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Two gibbons in an oak tree by the Song Dynasty painter Yì Yuánjí

Gibbons on Helium

Sometimes you read something that you just know has to be true, despite it being utterly bizarre.  It has to be true because no one could make it up (except possibly The Hobart Chinaman).  Well, I’ve read a couple of those ‘unbelievables’ this week, and  I’m still shaking my head.

The first item described the results of a study in which Japanese scientists gave helium to gibbons–those screechers of the jungle–to study the effect on their vocalizations.  The study found the animals were able to amplify the higher sounds by adjusting the shape of their vocal tract, including the mouth and tongue.  About the only humans who can do that are operatic sopranos and small children in supermarkets, yet gibbons are able to do it easily.  These small apes can be heard up to a mile away, and scientists are giving them helium???  Check this out:  male gibbon calling

According to an unnamed source on Wikipeda,  the vocalizations often are a duet between a mated pair, with their young sometimes joining in.  Just imagine it.  Males, and in some species females, sing solos to attract mates, as well as to advertise their territories.  If a male and female like each other’s song, they will find each other and do a short mating dance, followed by a vigorous mating ritual that lasts three days, during which time they will mate about five hundred times.  The report didn’t mention whether any screeching accompanies the actual mating.

It seems the findings of this study have called into question the long-held notion that the vocal control humans enjoy was the product of physiological and anatomical changes which evolved over a long period.  I presume that is significant.

We all know that scientists don’t think like the rest of us, so the gibbon study isn’t quite so hard to explain.  But the next item is about a man who clearly does think like the rest of us but goes that bit further and actually follows through, where most of us wouldn’t.

Man Bites Snake

Let’s face it.  We all contemplate revenge from time to time, but the contemplation of it is usually as far as it goes.  But for a Nepali man that wasn’t enough.  His revenge was on a cobra.  He actually chased the snake and caught it, after it had bitten him in his rice paddy.

Common Cobra

Then he bit the snake to death.  WOW!   He was quoted as saying, “I could have killed it with a stick but bit it with my teeth instead because I was angry.”  The 55-year-old Miya, who lives in a village some 200 km (125 miles) southeast of the Nepali capital of Kathmandu, was treated at a village health post and apparently was not in danger of dying.

I guess I can understand why he was so angry.  It must be pretty damn painful to be bitten in your rice paddy.       MM

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