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Thursday, October 14, 2010
Familia ya G’s (Rough Translation: G-Unit)
This title refers to the Gombe chimpanzee family whose individuals’ names all start with a “G.” Gombe chimpanzees are named using a matrilineal naming system, meaning that the name of the kids begin with the same letter as the name of the mom.
I just began my last month observing Gombe’s chimpanzees. Throughout the month I will be observing all of the mother-infant pairs one last time. It’s both exciting and sad since the infants are not only my research subjects but have encompassed my entire life for two six-month field seasons, from being the topic of dinner conversations to even dreams about following chimps. I watched Gremlin (mom) and Gizmo (1-year-old son) yesterday and that was a reminder to me to keep my promise to write about the “G-Unit.”
I use the term G-Unit because where Gremlin is, there is usually Gaia (Gremlin’s oldest daughter) and Google (Gaia’s 1-year-old son). Typically, when female chimpanzees reach sexual maturity (around 13 years of age) they will emigrate to another community. However, approximately half of the Kasekela community females in Gombe have remained in their natal community, including Gaia.
Gremlin is the only female chimpanzee that has been observed to successfully raise twins in the wild (Golden and Glitter). Now, it’s almost like Gizmo and Google are pseudo-twins because they are only two months apart in age and are constantly around each other. It makes me wonder if they will have any similarities to Golden and Glitter or if they will develop a strong bond as they grow up.
Even though I will be leaving Gombe soon, I will be sure to keep tabs on the kids I have a spent a combined 12 months of my life watching. I can’t wait to see how they turn out, and I predict Google will be a future alpha male with the support of his Uncle Gizmo in about 18 years. (The observations that drive this prediction also make me think that Gaia might have higher concentrations of cortisol (stress hormone) than Gremlin.)
Google quite often tests his locomotive skills and will try to walk on his own while his mom is traveling; other kids his age seem to stick to riding on mom. He’ll see how far he can climb in a tree as his mother watches him (and then eventually climbs up to fetch him). He also seems to like playing rough. Even though he is only 1-year-old, he likes to play-slap anyone and everyone that is willing to take a beating from him, including his mom, grandmother (Gremlin) and uncles (Gizmo and Gimli). All and all he is a pretty tough cookie, and if he’s able to get support from his Uncle Gizmo, I think they’ll make quite a powerhouse in the future.
Google (left) and Gizmo (right) are pictured below (photo from Emma Lantz). This is a common sight because these two play together a lot. They can get pretty tangled up, but, surprisingly, it’s not very difficult to tell the two apart. It is hard to tell from the photo, but Google has a white beard and larger ears. I’m able to easily remember this because Google is older than Gizmo—though by a mere two months.
This picture is great because it shows a good prototypical play face with Gizmo’s mouth hanging open. This play face is used both to initiate play and during social play communicate to the partner that are playing and not being aggressive.
Gombe Field Diaries
Lincoln Park Zoo is partnering with the Jane Goodall Institute to study and conserve chimpanzees in Tanzania’s Gombe National Park, the site of Jane Goodall’s groundbreaking research. Our Gombe field diaries feature updates as scientists monitor chimpanzee health, study ape behavior and experience life in Gombe.
As director of the Lester E. Fisher Center for the Study and Conservation of Apes, Lonsdorf leads Lincoln Park Zoo efforts in Gombe National Park.
Rachel Santymire, Ph.D.
An endocrinologist in the Davee Center for Epidemiology and Endocrinology, Santymire studies stress and reproduction in Gombe's chipmanzees.
A graduate student in the Committee on Evolutionary Biology at the University of Chicago, Matt is studying how levels of play in Gombe¹s chimpanzees influence stress, development and reproductive success.
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