What's the buzz...

What's the buzz...

Chimpanzees plan before fooling humans

Santino, the chimpanzee, achieved international fame in 2009 for his habit of gathering stones and manufacturing concrete projectiles to throw at visitors from the safety of his enclosure at Furuvik Zoo north of Stockholm.

Now, a new study has revealed that Santino’s innovativeness when he plans his stone-throwing is greater than researchers have previously observed.

He not only gathers stones and manufactures projectiles in advance; he also finds innovative ways of fooling the visitors.

The study carried out at Lund University looked at the chimpanzee’s ability to carry out complex planning. The case study showed how humans’ closest relatives in the animal kingdom appear to be able to plan to deceive others, and that they can also plan their deception inventively. The behaviour of the chimpanzee Santino is of particular interest because it is done while the humans to be deceived are out of sight. That means that the chimpanzee can plan without having immediate perceptual feedback of his goal – the visitors to the zoo – to aid in his planning.

Santino’s behaviour was reported as an example of spontaneous planning for a future event, in which his psychological state was visibly quite different from that of his subsequent aggressive displays.

Oldest Mayan calendar found

A vast city built by the ancient Maya and uncovered almost a century ago is finally beginning to yield its secrets.

Excavating for the first time in the sprawling complex of Xultun in Guatemala’s Peten region, archaeologists have discovered a structure that contains what appears to be a work space for the town’s scribe, its walls adorned with unique paintings — one depicting a lineup of men in black uniforms — and hundreds of scrawled numbers.

Many are calculations relating to the Maya calendar. One wall of the structure, thought to be a house, is covered with tiny, millimeter-thick, red and black glyphs unlike any seen before at other Maya sites.

Some appear to represent the various calendrical cycles charted by the Maya — the 260-day ceremonial calendar, the 365-day solar calendar, the 584-day cycle of the planet Venus and the 780-day cycle of Mars, reported archaeologist William Saturno of Boston University, who led the exploration and excavation.

“For the first time we get to see what may be actual records kept by a scribe, whose job was to be official record keeper of a Maya community,” Saturno said.

Secret to naked mole rats’ long life discovered
 
Scientists have found a clue that possibly makes naked mole rats live longer and healthy life.

The typical East African rodent live 25 to 30 years, during which it shows little decline in activity, bone health, reproductive capacity and cognitive ability. From infancy to old age, naked mole rats are blessed with large amounts of a protein essential for normal brain function, according to the team from the United States and Israel.

“Naked mole rats have the highest level of a growth factor called NRG-1 in the cerebellum. Its levels are sustained throughout their life, from development through adulthood,” said Yael Edrey, doctoral student at The University of Texas Health Science Center San Antonio’s Barshop Institute for Longevity and Aging Studies.

The finding, while not directly applicable to humans, has many implications for NRG-1’s role in maintaining neuron integrity.

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