A fun way to start out the week: skateboarding cat.
Currently browsing the Animals Category
Goats Excel at Learning and Remembering a Complex Tasks
I like research showing animals using intelligence that seems advanced, for example: Crow Using a Sequence of Three Tools – Insightful Problem Solving in an Asian Elephant – Bird-brains smarter than your average ape – Tropical Lizards Can Solve Novel Problems and Remember the Solutions – Pigeon Solves Box and Banana Problem.
I also like open access science, and this has both: Goats excel at learning and remembering a highly novel cognitive task
The individual learning abilities and long-term memory of goats highlighted in our study suggest that domestication has not affected goat physical cognition. However, these cognitive abilities contrast with the apparent lack of social learning, suggesting that relatively intelligent species do not always preferentially learn socially. We propose that goat cognition, and maybe more generally ungulate cognition, is mainly driven by the need to forage efficiently in harsh environments and feed on plants that are difficult to access and to process, more than by the computational demands of sociality. Our results could also explain why goats are so successful at colonizing new environments.
The experiment was done with domesticated goats. I also learned this from the article, which I didn’t know before:
How Wolves Changed the Yellowstone Ecosystem
A great short video explaining the dramatic changes to the Yellowstone ecosystem with the re-introduction of wolves. Even the rivers changed.
Related: Light-harvesting Bacterium Discovered in Yellowstone – Fishless Future – The Sea Otter story – Yellowstone Youth Conservation Corps – Polar Bears Playing with Huskies – Curious Cat travel photos of Yellowstone National Park
Why Don’t All Ant Species Replace Queens in the Colony, Since Some Do
My response to: There are other species of ants that do replace the queen, so why did some species not do this?
Basically the method they evolved copes well with losing the queen. Out of various ways of dealing with having a dominant Queen some may lead to replacement if she dies.
There are lots of examples of method is very effective at creating lots of successful offspring but happens to be less than ideal in some situations. Natural selection is pretty amazing and awesome at creating effective genes but we certainly can look at the results sometimes and see improvements that would be useful.
Likely if losing the queen was very common a good way of dealing with that would be found (or that species would be disadvantaged and at risk). If the queen happens to evolve to being very reliable coping with her death becomes less important. If they produce lots of useful offspring but have a less than ideal method of coping with their home colony losing her it is entirely sensible to imagine that species could flourish.
I would imagine species with queens that had shorter lifespans, that invested more in the home colony, that were less effective at setting up new colonies… would be more likely to have better queen replacement strategies/results.
Another Bee Study Finds CCD is Likely Due to Combination of Factors Including Pesticides
Abstract of open access science paper funded by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Crop Pollination Exposes Honey Bees to Pesticides Which Alters Their Susceptibility to the Gut Pathogen Nosema ceranae:
We collected pollen from bee hives in seven major crops to determine 1) what types of pesticides bees are exposed to when rented for pollination of various crops and 2) how field-relevant pesticide blends affect bees’ susceptibility to the gut parasite Nosema ceranae. Our samples represent pollen collected by foragers for use by the colony, and do not necessarily indicate foragers’ roles as pollinators. In blueberry, cranberry, cucumber, pumpkin and watermelon bees collected pollen almost exclusively from weeds and wildflowers during our sampling.
Thus more attention must be paid to how honey bees are exposed to pesticides outside of the field in which they are placed. We detected 35 different pesticides in the sampled pollen, and found high fungicide loads. The insecticides esfenvalerate and phosmet were at a concentration higher than their median lethal dose in at least one pollen sample. While fungicides are typically seen as fairly safe for honey bees, we found an increased probability of Nosema infection in bees that consumed pollen with a higher fungicide load.
Our results highlight a need for research on sub-lethal effects of fungicides and other chemicals that bees placed in an agricultural setting are exposed to.
The attempts to discover the main causes of bee colony deaths and find solutions continues to prove difficult years after the problems became major. The complex interaction of many variables makes it difficult. And special interest groups pushing pesticides and the like, which have seemed to be major contributors to the problem for years, make it even more difficult (by preventing restrictions on potentially damaging pesticide use).
The challenges in determining what is killing bees are similar to the challenges of discovering what practices are damaging human health. The success of studying complex biological interactions (to discover threats to human health) is extremely limited. I am concerned we are far too caviler about using large numbers of interventions (drugs, pesticides, massive antibiotics use in factory farms, pollution…).
Related: Europe Bans Certain Pesticides, USA Just Keeps Looking, Bees Keep Dying – Germany Bans Chemicals Linked to Bee Deaths (2008) – Virus Found to be One Likely Factor in Bee Colony Colapse Disorder (2007) – Study of the Colony Collapse Disorder Continues as Bee Colonies Continue to Disappear
Tropical Lizards Can Solve Novel Problems and Remember the Solutions
The lizards solved the problem in three fewer attempts than birds need to flip the correct cap and pass the test, Leal said. Birds usually get up to six chances a day, but lizards only get one chance per day because they eat less. In other words, if a lizard makes a mistake, it has to remember how to correct it until the next day
Leal’s experiment “clearly demonstrates” that when faced with a situation the lizards had never experienced, most of them were able to devise a way to solve the problem. Their ability to “unlearn” a behavior, a skill that some mammalian species have difficulty in, is the mark of a cognitively advanced animal, said Jonathan Losos, a biologist at Harvard who was not involved in the study.
To see if the lizards could reverse this association, Leal next placed the worm under the other cap. At first, all the lizards bumped or bit the formerly lucrative blue cap. But after a few mistakes, two of the lizards figured out the trick. “We named these two Plato and Socrates,” Leal said.
It is very cool to see what scientists keep learning about animals.
Scientific Inquiry Process Finds That Komodo Dragons Don’t have a Toxic Bite After All
This articles is another showing the scientific inquiry process at work. Scientists draw conclusions based on the data they have and experiments they do. Then scientists (sometimes the same people that did the original work) seek to confirm or refute the initial conclusions (based on new evidence or just repeating a similar experiment) and may seek to extend those conclusions.
Sometimes the scientists conclude the initial understanding was incorrect, such as with Komodo Dragon’s: Here Be Dragons: The Mythic Bite of the Komodo
It’s a truly fascinating way for an animal to feed — well, truly fascinating in that it’s not true at all.
Homing Pigeons May Use Low Frequency Sound Maps To Locate Home
on the odd day when the birds reached home from Jersey Hill without problems, the infrasound traveled between the two locations. At the other locations where pigeons headed off in the wrong direction, he showed that wind currents channeled the infrasound waves in that direction.
The explanation may solve other mysteries about pigeons — for instance, why they circle around before heading off in one direction. Because the sound waves are so long, but the birds’ ear canals are tiny, they need to circle to reconstruct the wave and figure out which way they are oriented, he said.
More interesting scientific inquiry. It is very interesting to learn what scientists are learning about our world – even when the conclusions are still preliminary and may be adjusted or refuted.
Parrots Given “Names” by Their Parents and Use Them Throughout Their Lives
Previous research had shown that all wild parrots use unique “contact calls” that not only distinguish each bird individually, but also communicate their gender, and the mate and larger group they belong to.
“Parrots can have extremely long periods [leading up] to independence, and this is thought to be related to their large brains,” explained Berg. The same goes for primates, he said, with humans in particular being “off the charts” when it comes to a lengthy stage of child dependence.
More research is required, to better understand the evolution of and interaction between these physical and behavioral traits, he said. “We still don’t have good explanations of how these behaviors help wild individuals survive and reproduce in nature,” he said.
The paper offers some possible explanations: Perhaps the parrots’ far-ranging journeys to “communal foraging sights” are what impress upon each parent the need to have their fledglings’ names sorted out — not unlike human parents’ need to call for their children by name at a crowded fair.
I enjoy learning more fun and cool stuff about the animals we share the world with. They are quite an interesting bunch of creatures.
Friday Fun: Gibbon Plays with Tiger Cubs
While this gibbon appears to be playing with the tiger cubs I am not sure the tigers see it as play.
Cancer Cells in Blind Mole Rats ‘commit suicide’
Cancer cells in blind mole rats ‘commit suicide’
Blind mole rats, which live in underground burrows throughout Southern and Eastern Africa, and the Middle East, are fascinating creatures. The naked mole rat, in particular, is the only cold-blooded mammal known to man, doesn’t experience pain, and is also arguably the only mammal (along with the Damaraland mole rat) to demonstrate eusociality — that is, they live in large hierarchical communities with a queen and workers, like ants or bees.
They’re also cancer-proof, which was found in 2011 to be down to a gene that stops cancerous cells from forming. The same team thought that two other cancer-proof mole rat species might have similar genes, but instead it turns out that they do develop cancerous cells — it’s just that those cells are programmed to destroy themselves if they become dangerous.
Very interesting research. The results of evolution are amazing. And while turning the medical research discoveries into workable treatments for people is very difficult the continued increase in our knowledge helps us find treatments that work.