Monkey EarsWritten by Andrea Campbell
Just other day I was talking to Ziggy, my Helping Hands capuchin monkey, and she looked at me quizzically and said, "Huh? Speak up!"
I have been operating under assumption that her eyesight and hearing was equal to or better than ours. What made me think that? Well, we live at top of a hill and, as a result, cars coming up steep incline can generally can be heard lowering into a heftier gear just before their approach. When K-9, our Dalmatian was alive, even though she was a bright dog, Ziggy used to bark arrival of an approaching vehicle before K-9 did. Therefore, I’d just assumed that monkey’s ears were keener. Now a new study comes out from some researchers at Michigan State University telling me I’m wrong. That monkeys’ hearing is "discernibly less acute than that of people for frequency range in which human speech is expressed and heard." In fact, clinical truth of this has been known for a long time, but a fundamental explanation as to why has forever been lacking. Until now.
Physics is a field dealing with properties and interactions of matter and energy. Currently, a new subfield of physics, biological physics is providing answers to questions such as why monkey ears, while so similar to our own, work differently. Michael Harrison, a Michigan State University physicist, has written a paper for American Physical Society outlining, for first time, his results explaining this phenomenon. And apparently size is all important key.
To begin, Harrison tells us that we can think of our ears as holding pens for all matter of sound. Human ears register pure tones, which our brain eventually translates into meaningful sound such as speech or music, but tones must fight their way through a lot of noise. The noise is created from amount of air that is found inside ear canal, under certain ambient air temperature. In other words, Harrison explains it like this: "Air molecules are like people moving around in a crowded room at a cocktail party. The warmer it is, more molecules—or cocktail guests—run around, and it creates noise. With this random noise, it’s harder to hear an individual conversation."
Monkey BrainsWritten by Andrea Campbell
You’re a primate, I’m a primate, monkeys are primates!
Even before release of my book Bringing Up Ziggy, I was studying all aspects of primates. And I’m not alone. By observing other levels of primate order in behavior and learning, we often discover many similarities between ourselves and our closest biological species.
Psychological researchers at Columbia University conducted tests showing that rhesus monkeys can decipher difference between one, two and three. Now, Elizabeth M. Brannon, Ph.D. and Herbert S. Terrace, Ph.D., both psychologists at Columbia, designed experiments to discern whether monkeys could learn rules for putting objects into categories, and then apply those rules to a new set of objects.
Not so surprising to me, scientists found that animals can not only be taught to count but actually understand concept of numbers. The results of this new research was published in January issue of Journal of Experimental Psychology.
For this particular study, researchers created computer displays with numbers one, two, three and four using visual objects such as circles, ellipses, squares or diamonds of varying size and color. Three monkeys were then taught to touch each display in numerical order, for example, using a two in ascending order, one in descending order.
Overtime, monkeys were trained on some 35 different displays. Assessing their continued progress, researchers then tested monkeys on 150 new displays, only to find their performance did not falter.
In order to check their efforts, scientists needed to determine whether monkeys actually understood relationship between numbers. This time, monkeys were tested using pairs of numbers they had never seen before--five, six, seven, eight and nine.
The results are quite illuminating as one who knows primates would think they should be. In first round of testing with higher numbers, both monkeys who had been trained to respond in ascending numerical order arranged new numbers correctly 75 per cent of time.