task (Study 3). Women primed with romantic thoughts showed significantly greater accuracy in their categorizations of male sexual orientation (but not female sexual orientation) compared with women who were not primed. The accuracy of judgments of male sexual orientation therefore appears to be influenced by both natural variations in female perceivers’ fertility and experimentally manipulated cognitive frames.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Very Important Scientist of the Month: Grit Schubert (New paper: Male-Mediated Gene Flow in Patrilocal Primates)

Male-Mediated Gene Flow in Patrilocal Primates

Schubert G, Stoneking C, Arandjelovic M, Boesch C, Eckhardt N, Hohmann G, Langergraber K, Lukas D, Vigilant L (2011) Male-mediated gene flow in patrilocal primates. PlosOne 6(7): e21514. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0021514


Many group–living species display strong sex biases in dispersal tendencies. However, gene flow mediated by apparently philopatric sex may still occur and potentially alters population structure. In our closest living evolutionary relatives, dispersal of adult males seems to be precluded by high levels of territoriality between males of different groups in chimpanzees, and has only been observed once in bonobos. Still, male–mediated gene flow might occur through rare events such as extra–group matings leading to extra–group paternity (EGP) and female secondary dispersal with offspring, but the extent of this gene flow has not yet been assessed.

Methodology/Principal Findings
Using autosomal microsatellite genotyping of samples from multiple groups of wild western chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes verus) and bonobos (Pan paniscus), we found low genetic differentiation among groups for both males and females. Characterization of Y–chromosome microsatellites revealed levels of genetic differentiation between groups in bonobos almost as high as those reported previously in eastern chimpanzees, but lower levels of differentiation in western chimpanzees. By using simulations to evaluate the patterns of Y–chromosomal variation expected under realistic assumptions of group size, mutation rate and reproductive skew, we demonstrate that the observed presence of multiple and highly divergent Y–haplotypes within western chimpanzee and bonobo groups is best explained by successful male–mediated gene flow.


The similarity of inferred rates of male–mediated gene flow and published rates of EGP in western chimpanzees suggests this is the most likely mechanism of male–mediated gene flow in this subspecies. In bonobos more data are needed to refine the estimated rate of gene flow. Our findings suggest that dispersal patterns in these closely related species, and particularly for the chimpanzee subspecies, are more variable than previously appreciated. This is consistent with growing recognition of extensive behavioral variation in chimpanzees and bonobos.