Milking Gorillas

I will do a more thorough summary from the Human Biology Association & American Association of Physical Anthropology annual joint conferences in the near future based on my rabid tweeting from sessions, but a few posters & talks are just sticking with me, & I wanted to share some quick thoughts.

Among the few posters I loved but neglected to photograph for my memory & you, my few invisible possible readers, was one by Mike Power, Katie Hinde, & colleagues about milking gorillas.  Among the fascinating topics regarding our shared proximal & distal biology as primates is the composition of milk, which a growing group of scholars is tackling.  There is a Biomarkers & Milk Research Lab in St. Louis, which I’ll revisit later, & Katie Hinde at Harvard, whose Mammals Suck…Milk! blog is my new fave evening laying-in-bed-with-the-iPad reading material.  Mike Powers, at the American College of Obstetricians & Gynecologists in Washington, D.C. is also looking at this topic in primates in the National Zoo, & his poster at the AAPA was on the composition of gorilla milk.  What was even more amazing was how they get the milk.  He had a video set up on a computer next to his poster showing how they express milk from the gorillas!  The gorillas come right up to the bars of the cage & let them put suction on their breasts like my wife did (sans the bars) when she was breastfeeding our triplet boys.

There was also a talk that got me thinking.  I will revisit my tweets over the next few days & get the researcher’s name (sorry!), but for the moment I just want to get my thoughts out there.  It regarded examining senescence in sexual behavior among lemurs on St. Catherine’s Island off the coast of Georgia. It’s a free-ranging lemur population, which allows researchers to get close enough to count mounting behavior.  Someone from the audience (in one of Katie Hinde’s photos on Twitter, so maybe from one of the milk labs), asked if there was any evidence of senescence in the sperm plugs of lemurs.  Imagine collecting lemur sperm plugs!  (This reminds me of a great quote by Jill Pruetz that I will also revisit about the existential value of collecting chimp feces).

So this all reminded me of the work by Rebecca Burch & Gordon Gallup from a few years ago on the psychobiology of human semen, & I began wondering about the psychobiology of non-human primate semen.  Could we “express milk” semen from non-human primates (not chimps, unless you want to end up faceless or dead) & examine its composition?  Becky & Gordon, thoughts on creating a Semen Lab group?

Christopher Lynn

About Christopher Lynn

Christopher Dana Lynn is an associate professor of anthropology at the University of Alabama, where he founded the Evolutionary Studies program.  Chris teaches undergraduate and graduate courses in biological anthropology, human sexuality, evolution, biocultural medical anthropology, and neuroanthropology.  He received his Ph.D. in Biological Anthropology in 2009 from the University at Albany, SUNY, where his doctoral focus was on the influence of speaking in tongues on stress response among Pentecostals.  Chris runs a human behavioral ecology research group where the objectives include studying fun gimmicky things like trance, religious behavior, tattooing, and sex as a way of introducing students to the rigors of evolutionary science.  In all his “free” time, he breaks up fights among his triplet sons, enjoys marriage to the other Loretta Lynn, strokes his mustache, and has learned to be passionate about Alabama football (Roll Tide!).  Follow Chris on Twitter: @Chris_Ly
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2 Responses to Milking Gorillas

  1. Christopher Lynn Christopher Lynn says:


  2. D.J. Glass D.J. Glass says:

    This is very interesting…and dibs on “Milking Gorillas” as a band name!

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