Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Monkey See, Monkey Do

I know, I know, the title of this post is totally unoriginal, but I couldn't help myself.

PLoS just published an article about the way newborn monkeys (rhesus macaques* to be precise) learn facial expressions. Like infant humans, they imitate the behavior of adults. From the New Scientist report:
Pier Ferrari at the University of Parma, Italy, and colleagues tested 21 newborn macaques by holding each in front of a researcher who made various facial expressions.

At one day old, none of the infants showed any imitation. By day three, however, infants started to copy the researchers’ expressions, including tongue protrusions, mouth opening and lip smacking – all typical macaque expressions.
Why should you go have a look? To watch this adorable video of the baby macaque learning how to stick out his tongue by imitating the researcher. (The original .avi file is linked above, or click "play" on the YouTube video below.)

Read the original article and check out the other supporting videos too. (via Cognitive Daily)

* Unrelated trivia: You've probably heard of the Rh blood type factor. I'm O negative, meaning that I don't have the Rh protein on my blood cells. Rh incompatibility is an serious issue for Rh negative women who have more than one baby by a Rh positive father. So what is the connection to my post? Rh stands for Rhesus. In the late 1930s, Landsteiner and Wiener discovered that an antigen on rhesus monkey blood cells could also be found on some human blood cells. This discovery ultimately had saved the lives of thousands of newborns and blood transfusion recipients who would have otherwise died from Rh incompatiblity. If you've had a successful blood transfusion you owe a little bit of thanks to our distant cousin the rhesus macaque.

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