In vertebrates, pluripotent pharyngeal mesoderm progenitors produce the cardiac precursors of the second heart field as well as the branchiomeric head muscles and associated stem cells. However, the mechanisms underlying the transition from multipotent progenitors to distinct muscle precursors remain obscured by the complexity of vertebrate embryos. Using Ciona intestinalis as a simple chordate model, we show that bipotent cardiopharyngeal progenitors are primed to activate both heart and pharyngeal muscle transcriptional programs, which progressively become restricted to corresponding precursors. The transcription factor COE (Collier/OLF/EBF) orchestrates the transition to pharyngeal muscle fate both by promoting an MRF-associated myogenic program in myoblasts and by maintaining an undifferentiated state in their sister cells through Notch-mediated lateral inhibition. The latter are stem cell-like muscle precursors that form most of the juvenile pharyngeal muscles. We discuss the implications of our findings for the development and evolution of the chordate cardiopharyngeal mesoderm.
Mouse lemurs are suggested to represent promising novel non-human primate models for aging research. However, standardized and cross-taxa cognitive testing methods are still lacking. Touchscreen-based testing procedures have proven high stimulus control and reliability in humans and rodents. The aim of this study was to adapt these procedures to mouse lemurs, thereby exploring the effect of age. We measured appetitive learning and cognitive flexibility of two age groups by applying pairwise visual discrimination (PD) and reversal learning (PDR) tasks. On average, mouse lemurs needed 24 days of training before starting with the PD task. Individual performances in PD and PDR tasks correlate significantly, suggesting that individual learning performance is unrelated to the respective task. Compared to the young, aged mouse lemurs showed impairments in both PD and PDR tasks. They needed significantly more trials to reach the task criteria. A much higher inter-individual variation in old than in young adults was revealed. Furthermore, in the PDR task, we found a significantly higher perseverance in aged compared to young adults, indicating an age-related deficit in cognitive flexibility. This study presents the first touchscreen-based data on the cognitive skills and age-related dysfunction in mouse lemurs and provides a unique basis to study mechanisms of inter-individual variation. It furthermore opens exciting perspectives for comparative approaches in aging, personality, and evolutionary research.
Affiliation/agonism and social dominance are central factors determining social organization in primates. The aim of our study is to investigate and describe, for the first time, the intersexual relations in a nocturnal and cohesive pair-living prosimian primate, the western woolly lemur (Avahi occidentalis), and to determine to what extent phylogeny, activity mode, or the cohesiveness of pair partners shape the quality of social interactions. Six pairs of western woolly lemurs were radio-collared in the dry deciduous forest of northwestern Madagascar. More than 874?hr of focal animal sampling were conducted. All occurrences of social interactions involving a focal animal were recorded. The rate of affiliation between pair partners was significantly higher than the rate of agonism. Western woolly lemur pairs interactions were extremely peaceful. All decided agonistic conflicts (N = 15) were exclusively initiated and won by the female. No female showed spontaneous submission toward her male partner. These results are in line with those of diurnal cohesive pair-living anthropoid primates. Findings support the hypothesis that social relations in pair-living primates are linked to the cohesiveness of pair partners in time and space irrespective of phylogeny and activity mode.
Large-brained diurnal mammals with complex social systems are known to plan where and how to reach a resource, as shown by a systematic movement pattern analysis. We examined for the first time large-scale movement patterns of a solitary-ranging and small-brained mammal, the mouse lemur (Microcebus murinus), by using the change-point test and a heuristic random travel model to get insight into foraging strategies and potential route-planning abilities. Mouse lemurs are small nocturnal primates inhabiting the seasonal dry deciduous forest in Madagascar. During the lean season with limited food availability, these lemurs rely on few stationary food resources. We radio-tracked seven lemurs and analysed their foraging patterns. First change-points coincided with out-of-sight keystone food resources. Travel paths were more efficient in detecting these resources than a heuristic random travel model within limits of estimated detection distance. Findings suggest that even nocturnal, solitary-ranging mammals with small brains plan their route to an out-of-sight target. Thus, similar ecological pressures may lead to comparable spatial cognitive skills irrespective of the degree of sociality or relative brain size.
The origin of human handedness and its evolution in primates is presently under debate. Current hypotheses suggest that body posture (postural origin hypothesis and bipedalism hypothesis) have an important impact on the evolution of handedness in primates. To gain insight into the origin of manual lateralization in primates, we studied gray mouse lemurs, suggested to represent the most ancestral primate condition. First, we investigated hand preference in a simple food grasping task to explore the importance of hand usage in a natural foraging situation. Second, we explored the influence of body posture by applying a forced food grasping task with varying postural demands (sit, biped, cling, triped).
Nonhuman primates may defend crucial resources using acoustic or chemical signals. When essential resources are limited, ownership display for a resource may be enhanced. Defending resources may depend on population density and habitat characteristics. Using the Milne Edwards sportive lemurs (Lepilemur edwardsi) and weasel sportive lemurs (L. mustelinus) as models, we tested whether two cryptic nocturnal lemur species differing in population density and habitat show differences in their vocal and chemical communication for signaling ownership of resources. L. edwardsi inhabits a western dry deciduous forest in a high-density population, whereas L. mustelinus is found in an eastern rainforest in low density. We followed ten L. edwardsi (six males and four females) and nine L. mustelinus (four males and five females) for 215?hr during the early evening (06:00-10:00?p.m.) and the early morning (02:00-05:00?a.m.) and recorded their behavior using focal animal sampling. We found that both species differed in their vocal and chemical communication. L. edwardsi was highly vocal and displayed loud calling in the mornings and evenings while feeding or in the vicinity of resting places. In contrast, L. mustelinus never vocalized during observations, but displayed tree-gouging behavior that was never observed in L. edwardsi. Tree gouging occurred more often during early evening sessions than early morning sessions. Subjects gouged trees after leaving their sleeping hole and before moving around. We suggest that, in weasel sportive lemurs, non-nutritive tree gouging is used as a scent-marking behavior in order to display ownership of sleeping sites. Altogether, our findings provide first empirical evidence on the evolution of different communication systems in two cryptic nocturnal primate species contrasting in habitat quality and population density. Further investigations are needed to provide more insight into the underlying mechanisms.
Tree shrews represent a relevant model to study the evolution of primate manual laterality as they are phylogenetically close to primates, they are able to grasp despite having a nonopposable thumb, and they possess a well-developed visual system. In this study, we examined the paw laterality and grasping success rate of 30 Tupaia belangeri (15 males, 15 females) in 2 forced-food grasping tasks (i.e., in a forced-food grasping experiment, the animal has to use paws instead of mouth for food retrieval). We also attempted to determine whether paw usage would be affected by the availability of visual cues using both a visual task (transparent tube) and a nonvisual task (identical but opaque tube). In both tasks, tree shrews showed paw preferences at an individual but not at a population level. Paw laterality (direction and strength) did not differ between tasks. Moreover, in the specific task that we used, grasping success rate was not affected by an absence of visual cues, indicating that tree shrews did not rely on visual guidance to direct their grasps in this forced-food grasping experiment. Our findings suggest that, in contrast to primates, paw usage in tree shrews may result from a modification of a fixed motor pattern in which the preferred direction may be learned. This basic motor organization might be a first step in the evolution of manual laterality, which eventually became controlled by vision in the primate lineage.
Recent results in birds, marsupials, rodents and nonhuman primates suggest that phylogeny and ecological factors such as body size, diet and postural habit of a species influence limb usage and the direction and strength of limb laterality. To examine to which extent these findings can be generalised to small-bodied rooting quadrupedal mammals, we studied trees shrews (Tupaia belangeri).
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