Zoo animal research skewed towards 'popular' species

October 31, 2019

Research on zoo animals focuses more on "familiar" species like gorillas and chimpanzees than less well known ones like the waxy monkey frog, scientists say.

Globally, fish and birds outnumber mammals, reptiles and amphibians in zoos - but the study says mammals are consistently the main focus of research on zoo-housed animals.

This "mammal bias" also exists in wider research, including in the wild, but lead author Dr Paul Rose, of the University of Exeter, says zoos offer wonderful opportunities to study other species.

The study looked at the last decade of research on zoo-housed animals, both by zoo staff and visiting scientists, and noted the growth and value of such studies.

"Some species, such as chimpanzees, are popular with scientists because we know a lot about them, they are accessible and humans can relate to them," Dr Rose said.

"As well as being found in zoos, many of these species are relatively easy to find and study in the wild.

"By contrast, it would be hard to find a waxy monkey frog in the rainforest to conduct your research.

"Zoos offer us a fantastic opportunity to study a vast range of species, many of which would be very difficult to observe in their natural habitat.

"Our findings can teach us about conversation, animal health and how best to house them in zoos.

"Despite the mammal bias, the output from zoo research has diversified and zoo animals are being used to answer a whole range of important scientific questions relevant to our lives and their lives."

The study also examined whether research on different animals tended to focus on different topics.

"Lots of mammal studies are about animal welfare, which is great, but we should also research the welfare of fish, birds and anything else we keep in zoos," Dr Rose said.

"At the moment, we are publishing on the same few species, rather than broadening our scope.

"Obviously we have lots to learn about every species, but opportunities to study many other zoo-housed animals are currently being missed."

Ten years ago, published research identified the need for studies about a range of species beyond much-loved animals such as elephants and primates.

The new study reviewed zoo-based research in the decade since this recommendation and concluded:
The study was carried out by the University of Exeter, Sparsholt College, ZSL (Zoological Society of London), the University of Birmingham and the University of Winchester.

The paper, published in the journal Palgrave Communications, is entitled: "What's new from the zoo? An analysis of ten years of zoo-themed research output."

University of Exeter

Related Chimpanzees Articles from Brightsurf:

Like humans, aging wild chimpanzees value their more "positive" friendships most
Like humans, wild chimpanzees focus on fewer yet more meaningful friendships as they grow older, say researchers who studied male chimps over two decades.

Like humans, chimpanzees can suffer for life if orphaned before adulthood
A new study from the Tai Chimpanzee Project in Ivory Coast and the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany, shows that orphaned male chimpanzees are less competitive and have fewer offspring of their own than those who continue to live with their mothers.

For chimpanzees, salt and pepper hair not a marker of old age
Silver strands and graying hair is a sign of aging in humans, but things aren't so simple for our closest ape relatives--the chimpanzee.

In the wild, chimpanzees are more motivated to cooperate than bonobos
Scientists investigated cooperation dynamics in wild chimpanzees (Tai, Ivory Coast) and bonobos (LuiKotale, DCR) using a snake model.

A rare heart bone is discovered in chimpanzees
Experts from the University of Nottingham have discovered that some chimpanzees have a bone in their heart, which could be vital in managing their health and conservation.

In chimpanzees, females contribute to the protection of the territory
Researchers of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany, extensively studied several neighboring groups of western chimpanzees and their findings reveal that females and even the entire group may play a more important role in between-group competition than previously thought.

Cultural diversity in chimpanzees
Termite fishing by chimpanzees was thought to occur in only two forms with one or multiple tools, from either above-ground or underground termite nests.

Similar to humans, chimpanzees develop slowly
Researchers from the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany, have systematically investigated developmental milestones in wild chimpanzees of the Taï National Park (Ivory Coast) and found that they develop slowly, requiring more than five years to reach key motor, communication and social milestones.

The genome of chimpanzees and gorillas could help to better understand human tumors
A new study by researchers from the Institute of Evolutionary Biology (IBE), a joint center of UPF and the Spanish National Research Council (CSIC), shows that, surprisingly, the distribution of mutations in human tumors is more similar to that of chimpanzees and gorillas than that of humans.

Crops provide chimpanzees with more energy than wild foods
A University of Kent study has found that cultivated foods offer chimpanzees in West Africa more energetic benefits than wild foods available in the region.

Read More: Chimpanzees News and Chimpanzees Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.