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Biotech Science

Macaque Monkey Goes Totally Bipedal 860

Freshly Exhumed writes "Add another bonus point for the Darwinians/evolutionists. A macaque at the Safari Park Zoo in Ramat Gan, Israel has recovered from a near-fatal illness in an unusual way: she has switched exclusively to walking on her hind legs. Given theories of human history that stress the effect of disease on events and changes, as in William H. McNeill's Plagues and Peoples, what if an illness was the cause of the shift to bipedal motion by our evolutionary ancestors, and rote imitation by offspring or another set of circumstances locked it in? No matter, this could be a fascinating study of the macaque's altered brain functions."
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Macaque Monkey Goes Totally Bipedal

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  • by Surazal ( 729 ) on Thursday July 22, 2004 @09:19PM (#9775320) Homepage Journal
    Judging from some of the people I've met, bipedalism does not imply higher brain functions are present in the individual.
  • by mdrejhon ( 203654 ) * on Thursday July 22, 2004 @09:19PM (#9775321) Homepage
    Another possible theory is that a weakened stomach system might depend more on gravity than before. The macque's possibly-weakend stomach system may now have more discomfort when walking on all fours, forcing the macque to walk upright to avoid discomfort.

    This theory may not be valid, but this could be worth investigating?
  • Quick! (Score:5, Funny)

    by tool462 ( 677306 ) on Thursday July 22, 2004 @09:20PM (#9775325)
    Get this monkey a typewriter! I'm in the mood for some new Shakespeare.
  • NOOO!!!! (Score:4, Funny)

    by iamdrscience ( 541136 ) on Thursday July 22, 2004 @09:20PM (#9775326) Homepage
    Oh hells no. We need to stop this race of super-human monkeys at the source! If we wait much longer it'll be too late.
  • Pictures (Score:2, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward
    There are some pictures of the animal in question here [].
  • Seems like kind of an ad hoc hypothesis - perhaps bipedal walking became less uncomfortable on the ape's stomach? It nearly died of a stomach aliment, IIRC, so this could be an immediate response to the illness.
  • Somebody get Charleton Heston on the phone!

    "Get your hands off me you damned dirty Macaque monkey!!!"
  • Now... (Score:2, Interesting)

    ...what remains to be seen, is if the macaque spreads the knowledge of how to walk on two legs permanently by teaching its young or other apes. If it doesn't, then the incident will be nothing more than a curiosity. If it does...we may have seen a major evolutionary breakthrough in a species.
  • Hallelujah! (Score:2, Funny)

    by theraccoon ( 592935 ) *
    Praise the Good Lord!! I'll tell you how that monkey was healed, and it was none of your voodoo which craft medicine! The Good Lord saw fit to grant that monkey a second chance, and He blessed that monkey with a miraculous gift! I prayed harder for that monkey than anything else in my good Christian life, and I prayed, and I prayed to the Good Lord that He would see fit to grant that little monkey the ability to overcome the darkness and the flu, and Praise the Almighty Lord Jesus Christ, He has come throug
  • I doubt this, as reasonable as it sounds.

    My assumption is that monkeys brought up in human homes as pets would have attempted the same thing. My guess is whatever got one of the monkeys walking got them all walking, they didn't just play monkey see, monkey do.

  • by DumbSwede ( 521261 ) <> on Thursday July 22, 2004 @09:27PM (#9775390) Homepage Journal
    I once saw a special on some apes, I can't remember if it was chimpanzees or gorillas, but they were getting polo from human vectors. One ape had a totally paralyzed arm, and had to walk upright the rest of its life. The documentary aired 5-10 years ago, but I remember thinking at the time that there might be a connection to upright walking in the evolution of humans. I'm sure it must have occurred to the primate observers also, though they didn't mention it in the documentary.

    Maybe some other /.er can come up with the name of the documentary. This can't be a new insight.

  • Without knowing too much about evolution theory, it would seem to me that intelligence would always be a selective factor in all species.
    If that is so, then why aren't we mostly geniuses, (from the perspective of percent use of our brain capacities) and comparatively why aren't other species more intelligent?
    It does not seem that the current run of oppossum could ever have been be much more stupid than they are already :)
    • by edremy ( 36408 ) on Thursday July 22, 2004 @09:35PM (#9775440) Journal
      Intelligence always adaptive? Nope. Any organism is a trade off between a huge variety of factors- which you spend your energy budget on depends on your overall survival strategy. A perfectly good evolutionary strategy is to simply breed like crazy and not worry much about survival of any one offspring- why bother with brains when your gonads work well?

      You only need to be smart enough to survive until you can breed. Look around among your fellow humans- it don't take much to reach that point.

    • it would seem to me that intelligence would always be
      a selective factor in all species
      I think you answered your own question.
    • The notion that humans only use 10% of their brains is completely wrong. It stemmed from the book "How to Win Friends and Influence People" by Dale Carnegie, that was published in 1936. On page 206 Carnegie quotes Professor William James, a psychologist at Harvard, as saying

      "Compared with what we ought to be, we are only half awake. We are making use of only a small part of our physical and mental resources. Stating the thing broadly, the human individual thus lives far within his limits. He possesses po

    • by maxpublic ( 450413 ) on Friday July 23, 2004 @02:16AM (#9777029) Homepage
      Without knowing too much about evolution theory, it would seem to me that intelligence would always be a selective factor in all species.

      Actually, the evidence would point to the opposite. So far as we know, over the entire history of life on this planet only one species has achieved human-level intelligence - ours. The most successful species on the planets are nothing more than tiny biological machines - insects - and they show no indication whatsoever of developing bigger brains, nor have they over hundreds of millions of years.

      Even for the 'brainy' animals like gorillas and chimpanzees brain growth stopped some time ago. They continued to evolve in other ways, but brain growth wasn't one of them. In fact, most of the variations of proto-humans that died out also didn't develop brains much beyond that of a chimpanzee, although they did continue to evolve in different areas, some of them rather specialized.

      Some folks speculate that there's a limit to how useful a big brain is compared to how much energy it consumes (the human brain typically consumes about 40% of the body's total energy). Beyond this limit the increased survival advantage is relatively trivial in comparison to energy consumption, which means that the larger brain is actually a defect in terms of survival. The theory is that it takes some very specialized circumstances to promote brain growth beyond this point, until the 'plateau' is surpassed and the brain is once again large enough to confer a survival advantage that outweighs its energy requirements. It would explain why apes aren't developing larger brains, and why nearly all of our evolutionary relatives developed a larger brain to a point, then seemed to stop although they still evolved and adapted to their environment.

      Human-level intelligence could very well be a combination of mild defects that occurred during a very forgiving period in Earth's ecological history, in a place where food was easy to come by and these defects didn't compromise survival. A certain selective set of very special cirumstances that lasted long enough to result in our big-brained ancestors (and our relatives, the Neanderthals), but in any other time or place would've killed those with the defects.

      People also assume that human evolution will continue to result in bigger brains, although there's no evidence to support this. It might very well be that the next step in our evolution won't be larger brains but more social, community-oriented ones with a suppression of violent instincts. That certainly seems to be more advantageous, especially when you already have a brain large enough to make yourself the dominant species and what you really need is a method to avoid species self-destruction.

  • by iamdrscience ( 541136 ) on Thursday July 22, 2004 @09:27PM (#9775392) Homepage
    Has anyone done a study on whether human bipedalism is due to the behavior learned from surrounding people or if there are practical reasons for why we hardly ever walk on all fours? That is, do we just walk on two legs most of the time because everybody else does?
    • According to the psychology books I've read, it's automatic. At a certain age, children begin to walk on two legs, unless they are impaired (unlike talking, which must be taught at a certain stage of growth). A parent can try to "help" a child learn to walk, but they won't do it until the instinct kicks in.
    • by Yaztromo ( 655250 ) on Thursday July 22, 2004 @09:55PM (#9775588) Homepage Journal
      Has anyone done a study on whether human bipedalism is due to the behavior learned from surrounding people or if there are practical reasons for why we hardly ever walk on all fours?

      If you take a look at how modern human bodies are constructed, the fact that we're bipedial by nature (as opposed to nurture) is pretty obvious.

      Quadripeds don't walk on their rear knees, but on either their feet or their toes. Humans can't do this due to the differences in proportion between our arms and legs. Sure we can crawl on all fours -- but that's quite a bit different from being a real quadriped.

      Mind you, at one point in time during human evolution things were probably different -- there would have had to have been an intermediate stage. The fossil record would appear to back this up, as there are hominids which have shorter legs and longer arms.


    • Not a direct answer to your specific question, but somewhat related: I believe that the trait of humans evolving as bipedal beings likely resulted from the fact that while in grassy plains, standing erect provided better ability to see food, water, but especially danger from farther away.

      Obviously those who mastered the ability to stand/walk erect for longer periods of time would have perhaps better forewarning of pending dangers and could take to the trees or other retreat from predatory carnivores, and

    • Just to clarify, this is not a point for the evolutionists. The monkey came by it's walking behavior through a disease and brain damage, not a genetic abberation, so it won't pass it on to it's kids.

      Oh, and IANARN (religious nut). I don't believe creation "science" or any such rubbish. I just had to point out that this *isn't* evolution in action.
    • Wild children (I believe there's another name) walk upright. These are children who were lost extremely young and raised themselves in the wild. As I said I walk upright, but I think I remember reading that they have nothing against all fours either if the situation is helped by it (moving quickly in the woods, up a hill, etc). Once domesticated (er wait we say civilized when it's humans, don't we?) wild children have very strange habits, such as hording fluids.
    • by Theovon ( 109752 ) on Thursday July 22, 2004 @11:41PM (#9776219)
      One of the things that bipedalism gave us was the ability to carry a larger brain. Rather than having to hold the head up, we just sortof balance it on the top of the spine.

      Try crawling around for a while on all fours. Besides getting sore knees, you'll also get a sore neck from holding your head up. (Although the fact that our spine connects to the skull in a different place from that of quadrupeds may exacerbate the problem.)

      But don't let this confuse you. Having a larger brain did not cause us to go bipedal just so we could hold our heads up. Evolution doesn't work that way (with quadrupeds, brains larger than what gives an immediate advantage are selected against). Instead, our ancestors developed bipedalism because it was a hunting advantage... you can see farther and not occupy your hands with the act of moving (as someone else in this forum already mentioned). But then that allowed us to develop larger brains (and thicker skulls *g*) which kinda got us cornered this way (that is, our larger brains are now a selection criterion against NOT being bipedal).

      (BTW, the thicker skulls thing is serious, though, when you consider Neandertals.)

      So, to answer your question, bipedalism is not a learned thing in modern humans. We evolved to be this way, we don't function well if we don't walk upright, and children pretty much figure it out on their own (although watching others may help a little).

      Also, besides bipedalism, another way to be able to develop a larger brain is to be aquatic. (Floating is good.) Thus, we have dolphins.
      • " and children pretty much figure it out on their own"

        I think it is instinctive, not learned. I have been watching my nieces. One loved walking (with help, you had to hold her hands) before she ever learned to crawl. Her balance was almost good enough to walk on her own at that point. (she had learned though that 'I can walk if they hold my hands' and wouldn't try). Another is now about 6 months. Stand her on her feet and provide balance and she is content to stand, and she provids all the support. (I did

      • Instead, our ancestors developed bipedalism because it was a hunting advantage...

        Actually, that's probably not true. Bipedalism most likely developed to a) be able to see oncoming predators easier, and b) to free the hands so that food could be carried from place to place (a *huge* advantage in survival, if you can take food with you while on the move, especially if the area you're moving through is a poor harvest ground).

        While it's quaint and somewhat heroic to believe our ancestors were 'mighty hunte

      • because it was a hunting advantage..

        Most primates are omnivores that get most sustenance from plants, and only supplement it with meat from time to time, and that meat is typically just bugs. So I have a hard time believing that hunting was important to an unintelligent ancestor (now, once intelligence starts creeping in, it gets different, as that means diet can be deliberately changed at will).

        But there are several other possible advantages to being bipedal:

        - The ability to see far was probably more
  • what if an illness was the cause of the shift to bipedal motion by our evolutionary ancestors, and rote imitation by offspring or another set of circumstances locked it in?

    As a male of the species, I can say with certaintly that I would try to impress the opposite sex by showing off my ub3r l33t skills at bipedal motion if the other lam3r wannabes were still crawing along on 4 peds.

    I'm definitely impressed by the geekiness of the female in question though.

  • by Dracos ( 107777 ) on Thursday July 22, 2004 @09:29PM (#9775406)

    The monkey to correctly enunciate a single English word, and in the company of fellow monkeys slips into fits of screaming:

    Developers! Developers! Developers! Developers! Developers! Developers! Developers!
  • This is not QUITE as revolutionary as it first appears. As the article points out, monkeys normally alternate between walking upright and walking on all fours. This one has just chosen to no longer walk on all fours.

    So it is not that this macaque has learned a new behavior, but discarded an old one.
  • where is he? we need him now!
  • I hardly think this important. There are some legitimate scientific objections to macroevolutionary theory, but how homo sapiens became bipedal surely isn't one of them. Walking on only two legs is great, but perhaps more effort should be spent on matters such as irreducible complexity.
  • Oliver is a rare chimp who always walked upright. People thought he might be a Humanzee (chimp-human hybrid). Genetic testing showed he was indeed a chimp, hough a rare type who's DNA didn't match other chimps. 0a.htm/ []

  • "this could be a fascinating study of the macaque's altered brain functions."

    I'm all for Science, but this mentality gives Scientists a bad name.

    Look! That Monkey is doing something differnet! Lets cut it open and find out why!

  • Human = Brain damaged monkey.

    At least this explains most social/political behavior.
  • by howman ( 170527 ) on Thursday July 22, 2004 @09:41PM (#9775488)
    There is also the possibility that walking with the use of its arms causes discomfort. Pain and discomfort is a strong convincer of learned behaviour.
    For example, if you are unfortunate enough to break a bone, how long after the cast comes off do you still tentatively utilise that body part? If your hip gets broken, a limp occurs and only through extensive retraining through physotherapy is the muscles and learned knee jerk reaction to avoid pain unlearned.
    Having a physiotherapist in the immediate family and spending lots of time around recovering individuals, I have noted that people who refuse to perform their physio properly inevitably take longer to heal and revert back to normal physical movement.
    The fact that this animal refuses to, can not, or will not revert back to normal movement may just be an indication of its non-complete healing. I believe time will tell on this one.
  • "4 legs good, 2 legs bad"
  • This strikes me as being an acquired characteristic. It would be interesting to see if she could pass this on to her children. If the children walk up right and are not simply trying to mimic their mother, then we are witnessing a mutation. A mutation is part of evolution.
  • welcome our new bipedal overlords...
  • The world is full of bullshit theories. Some have been proven wrong, some have been discontinued due to being politicall incorrect (eg. black folks are dumber because they have thicker skull bones).

    So many of these dumb theories are there to support some daft notion: man is superior to other animals; white folks are better than black folks...

  • The ways in which people misunderstand evolutionary theory never cease to amaze me.
  • I, for one, welcome our new monkey overlords.

    Imagine a beowulf troop of these

    1. Learn to walk on hind legs
    2. ???
    3. Profit!!
  • by wherrera ( 235520 ) on Thursday July 22, 2004 @10:46PM (#9775863) Journal
    Seen from the perspective of one with postdoc level training in related matters, this is silly. It is wrong as support for natural selection in the origin of species among primates for two reasons:

    1) In dogs, a broken leg makes them walk on three legs. This is compensation, not evolution toward bipedal posture. The broken-legged puppy is LESS likely to survive and reproduce (its weaker bones mayhap?).

    In monkeys, a broken or weak arm (eg. from illness) makes them prefer to walk on two legs, but again the arm problem makes them LESS likely to survive. And monkeys in general already know how to walk on two legs OR on all fours--they do not need a group behavioral culture to teach them to do so. (Humans don't need to be taught to crawl by someone who cannot walk because of a weak leg, for example.)

    2) More importantly, this smacks of Lamark. Arm weakness after enterovirus polimyelitis may cause a monkey that orginally could walk on EITHER all fours (preferred) OR bipedally to change to PREFER bipedal walking. Lamark said giraffes had long necks from straining their necks upward--this is the concept of learned or acquired characteristics passed to offspring. This is not a DNA based theory! And, it was not Dawin's theory!

    Bad evolutionist--know thy Darwin! ;-)
  • by puppetluva ( 46903 ) on Thursday July 22, 2004 @10:50PM (#9775890)
    Instead of a win for Darwin, this would actually be a win for Lamarck (whom Darwin discredited). If the acquired behavior seen in these monkeys is passed on to their offspring, it would prove Lamarck's "Theory of Aquired Characteristics".

    Here's a reference:
    • Lamarck was wrong in terms of biological evolution, but cultural evolution is quite Lamarckian: we do indeed pass on learned traits to our offspring. This particular example seems specious, even pointless, however. There is no evidence of anything being passed on at all. If there is, it would point to culture in the monkeys, not Lamarckian evolution.
  • by xigxag ( 167441 ) on Thursday July 22, 2004 @11:35PM (#9776178)
    what if an illness was the cause of the shift to bipedal motion by our evolutionary ancestors

    That seems questionable -- sounds an awful lot like Lamarckism [] to me.
  • by popo ( 107611 ) on Friday July 23, 2004 @12:52AM (#9776614) Homepage
    Late last night I was delusional, near coma, experiencing hallucinations and walking on all fours.

    And then *poof!*

    This morning I was walking around on two legs!

  • by Engineer Andy ( 761400 ) on Friday July 23, 2004 @01:38AM (#9776874) Journal
    Given the intense level of debate, and the amount of heat as opposed to light from both sides of the evolution debate that ensued from the story, are we allowed to mod the whole article
    -1 flamebait? ;-)

"How many teamsters does it take to screw in a light bulb?" "FIFTEEN!! YOU GOT A PROBLEM WITH THAT?"