Don’t Stroke Me … I’m a Cat.
A new scientific study of housecats published in Physiology and Behavior claims that for some domestic cats, stroking and cuddling by their human companions is not a comfort, but instead a source of considerable stress and irritation. Simply put, what may be comforting for the human is not so pleasant for the cat. The study found that some cats can tolerate human physical attention quite well, and that for multiple cat households, it is better to dote on those animals and leave alone the individuals who would prefer a hands-off approach.
Suriname Home to Many New Species.
One of the world’s most remote areas, Suriname in South America, is a treasure trove of exotic and never before seen plant and animal species. This most recent expedition involved 16 scientists and netted a total of 60 species that are new to science. One member of the expedition said, “Suriname is one of the last places where an opportunity still exists to conserve massive tracts of untouched forest and pristine rivers where biodiversity is thriving.”
For the strong-stomached, a scientific study called the National Cockroach Project, has reported some interesting results. For example, while most New Yorkers think that all cockroaches are the same, the roaches of the Upper East Side, Upper West Side and Roosevelt Island, although still the same species, are actually genetically distinct. And, just like New Yorkers themselves, the cockroaches that live there are the offspring of immigrants from Europe that followed the human immigrants in their passages to the New World. The project had been collecting samples from all over the United States and there are plenty to choose from: in fact, there are more than 4,000 cockroach species throughout the world.
A Fruit Fly Expert.
Drosophila melanogaster, the common fruit fly, is probably the most studied insect species on the planet. But that doesn’t mean that it has no more secrets to reveal. In this New York Times science article, you will meet Dr. Michael Dickinson who has been studying the fruit fly for his entire career. His sub-specialty is the mechanics of fruit fly flight and in his laboratory the precise mechanics of fruit fly flight, from takeoff to landing, are studied in extraordinary detail. Recently, it has been discovered that just like the monarch butterfly, the fruit fly uses the night time map of the stars to navigate. Dr. Dickinson puts it this way, “It’s a solution vertebrates didn’t come upon, humans didn’t come upon, but insects did.”
Penguins’ Zoo Homes No Sanctuary from Malaria.
Over thousands of years, bird species that live in ecosystems which host malaria causing microbes have developed an immune defense. But malaria is not found in the colder regions of the world and therefore birds that live in those regions have had no reason to develop immunity to malaria. So what happens when, for example, penguins are housed in zoos all over the world? The answer, according to this New York Times article, is that death from malaria becomes a constant problem for zoos that display penguins. Learn how zoos fight off malaria with natural predation, medicines and biological warfare.
Cookies or Orangutans?
If you love cookies and snacks you may not know that most brands use palm oil as an ingredient. Global Animals present an Op-Ed piece about the effects of the palm oil industry on the forests of Sumatra and Borneo. Palm oil cultivation involves clear-cutting forests and is viewed as highly destructive by ecologists. The orangutan population is especially at risk. Already classified as endangered, this article argues that only by forcing the food industries to cut out palm oil can we hope to save the remaining wild orangutans of Southeast Asia.
Mastodon Tooth in the Collection Box.
A Christian charity drive in Grand Rapids Michigan found something quite unusual in the donation box. A tooth of a Mastodon at least 12,000 years old as well as a tusk of what appears to be a mastodon. The fossils have been turned over to the Grand Rapids Public Museum, which may have better use for them.
The Brains of Social Carnivores.
In humans, the front of the brain, the frontal cortex, is believed to be crucial to social behavior. It comes as little surprise, therefore, that other social mammals, such as the Brazilian aardvark and the raccoon, have frontal cortexes that also correspond to their relative sociability. In fact, the research done at Michigan State University shows a direct relationship between the size of an animal’s frontal cortex and it degree of sociability. For example, the most social of the creatures studied was the female Brazilian aardvark which had the largest frontal cortex, while the raccoon, which is more solitary, had the smallest.
An International March for Elephants.
The constant stream of news that one of the world’s most beloved creatures, the elephant, is losing its war for survival in Africa has spawned an international effort called the international march for elephants. Current estimates are that 36,000 elephants are killed every year as poachers try to meet the seemingly insatiable appetite for ivory in Asia, especially in China. Dr. Dame Daphne Sheldrick, who has championed the effort, puts it this way: “The International March for Elephants is the first and biggest demonstration of support for elephants—an example of one species marching to save another.”
Lizard Thought Extinct Makes a Showing.
The Pinocchio lizard, so-called for reasons that are obvious when you look at its picture, was thought to be extinct in the 1960’s. But a recent discovery last week confirms that it still roams the forests of Ecuador. The large proboscis for which they get their moniker is thought to be a display factor in mate selection. The endangered lizards are confined to just four small areas of forest and may well occupy “the smallest ranges of any lizard in the world.”
“The Dirt: This Week in Nature” curated and written by Robert Raciti.