Stories tagged animal behavior

If your buzz from Valentine's Day hasn't worn off just yet, here's news that will do just that. The folks at MinuteEarth this week look at how rare monogamy actually is among the sexes of Earth's species.

Panda baby: The newly born panda at the National Zoo looks much like this baby panda born years ago.
Panda baby: The newly born panda at the National Zoo looks much like this baby panda born years ago.Courtesy Coegota
A baby giant panda was born last night at the National Zoo in Washington, D.C. It's the first captive birth of a panda at the zoo since 2005 and only the second captive panda birth at the zoo ever. Mother and child are reported to both being doing well, while pappa panda is passing out cigars to all the other bears at the zoo. The zoo will follow Chinese custom and name the baby panda in 100 days. Do you have any suggestions?

The headlines seem to be especially crazy these days, but this one really jumped out at me. So does the Minnesota Zoo have the coolest moose in the country, or what?

All the interwebs were aflutter when the Ely, MN based North American Bear Center turned a web camera on a hibernating bear, Lily, who shortly gave birth to a new cub named Hope. We've blogged about Lily and Hope before - a couple times.

Sadly, Hope has now gone missing and researchers at the bear center fear she may be dead. There are some interesting posts from their research staff that give you some insight into how little we know about these animals' behavior.

Did Lily abandon her cub? Did they just get separated? Is this normal behavior for these bears?

It's been a while since I've posted one of these, but here's an interesting predator face off between a sea lion and octopus. Place your bets on who you think will win. Then watch the video and see if you're right.

and treated.

Feb
13
2010

The Horse in Motion - Edward Muybridge: Eadweard Muybridge used photography to study animal movements - helping to answer a much debated question about whether or not all four of a horse's hooves left the ground at the same time during a gallop.
The Horse in Motion - Edward Muybridge: Eadweard Muybridge used photography to study animal movements - helping to answer a much debated question about whether or not all four of a horse's hooves left the ground at the same time during a gallop.Courtesy Eadweard Muybridge

Scientists who study animal behavior have always had their work cut out for them. For one thing, animal behavior is complex, often involving tiny movements that are not visible to the naked eye. When studying the behavior of animals in groups, this can become even more complicated. Where do you begin to look for patterns? How do you make sense of what you see?

Another difficultly of studying animal behavior comes in designing research tools and experiments that don't interfere with the animal's natural environment. If you've ever tried to walk up to a bird or a squirrel, you know how hard it can be to get close enough to take a good look. The slightest movement or sound, even smells that humans can't smell, can put animals on edge, which might alter the way that they behave.

Over the years, recording equipment and new technologies have made it possible to study animal behavior in new ways. From the invention of photography, which allowed researchers to "freeze" animals and then to set those images in motion, studying how animals move - to newer kinds of imaging techniques that allow today's scientists to observe animal behavior in difficult situations, studying imperceptible changes in their bodies and brains as they move.

This article from The Scientist magazine details how a few researchers have overcome obstacles to studying animal behavior, including the story of a researcher who uses infrared heat-sensing cameras to study the flight trajectories of bats in Brazil. Using ordinary cameras, the necessary lights would disturb the natural behavior of the bats, but infrared cameras give researchers a glimpse of how a very large group of bats behaves at night.

This technology can also be used to study the collective group behavior of other creatures, from very large elephants, to butterflies. Check out the video below to see what bat researchers in Brazil saw when they put these cameras inside a cave.

I think I spent too much time last night watching the NFL schedule preview shows. I'm clicking around the Net this morning and found this match-up: Tigers vs. Crocodiles. Watch the video and enjoy.

Apr
15
2009

Rare species: Joe the Plumber belongs to a sub-species of humans who don't like to pay taxes.
Rare species: Joe the Plumber belongs to a sub-species of humans who don't like to pay taxes.Courtesy Rona Proudfoot
Today – April 15 and its federal tax deadline –may be a miserable day for Joe the Plumber, that vocal opponent of the redistribution of wealth through public taxation. But he’ll likely not find too many sympathizers among the animal kingdom.

While much of our humankind political debate revolves around if and how much wealth should be redistributed through public taxation, the issue is a given among most other animal species. Follow this link to a complete rundown by the New York Times. In essence, many animals have a culture of helping each other out and making sure the minimum needs of all are met. And sometimes they get real serious about it.

Don't beat me up....I've paid my taxes: Rhesus monkeys have a culture that encourages the sharing of food – a redistribution of wealth – that penalizes those who don't contribute to the good of all monkeys.
Don't beat me up....I've paid my taxes: Rhesus monkeys have a culture that encourages the sharing of food – a redistribution of wealth – that penalizes those who don't contribute to the good of all monkeys.Courtesy J.M.Garg
I found especially interesting the practices of the rhesus monkey. When out hunting, if a single monkey finds a huge load of food, he/she is compelled by the species’ culture to notify others to come and enjoy the bounty. If it’s discovered he/she was hording the treasure and not sharing, a dominant male will unleash and harsh, stern physical penalty (without any preliminary audit like the IRS).

Vampire bats will actually do an “audit” of the stomachs of their comrades. If a particular bat appears to be bloated, they will “vigorously encourage” the glutton to regurgitate the excess food it had consumed to share among other bats in the group.

So if you’re having a hard time coughing up that dough to the IRS today, just be glad you’re not a rhesus monkey, vampire bat or some other tough taxing creature of the animal world. The means of taxation could be a whole lot more painful.

Nov
13
2008

I have a tiny black belt: And a condo in Cabo. I'll totally take you there sometime, babe.
I have a tiny black belt: And a condo in Cabo. I'll totally take you there sometime, babe.Courtesy Junglecat
Australian ecologists have recently been observed soiling themselves and drooling over lying crabs.

Honestly, people. Lying about crabs, now that might be something worth getting excited over… But this? Whatever.

What the ecologists have observed, to be precise, are fiddler crabs that are “dishonest” about their own physical prowess, acting as though they are stronger fighters than they actually are.

Fiddler crabs have two pinching claws, but, in males, one of the claws grows to be much, much larger than the other one. This larger, stronger claw is used to attract mates, and to fight off male competitors. If a crab’s fighting claw is ripped off, a new one will grow back. The researchers noticed, however, that some male crabs were growing new claws that were as large as their old claws, but were also significantly weaker, and lacking serrated “teeth.” The new claws were “cheaper” for the crabs to grow (that is, they required less energy and food from the crab), and other crabs were unable to tell them apart from “real” claws.

It’s like the crabs had figured out that they could stick up a bank with a fake gun—the weapon is cheaper, and ultimately harmless, but it looks like its dangerous.

The scientists are excited because it’s rare that they’re able to study animal “dishonesty” so fully—here they can measure a crab’s claw size and strength, and the crab’s ability to keep itself from being pulled out of its burrow, and they can observe how successful individual crabs are in acquiring a mate.

To this, I say, “Whatev.” I’m an expert at acting tougher than I really am, and Australian ecologists act like I don’t even exist. Despite my weak limbs, my tactic of scuttling around sideways and circling my opponents while waving my hands in the air always, I say always, works. They don’t know what hit them (and it certainly wasn’t me). And then it’s just me and the ladies.

(Although the ladies are usually always kind of freaked out by the scuttling thing too. But the first part of the strategy remains sound.)