"The beginning of knowledge is the discovery of something we do not understand." -Frank Herbert

Through the discoveries of things we did not fully comprehend in science, we have come to know more about and better appreciate species from the animal kingdom.

In today's article, we shall focus on four fantastic discoveries that have taught us a great deal about four different species: the chimpanzee, the sheep, the mountain gorilla, and the dolphin.

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Jane Goodall and Her Chimps

research with chimpanzees
By basically with chimpanzees in Tanzania, Jane Goodall uncovered amazing truths. (Source: Unsplash)

Born in London in 1934, Jane Goodall has become a legend in the field of biology. Goodall's discoveries and research work with chimpanzees in Tanzania have led her to become a primatology leader.

Under Louis Leakey's supervision, all began studying chimpanzees in Gombe Stream National Park, Tanzania, in the mid-1960s. Her almost 60 years of research on African chimps focused mainly on the primates social and family interactions. Jane Goodall's discoveries were, and still are, groundbreaking and extremely successful since she adopted an immersive approach to enter into a chimpanzee community and not merely observe it from a distance.

Primatologists did not utilise the tactics used by Jane Goodall to study chimps in the 20th century. However, did Goodall have impressive results? Absolutely! The following are some of the most noteworthy discoveries of Goodall from her close encounters with primates:

  • Chimpanzees Accept Human Beings Gradually: since Goodall was one of the first human beings to approach wild chimps so closely, researchers were unsure how they would react. Nonetheless, Jane Goodall recorded that after general uneasiness and hostility the first few times, the chimps gradually became more comfortable with her presence.
  • Chimps Make Tools: still regarded as one of the most remarkable discoveries in the animal kingdom, Goodall observed one of her chimps in Tanzania use sticks and straw to create a tool that would facilitate pulling termites out of a mound.
  • According to work completed by earlier primatologists, they are Omnivores. It was believed that chimpanzees solely enjoyed a vegetarian diet. However, on various occasions, Goodall saw chimps eating pig meat and smaller monkeys.
  • Chimpanzees are Some of the Most Social Beings: by being able to get a close glance at chimpanzees, Goodall observed through her many years of research that they are incredibly social beings. For instance, it is not uncommon for chimps to hug and kiss each other—additionally, chimpanzees complete activities such as hunting in groups.

The tireless efforts of Jane Goodall are an inspiration for aspiring biologists and primatologists. As of 2021, Goodall is the only human that was entirely accepted into chimpanzee society. Some of the chimps Goodall observed throughout her six decades of research include David Greybeard, Goliath, Mike, Humphrey, Gigi, Flo, and Frodo, to name a few.

Goodall named her chimps by their physical characteristics or personality traits. The chimpanzees became her friends. While Goodall isn't still in Africa researching chimps at Gombe River National Park, she is still actively working as an activist raising awareness for climate change and the ethical treatment of chimpanzees in captivity zoos.

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Wilmut and Campbell and Dolly, the Sheep

Another biological discovery from the animal kingdom worthy of consideration is Ian Wilmut and Keith Campbell's work at the Roslin Institute to bring us Dolly, the Sheep.

Both Wilmut and Campbell were brilliant and highly trained scientists interested in animals and the study of gene manipulation to clone living species. Their paths crossed in the early 1990s at the Roslin Institute in Edinburgh, Scotland, UK.

Campbell and Wilmut's intrigue of embryology and cloning led them, with an extensive research team, to complete p cloning dolly the Sheep cloning. They wanted to know if it were possible through research and without using too many live animals for testing to create genetically modified livestock.

After a few years of testing genetically modified cells from different types of sheep, the manipulation of genes proved successful; in 1996, Dolly the Sheep was created in a lab and born to a surrogate Scottish Blackface Ewe mother. To discover precisely how Ian Wilmut and Keith Campbell used science to clone an animal, click this article to find more.

But why was Dolly the Sheep so significant in the world of science? When Dolly the Sheep was born and subsequently introduced to the world, the media had a frenzy and biologists across all inhabited continents praised the team at the Roslin Institute for their impressive endeavour. Dolly, the Sheep, was remarkable because she was the first mammal to be cloned from an animal cell.

The successful embryo creation, the gestation period, and the birth demonstrated to biologists that cells and genes could be manipulated to create an exact copy of the animal they came from. Dolly, the Sheep, fascinated scientists, and a lot more funding was dedicated to the fields of embryology and cloning. The development of iPS and personalised stem cells were discovered as a result of Dolly's success.

Dolly, the Sheep, was named after Dolly Parton, and she bore six lambs in her life and lived a very peaceful life at Roslin Institute until her death in early 2003.

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Dian Fossey and the Mountain Gorillas

gorilla life
Fossey dedicated her entire adult life to the research of gorillas in Rwanda. (Source: Unsplash)

Another legend in the field of biology and primatology is Dian Fossey from the United States. Just like Jane Goodall, Dian Fossey was inspired by Louis Leakey to study primates in Africa. However, for Fossey, it wasn't chimpanzees; it was gorillas!

Dian Fossey was born in 1932 in San Francisco, USA, and from a young age, she developed a love for all types of animals she came in contact with. After her formative years, she fulfilled a lifelong dream by embarking on a trip to Africa to discover exotic animals such as giraffes, chimpanzees, zebras, elephants, etc. At the end of Fossey's Africa trip, she met Louis Leakey in Tanzania.

Leakey left a major impact on Fossey. After some years, he encouraged her to permanently move to Africa to study gorillas in the same way that Goodall observed chimpanzees in Tanzania. Fossey got the training she needed and returned to Africa in 1967. Fossey originally planned to observe gorillas in the Congo; however, due to the civil unrest encountered in the Congo, Dian Fossey decided to set up her research base in Rwanda's Virungas region.

Dian Fossey spent the rest of her life in the Virungas region, specifically the foothills of Mount Bisoke, observing gorillas in their natural habitat. What exactly did Fossey discover that furthered primatologists understanding of gorillas? Read the following to find out more:

  • Family Relationships are Strong in Gorillas: mountain gorillas stick together in troops, and they are very close to their families. Fossey also discovered that the maternal bond between a mother and her offspring is powerful. And just like humans, Fossey discovered that good mothers contribute to raising healthy and balanced offspring.
  • Daily Activities: since Fossey got extremely close to mountain gorillas, she observed their daily activities. Which include? Mountain gorillas spend most of the day scavenging for food to eat; this is completed together with all troop members. In the evenings, gorillas rest in "night nests" created with branches and leaves.
  • Gorillas Can Warm Up to Humans: intimidating and daunting to most humans, Dian Fossey was, and still is, considered very brave for her endeavours to get close to gorillas and socialise with them regularly. Fossey discovered that gorillas could easily get comfortable around humans, even the most dominant males.
  • Gorillas are Playful: through her observations, Fossey also discovered that gorillas are very playful and fun. On many occasions, the gorillas would tickle each other and play around as if they were children in a schoolyard.

Dian Fossey's research and observations of the mountain gorillas are still viewed as significant since she made major strides in primatology. A lot of what we know and love about gorillas today is thanks to the life's work of Dian Fossey. Fossey had a special bond with a gorilla named Digit, whom she closely watched for over a decade before poachers killed him.

In the later years of her life, Fossey dedicated a lot of attention to raising awareness of poaching's sad reality in Africa. Many experts and close friends of Dian Fossey believe that her outspokenness and sheer disregard of poachers led to her untimely murder in December 1985.

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Margaret Howe Lovatt and Peter the Dolphin

dolphins types and kinds
There are various types of river and ocean dolphins. (Source: Unsplash)

Another fascinating biological discovery or expert is the work completed by Margaret Howe Lovatt with the young bottlenose dolphin, Peter in Saint Thomas, USVI.

Magaret Howe was born in 1942 in the US Virgin Islands. From a young age, she developed a love for animals, especially aquatic creatures. Therefore, after dropping out of college, she worked at a dolphin laboratory where the research was being conducted to understand porpoises more effectively.

How did her research with Peter the dolphin start? Well, in the mid-1960s, following a period of time researching dolphins and believing that communication could be established between dolphins and humans, the well-known neurologist, John C. Lilly, arrived in Saint Thomas with funding from NASA to prove the theory that dolphins could eventually speak with people. He convinced Howe Lovatt to work with him, and she became a volunteer naturalist.

Margaret Howe was thrilled to work closely with dolphins and under the direction of John C. Lilly, who had a great reputation in science and biology. Lilly arranged for a two-storey "Dolphinarium" to be built so that Howe Lovatt and the chosen dolphins could work closely together to establish communication skills. Three dolphins from Marine Studios, who were co-stars on the hit show Flipper, were chosen: Sissy, Pamela, and Peter.

Howe Lovatt developed a close bond with Peter, the dolphin, and after some weeks, there was an early success since Peter was trained to utter the sounds and intonation of English words closely. Through twice-daily lessons with Margaret, Peter was encouraged to speak the phrase, "Hello Margaret!" Peter had a hard time uttering the "m" sound, and investors slowly became discouraged by the research's slow pace.

Although the project with Peter the dolphin was shut down after a few months in the 1960s, Howe Lovatt still believes that through more careful and patient training, dolphins may one day be able to communicate effectively with humans; only time and money will tell if that is true!

In conclusion, what do the four biological discoveries in today's article have in common? They were all uncovered through the hard work of dedicated persons, and they have helped us comprehend the animal kingdom better!

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