Aping Culture, Informational

On Cooperation, Part 4: Monkeys and Prison

Only in Europe: Barbary macaques are being held in detention and deported because “they have been behaving aggressively”. I wonder where they will get deported to, since they’re passports appear to have been lost when their forebearers immigrated to Gibraltar some time between the Pleistocene and the Middle Ages.



Thanks for sharing this, Seán!


On Cooperation; Part 1: Monkeys and Copyright.

Selfies are all the rage; but one monkey’s self documentation reopens an ancient discussion about art and authorship:




Thanks to Fermin for finding this!



All the little tidbits I collect here on this blog are basically afterthoughts, secondary ideas, weird or hilarious findings, or just random associations to the dissertation I am writing. If you are at all interested in what could possibly trigger such a load of useless information and absurd musings, there is good news: Our Swiss website for the project my dissertation takes part in. For now it is only in German, but lets face it, for most of you, that should not be much of a problem. http://www.affekte.unibe.ch/



I appreciate complexity in its various forms but Genis Carreras’ Philographics are ingenious. Yes, sometimes it is as simple as that.




Human Family Tree

For a while now I have been fascinated by the narratives of human evolution. The stories told about how humans evolved from an ape-like ancestor, or a species that split into a line dedicated to become “human” and one dedicated to become “chimpanzee” and “bonobo”, are thrilling examples of historical and contemporary scientific paradigms, social theories, and more often than not – wishful thinking (for futher reading on this I recommend Raymond Corbey: The Metaphysics of Apes). Of course no one in their right mind would seriously debate the development of human form (homo) from diverse ‘anthropuses’ (pithecanthropus, plesioanthropus, paranthropus, praeanthropus) and ‘pithecuses’ (australopithecus, ardipithecus) (Roland Borgards Primatographien and Raymond Corbeys The Metaphysics of Ape). But you cannot deny either the systematic underestimation of apes fostered therein, or the appeal of the still lingering teleological feel to the narrative of human evolution. It even survives into the economic models of contemporary evolutionary biology, where everything and everyone is regarded as a behavioural slave to their reproductive success. That is why I appreciate the Smithsonian Institute’s attempt to make use of the phylogenetic tree model without overdetermining the interconnections and time line of various species. Ingeniously they depict an African acacia with greenery, so you can make out general branches, but not individual twigs: Human Family Tree | The Smithsonian Institution’s Human Origins Program.

Nevertheless it makes a colourful impression of how many different forms there were along the line of roughly 6 million years (and makes you wonder, how many chimpanzee forms there migth have been in the same time span). The Smithsonian also provides me with impressive modelling art, that lends sometimes curious sometimes suppliant faces to almost every one of those plentiful forms, now extinct.

I have spent precious hours at night clicking through wikipedia lemmata of human and pre-human and post-simian forms and couldn’t ward off thrills and chills vis-à-vis the murderous story that can be told by fossils mixed with a decent anthropological interpretation and some carbon dating: about the rise of our species from the remains of not only a vast legacy of previous forms – but also quite an array of then-contemporaries. Along the way of human evolution lie a lot of extinct other species and genera. One has to wonder if their extinction wasn’t a deliberate attempt of a very rumbunctious and fierce, fast-breeding and lethal omnivore. Who just had to sit on top of the tree, all by itself, excercising its linguistic and cognitive faculties solely to its own pleasure, homo loquens spitting on all else.

Did you know?, Informational, Vagaries

Interspecies communication, Part 2: The Interspecies Internet

While Koko the Gorilla, Kanzi the Bonobi, Peter the Dolphin, Nim the Chimpanzee and Alex the Parrot are already chatting away at their human language teachers and researchers (mostly about “Give me food”, “Take me away from these ugly apes” and “I am bored.”), there are dozens if not hundreds of species out there who might have something to say to their human captors, eh, co-habitants.

Luckily, Research, Commerce and Art, those muses of our day and age, put their heads together and  and came up with a proposition to at least enable a more reciprocal communication between “them” and “us”, that is: human and non-human animals. An Interspecies Web: http://blog.ted.com/2013/02/28/the-interspecies-internet-diana-reiss-peter-gabriel-neil-gershenfeld-and-vint-cerf-at-ted2013/

While I am kind of interested in how this furthers research with animals and over all an evolution of human-animal-ethics, I think it strange that this account ends once again with the wish to be able to call up ET and his conspecifics. Isn’t understanding what a possibly malicious dolphin really wants when he/she bumps you under water enough for a scientific revolution?


Human-animal communication, according to the omnipresent first-look-source Wikipedia, “is the communication observed between humans and other animals, from non-verbal cues and vocalizations through to, potentially, the use of a sophisticated language.” While some might still be looking for the right way to get their pets to do what they try to tell them by yelling commands at their puzzled faces, this eager monkey has it all figured out: “Who needs sophisticated language? I can get the human to do a useless task any time I want, you just watch and learn!”