Apes prefer the glass half full

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Apes prefer the glass half full. Duke Today, Feb. 11, 2015. Humans aren’t the only species to be influenced by spin. Our closest primate relatives are susceptible, too. For example, people rate a burger as more tasty when it is described as “75 percent lean” than when it is described as “25 percent fat,” even though that’s the same thing. A Duke University study finds that positive and negative framing make a big difference for chimpanzees and bonobos too. Picked up by the Daily Mail and Scientific American.

Humans, sparrows make sense of sounds in similar ways

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Humans, sparrows make sense of sounds in similar ways. Duke Today, Jan. 5, 2015. The song of the swamp sparrow — a grey-breasted bird found in wetlands throughout much of North America — is a simple melodious trill. But according to a new study by researchers at Duke University and the University of London, swamp sparrows are capable of processing the notes that make up their simple songs in more sophisticated ways than previously realized — an ability that may help researchers better understand the perceptual building blocks that enable language in humans. Picked up by The Herald-Sun, Wildlife Magazine and The New York Times.

Lady baboons with guy pals live longer

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Lady baboons with guy pals live longer. Duke Today, September 10, 2014. Numerous studies have linked social interaction to improved health and survival in humans, and new research confirms that the same is true for baboons. A long-term study of more than 200 wild female baboons finds that the most sociable females live two to three years longer than their socially isolated counterparts. Socializing with males gave females an even bigger longevity boost than socializing with other females, the researchers found. Picked up by the Daily Mail.

Animals with bigger brains, broader diets have better self control

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Animals with bigger brains, broader diets have better self control. National Evolutionary Synthesis Center, April 24, 2014. The largest study of animal intelligence to-date finds that animals with bigger brains and broader diets have better self-control. The results are part of a long history of research aimed at understanding why some species are able to do things like make and use tools, read social cues, or even understand basic math, and others aren’t. By convincing animal experts across the globe to conduct the same set of experiments, researchers were able to test ideas about how cognitive differences in the animal kingdom came to be in a much more rigorous way than has been possible before. Picked up by The New York Times and the National Science Foundation.

Lemurs match scent of a friend to sound of her voice

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Lemurs match scent of a friend to sound of her voice. Duke Today, April 15, 2014. Humans aren’t alone in their ability to match a voice to a face — animals such as dogs, horses, crows and monkeys are able to recognize familiar individuals this way too, a growing body of research shows. A new study finds that some animals can even match a voice to a scent. Researchers report that ring-tailed lemurs respond more strongly to the scents and sounds of female lemurs when the scent they smell and the voice they hear belong to the same female — even when she’s nowhere in sight. Picked up by the National Science Foundation and Natural History magazine (June 2014 issue).

Hibernating lemurs hint at the secrets of sleep

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Hibernating lemurs hint at the secrets of sleep. Duke Today, September 4, 2013. By studying hibernation, a Duke University team is providing a window into why humans sleep. Observations of a little-known primate called the fat-tailed dwarf lemur in captivity and the wild has revealed that it goes for days without the deepest part of sleep during its winter hibernation season. The findings support the idea that sleep plays a role in regulating body temperature and metabolism. Picked up by WUNC, National Geographic, NBC News, US News and World Report, Huffington Post, Futurity, Discovery News and the Los Angeles Times.

Primate hibernation more common than previously thought

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Primate hibernation more common than previously thought. Duke Today, May 2, 2013. Until recently, the only primate known to hibernate as a survival strategy was a creature called the western fat-tailed dwarf lemur, a tropical tree-dweller from the African island of Madagascar. But it turns out this hibernating lemur isn’t alone. In a new study, researchers report that two other little-known lemurs — Crossley’s dwarf lemur and Sibree’s dwarf lemur — burrow into the soft, spongy rainforest floor in the eastern part of Madagascar, curl up and spend the next three to seven months snoozing underground. Picked up by Futurity, New Scientist and Nature World News.

The safer sex? For a little-known primate, a new understanding of why females outlive males

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The safer sex? For a little-known primate, a new understanding of why females outlive males. National Evolutionary Synthesis Center. February 28, 2013. After observing an endangered lemur for more than two decades in the wild in Madagascar, Patricia Wright of Stony Brook University had a hunch that females were living longer than males. What could explain the gender gap? By taking a closer look at dispersal behavior across the lifespan, researchers think they have a clue. Picked up by Futurity.