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Saturday, October 01, 2005

BBC NEWS | Science/Nature | Wild gorillas seen to use tools

BBC NEWS | Science/Nature | Wild gorillas seen to use tools Wild gorillas seen to use tools
What's fascinating is the similarity between what these creatures have done and what we do
Thomas Breuer
Gorillas have been seen for the first time using simple tools to perform tasks in the wild, researchers say.

Scientists observed gorillas in a remote Congolese forest using sticks to test the depth of muddy water and to cross swampy areas.

Wild chimps and orangutans also use tools, suggesting that the origins of tool use may predate the evolutionary split between apes and humans.

Gorillas are endangered, with some populations numbered in the hundreds.

'Valuable insights'

"We've been observing gorillas for 10 years here, and we have two cases of them using detached objects as tools," said Thomas Breuer, from the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), who heads the study team in Nouabalé-Ndoki National Park in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

"In the first case, we had a female crossing a pool; and this female has crossed this pool by using a detached stick and testing the water depth, and trying to use it as a walking stick," he told the BBC.

The second case saw another female gorilla pick up the trunk of a dead shrub and use it to lean on while dredging for food in a swamp.

She then placed the trunk down on the swampy ground and used it as a bridge.

"What's fascinating about these observations is the similarity between what these creatures have done, and what we do in the context of crossing a pond," observed Dr Breuer.

"The most astonishing thing is that we have observed them using tools not for obtaining food, but for postural support."

In the family

This discovery makes the gorilla the last of the great apes to be documented using tools in the wild.

Chimpanzees use stone tools to process food, and their close relatives bonobos will use the mashed ends of sticks to soak up liquids.

Orangutans - the only Asian great ape - use branches to forage for food, and leaves to modify their calls.

Though some monkeys and birds also use tools, Thomas Breuer believes that the great apes are special.

"We have now seen tool use in all the great apes in the wild," he said.

"That now makes us think that it might be the case that tool use has been an ancient trait of all great apes before the human lineage split away."

Current scientific orthodoxy holds that the separation between the chimpanzee and human lines came about six million years ago.

Research has shown that in captivity, apes can learn a range of skills including number and character recognition.

They can also learn tool use and transmit their acquired skills to other members of their social group.

The Congo team, drawn from the WCS and the Max-Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany, believes that the tool traits they have observed in the wild may also be shared and learned across gorilla social groups.

They publish their findings in the online journal Public Library of Science Biology.

Story from BBC NEWS:

Apple iBook G4 12-inch (1.33 GHz) review by PC Magazine

Apple iBook G4 12-inch (1.33 GHz) review by PC Magazine Apple iBook G4 12-inch (1.33 GHz)
REVIEW DATE: 09.29.05
Plenty of upgrades, all internal—yet price is still under $1,000.

Reduced battery life. Aging design.

Budget price. More hard drive and memory options. Hard drive protection.

Apple Computer Inc.

Price: $999.00 Direct
Type: General Purpose, Media, Value
Operating System: Mac OS X
Processor Speed: 1.33 GHz
RAM: 512 MB
Hard Drive Capacity: 40 GB
Primary Optical Drive: DVD+/-RW (Plus Minus)
Wireless: 802.11g
Screen Size: 12 inches
System Weight: 4.9 lbs

By Cisco Cheng

The latest Apple iBook (12-inch) may look the same on the outside, but some significant changes inside make it all the more impressive. Upgrades like a processor bump, added hard drive space, and more memory, along with several features passed down from the PowerBook—like a scroll touchpad and hard drive protection—greatly boost the Apple iBook's value, especially considering that the price remains the same low $999.

Though widescreen displays and special transflective screens are becoming the norm in consumer notebooks, Apple sticks to its guns by retaining a 1,024-by-768 antiglare display. A DVD of Titanic that we viewed looked a bit lackluster, even with the brightness turned all the way up, but working on documents in iWork '05 felt fine. We tried out the iWork '05 suite (30-day trial), using Pages and Keynote 2, which were intuitive but not as robust as Office 12. The newly added scroll touchpad is handy for scrolling through long documents and Web pages, especially since your screen real estate is only 12 inches.

* Laptops for a Bargain

The increase in processor speed—from 1.2 GHz to 1.33 GHz—is slight, as is the graphics upgrade from the ATI Radeon 9200 to the Mobility Radeon 9550, effecting imperceptible real-world improvements in everyday performance. The 512MB memory is standard (finally!) and should improve speed. We'd like to see an extended battery option in addition to the included 50-Wh battery. The battery ran down while we were watching Titanic; it lasted just 2 hours 49 minutes—somewhat less than that of the previous iBook, which lasted 3:14. Most likely, the decrease in battery life is due to newer components that consume more power.

Built-in Bluetooth 2.0 with EDR raised the iBook's mobility rating, which was also bolstered by the 4.9-pound frame and the small adapter. And thanks to OS X, which is built on a strong BSD kernel (a variant of Unix), the iBook did extremely well on our Security ratings. Music and photo ratings were also very good because of applications like iPhoto, iTunes, iMovie, and GarageBand.

A 40GB hard drive comes standard with the iBook 12-inch, but you can now upgrade to a 80GB or 100GB for $100 and $200, respectively. The iBook has a built-in SuperDrive (DVD±RW) and Airport Extreme wireless (802.11g). Also, for added hard drive security, it has a built-in motion sensor, which parks the heads of the hard drive during a sudden fall or jolt.

Though it looks the same on the outside, the Apple iBook G4 12-inch is much improved inside. The hand-me-down features from the PowerBook, such as Bluetooth EDR, advanced hard drive security, and scroll touchpad, are welcome additions. Throw in the component upgrades for the same low price of $999 and the new iBook is anything but "same old."