The last known rhinoceroses in Mozambique have been wiped out by poachers apparently working in cahoots with the game rangers responsible for protecting them, it has emerged.
Evidence continues to mount that corvids — which include crows, ravens, and magpies — are for more intelligent than most people realize. These animals have been known to utilize tools, solve puzzles, and even engage in play, as in this adorable video.
A humorous and educational video about the chameleon.
In recent years, biologists have recognized that birds engage in play. Juvenile Common Ravens are among the most playful of bird species. They have been observed to slide down snowbanks, apparently purely for fun. They even engage in games with other species, such as playing catch-me-if-you-can with wolves, otters and dogs. Common Ravens are known for spectacular aerobatic displays, such as flying in loops or interlocking talons with each other in flight.
They are also one of only a few wild animals who make their own toys. They have been observed breaking off twigs to play with socially.
Keep it together, Tessa.
A brief but informative video about angler fish.
A decoy spider hangs below its much smaller builder, suspected to be a new species in the genus Cyclosa (Photo: Phil Torres) The decoy attracts predatory birds that, for obvious reasons, are more likely to notice it than the actual spider a tenth its size. Fascinating! Source: Weird Science
There are only about 4,000 tigers, at most, remaining in the wild. Yet there are probably tens of thousands of captive tigers around the world (there is no official census). This would appear to make a compelling case for the existence of zoos and private collections. If tigers can survive and breed well in captivity, then perhaps more can be introduced to the wild when safe habitat becomes available. Yet that system isn’t working the way we think it does. A huge number of the captive tigers are hybrids of various subspecies and are so inbred that they will never be suitable for reintroduction to the wild. No tigers are more emblematic of this problem than white tigers.
I recently asked friends on Facebook to write down their thoughts about white tigers without searching for any new information. Some very intelligent people were under the impression that white tigers are a variety of Siberian tiger, camouflaged for a snowy climate. Others applauded zoos with white tigers for supporting conservation of white tigers while lamenting a lag in reintroduction efforts. Only one out of 27 respondents knew that white tigers are not a subspecies at all but rather the result of a mutant gene that has been artificially selected through massive inbreeding to produce oddball animals for human entertainment.
One of the world’s creepiest creatures may be the source of new kinds of petroleum-free plastics and super-strong fabrics, according to research by scientists in Canada studying the hagfish, a bottom-dwelling creature that hasn’t evolved for 300 million years and produces a sticky slime when threatened. The gooey material is actually a kind of protein that turns into choking strands of tough fibers when released into the water.
A research team at Canada’s University of Guelph managed to harvest the slime from the fish, dissolve it in liquid, and then reassemble its structure by spinning it like silk. It’s an important first step in being able to process the hagfish slime into a useable material, according to Atsuko Negishi, a research assistant and lead author on the paper in this week’s journal Biomacromolecules.
“We’re trying to understand how they make these threads and how we can learn from that to make protein-based fibers that have excellent mechanical properties,” Negishi said. “The first step is can we harvest the threads. It turns out that is doable.”
Spot the frogfish from the sponge. It’s not too difficult to tell upon closer inspection, but most predators wouldn’t notice. The frogfish, also known as the anglerfish, is one of nature’s best mimics (as this photo attests).
This video shows the migration pattern of birds in North America, as shown by weather radar. Very beautiful. This massive movement of animals happens across the country and we rarely notice it.
The amazing Tui, a bird endemic to New Zealand, is one of the animal world’s best mimics. Very fascinating.
This is a comic devoted to Rachel Carson, who decades ago presciently described the ecological damage of widespread pesticide use. Yesterday, September 27, was the 50th anniversay of the seminal book that rose this issue, Silent Spring.
This bizarre and perfectly geometric structure was discovered 80ft deep off the coast of Amami Oshima island, between Japan and Taiwan. It’s around 6.5 feet in diameter and was carved neatly into the sand. What could have caused it?
A puffer fish! The male puffer builds this in order to attract females, and he’ll even decorate it with shells that he finds across the seabed. The more ridges these circles have, the more likely the female will choose the male.
But it serves other functions as well: the eggs are laid in the center, and the surrounding ridges protect them from the ocean current. The shell “ornaments” also serve as food for the newly-hatched babies. Remarkable.
Here’s a picture of the artist:
Is a species worth saving if it offers no benefit to humans? The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has drawn up a list of 100 threatened animals, plants and fungi that it says have unique values which make them worth saving. Take a look and decide for yourself.
The game works like this: the puppet (with the aid of an adult puppeteer) and a three-year-old participant gather their hauls of little buckets. Then the child/puppet team is rewarded with stickers - one for each coin they have collected.At this point the child has to decide how to share his or her prized stickers with their puppet partner.
This simple game revealed that, by the age of just three, children choose to reward their peers based on merit. The children gave the puppet more stickers if it had “worked harder” - gathering more coins.
Patricia Kanngiesser from the University of Bristol led the study, which was published in the journal PLoS One. She said she was amazed by the result.
“We were very surprised to find this sophisticated sharing behaviour already present in three-year-olds,” said Ms Kanngiesser.
“Previous research has found that children don’t really begin to share according to merit until they are six years of age and older.”
Using puppets allowed the experimenters to carry out a controlled experiment whilst still revealing exactly how the children would behave towards peers in a real world situation.
For even a young, pre-educated child to understand basic notions of fairness does strongly suggest that it’s natural to us. Even more fascinating is the evidence that shows that even our fellow primates have similar compunctions:
In recent years there has been increased scientific interest in whether non-human primates are able to understand the concept of fair play.
As well as gaining an understanding of the complexities of animal behaviour, these studies are trying to unpick its evolutionary origins.
The first of these was published in Nature in 2003. Sarah Brosnan, currently at Georgia State University, found that capuchin monkeys reacted dramatically to being treated unfairly.
Dr Brosnan trained wild monkeys to work with human handlers on a simple task; the monkey would hand over a piece of rock and, in return, receive a food reward.
In the experiment, two monkeys sat side by side. The handlers either gave both monkeys an identical reward (a slice of cucumber) or gave just one of the monkeys the much preferred reward of a grape for completing exactly the same task.
As it was reported at the time by National Geographic: “Capuchins who witnessed unfair treatment and failed to benefit from it often refused to conduct future exchanges with human researchers, would not eat the cucumbers they received for their labours, and in some cases, hurled food rewards at human researchers.”
Since then, several groups have tried to test fairness in our closer and apparently more intelligent cousins - the great apes.
But, Dr Shultz said, overall, “non-human primates, apes included, are not very good at solving fairness problems”.
In other words, complex moral and ethical behavior remains uniquely human, as far as we can tell. But the fact that our closest relatives have some rudimentary concept of it implies that we built upon pre-existing foundations for fairness and justice.