Saturday, July 30, 2005

Magical Monkey Butts and Other Important Research

Well, hello my little bloggitiboos! No, I have not forgotten you. It's just that being on semi-bedrest for this pregnancy does not tend to lead to much to write about.

In an effort to update you on the highlights of late-

* I have discovered that, yes, just as the pregnancy books promised, complete strangers will walk right up and touch my belly. That was a truly bizarre experience! My doctor today told me that it later translates to total strangers rushing up to touch the baby. Yick! Maybe I'll hand paint some lettering on a onesie that says "ebola baby" or some other discouraging words.

* At today's doctor's appointment, I have gained 12 pounds, which is on target, and she is very happy with how I am doing overall. I have also discovered this baby has some strong opinions - hates my office chair (KICK! KICK!) and dances happily for ice cream (kickkickkick woohoo).

* At the beginning of a classically awful cable movie called "Dragonstorm," the introduction set the scene in 1785. As the film rolled through the first scene, my husband said, "Now that horse cart is clearly so 1790! The set designer was so sloppy." How I love this man :)

So, there I am, sitting in bed, web surfing and minding my own business, when I ran across a link to a fun-filled site chock full o' scientific research. Personally, I hate the distilled factoids most news shows deliver. I tend to believe there is far more to the story, and as often as not, that the missing facts change the essential nature of the story. Yes, these articles are still condensed versions of the actual research, but they seem a lot more detailed and on target, and there were several sstories covering a favorite topic of mine - animal behavior. Case in point, the recent report of an African Grey parrot who may have a zero concept. I remember another African Grey, also owned by a linguistics professor, who could name many toys and hand them to you on verbal request, etc. When he was tired of dealing with us silly bald monkeys, he would simply turn his back and stop playing. I knew right there that this species is probably at least as smart as we are, possibly smarter (although that opinion may have had something to do with running freshman psych subjects who agreed to be paid in oreos). So when African Greys make the news, I pay attention, and like many news stories, good details were absent - such as that this parrot spontaneously uttered "none" - that he was not taught to say it, as hubby speculated "none" could have been a name for the tray itself (i.e., tray without named toys). Also of interest is that this parrot, Alex, starts to purposely give wrong answers to entertain himself when he gets bored of our silly monkey games. Hah! Loving this species more and more every day.

I then moved on to an article about a study of monkeys who like to look at "celebrity" monkeys rather than regular or low ranking monkeys. You see how far back these things go evolutionarily? So, ok, these rhesus monkeys would pay to look at high ranking monkeys with fruit juice, but the researcher had to pay them in fruit juice to look at low ranking monkeys. Um hum, very interesting... then, at the end of the article, was this tidbit:

"On a more crude note, some of the findings might also shed light on humans’ taste for pornography: male monkeys in the study also willingly “paid” to see females’ rear ends."

Note that nowhere in the article did it say *why* the researchers had photos of female monkey butts, but I digress. I can also tell you, from personal experience in the Florida everglades, that rhesus monkeys are capable of staging a fake, yet convincing, intertribal skirmish on the shore in order to get the humans to run over to one side of the boat while scouts monkeys swim out, silently climb aboard, and steal our boxes of apple slices and bread. Holding their prizes above their heads to keep the food dry on the swim back to shore, the monkeys then divided up their lunch among themselves and all but waved cheerfully as the humans sailed slack-jawed into the sunset.

Last, but not least, was the article about our local black-capped chickadees, who are cute little guys with an incredibly complex vocal system. Their predator warning call can carry information about location, size, and perceived degree of threat. We have a nesting pair at our feeder and several neighborhood cats that make the rounds - ranging from the local *nerd* cat to the scary white mouser that causes backyard mayhem. Now I will be listening to the chickadee calls to see if I hear a difference depending on which cat is hanging around.


At July 30, 2005 at 10:39 AM, Blogger Robin said...

Hi Lilly,
I'm glad you are doing well. Isn't it cool when the baby forms it's own opinion before it's even born? Sorry to call him/her "it" but I didn't know if you knew the sex yet.

As for strangers.....I would never touch someone's pregnant tummy. I might touch if it were my best friend or sister and I was sharing in their joy but....ick!!
My mother thinks rubbing a pregnant tummy is good Buddha. We're Jewish so what does my mom know from Buddha anyway?

As for accuracy on the cart in the movie,Rich is the same way. He will say,"In _____(insert year)people were not using this type of gun. The only thing available was _____(name of weapon)and whoever wrote this script is a moron!" It just goes on and on. We were watching some stupid love story and he went nuts about an incorrect historical reference. I yelled,"It's a cheesey love story. Get over it~!!!!!!! Deep down I am really proud he knows this stuff. I certainly don't!
Thanks for commenting on Lillianna's blog. She was thrilled!

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