Nile Crocodiles Are Really Two Different Species.
Recent DNA evidence seems to confirm that the Nile Crocodile, which was thought to be a single species, is actually comprised of two different species that inhabit different areas of sub-Saharan Africa. It even appears that ancient Egyptians recognized the difference between the two and cultivated the smaller and less aggressive species, Crocodylus suchus, for use in their religious rituals. The DNA results were based upon modern samples, mummified remains that were over two millennia old, and museum collections. The article, which appears in Nature and is reprinted in Scientific American, also discusses the implications that re-classification will have on conservation efforts.
Read the full story at Scientific American.
New “Critically Endangered” Monkey Species Discovered.
An article in the American Journal of Primatology confirms the just-in time discovery of a new species of Burmese Snub-Nosed Monkey. The animal has black fur, white tufts around the face and a particularly long tail, which is about 140% of its head and body length. It has a peculiar face with an upward pointing nose. The authors estimate that no more than 330 individuals remain extant in an area confined to Northeast Burma. The species is apparently heavily hunted and the authors believe that it should be categorized as “critically endangered.”
Read the full story in American Journal of Primatology.
Do Animals Grieve?
Actually, the more appropriate question now seems to be: “How do animals grieve?” Convincing evidence that certain animals exhibit grieving behavior is becoming substantial. In the September 12, 2011 edition of the blog, “Animal Wise,” recent evidence of grief in Elephants, Chimpanzees, and most recently, Dolphins, is collected and reviewed.
To be sure, the researchers describe several instances of specific animal behavior suggestive of grief that are fascinatingly human-like. However, the photograph of Chimpanzees lined up along a fence to witness the burial of one of their own is chillingly familiar.
Birds of a Feather – Female Finches Prefer Personalities Like Their Own.
At least when it comes to zebra finches, females seem to be attracted to mates whose personalities reflect their own. Over 150 zebra finches were studied in an experiment designed to isolate specific male zebra finch behavior tendencies, such as exploratory zeal and extroverted personality. The researchers concluded that regardless of body type, coloration or other external factors, extroverted female zebra finches chose exploratory, extroverted males for mating.
Read the full story at Science Daily.
Snail Hitchhikers Use Birds for Free Inter-continental Travel.
In 1882, Charles Darwin predicted that snails might travel vast distances and populate new environments by attaching themselves to birds. “From the several cases now given, there can, I think, be no doubt that living bivalve shells must often be carried from pond to pond, and by the aid of birds occasionally even to great distances.” On the Dispersal of Freshwater Bivalves. Now, scientists from the Smithsonian report that in North America, snails traversed from the Pacific to the Atlantic, and then back again, by attaching themselves to migrating birds. Of course, this development raises the question: “how many other organisms have used birds or insects to similar ends?”
Read the full story at Smithsonian Science.
“Mugger” Crocodiles Discovered in India’s Ganges.
Although supersized crocodiles get a good deal of attention, a smaller species — the “mugger” — crocodile has been reported in an unusual location: the Northern India region of the Ganges river. These animals have expanded their habitation zone and their discovery in this area of Northern India, in the Rajaji National Park, close to the major population center of Haridwar City, adds to the lore of adaptability of crocodiles.
Read the full story at International Journal of Biodiversity and Conservation.
Female Finch Cheating Heart? – Blame Dad.
Recent studies of finches that are usually monogamous suggest that a genetic pre-disposition to infidelity might be passed down from father to daughter. The researchers combined genetic analysis with observations of male finches which demonstrated “Casanova” behavior outside of their paired relationship. When the researchers tracked the female descendants of these males, they discovered that the daughters also exhibited this behavior. The authors make no suggestion as to whether this conclusion is of any import to human behavior.
Read the full story at Science Daily.
Colorful Dinosaur Feathers Preserved in Canadian Amber.
Anyone who recalls “Jurassic Park” remembers the significance of amber in preserving specimens of life from millions of years ago. In this find, 70-million-year-old amber from Alberta, Canada contains fragments of feathers from dinosaurs. Remarkably, the feathers suggest that the creatures who wore them were multi-colored, and thus reminiscent of modern birds. The New York Times, in reviewing the original work published in “Science,” point out that similar feather fossils have been discovered in China.
Read the full story at The New York Times.
Talented Tongues Help Hummingbirds to Feed.
Using high-speed video and other techniques, scientists have puzzled out just how the hummingbird’s tongue allows it to efficiently gather nectar. It turns out that the hummingbird’s tongue contains bi-lateral grooves that expand and contract upon contact with nectar. Of course, all of this happens within a fraction of a second, hence the need for high-speed video photography. Apparently, the evolutionary design of the grooves is so efficient that the “fluid-trapping” design works even post-mortem. More from PBS Nature on Hummingbirds.
Read the full story at The Journal of Experimental Biology.
The Slippery Slope of Carnivorous Plants.
As a by-product of the evolutionary arms war between insects with sticky feet and insect-eating plants with extremely slippery plant walls, humans may benefit. The pitcher plant uses an architecture of water and microscopic to produce a surface so slippery, that insects who lite upon it immediately tumble into its digestive tract. Studying exactly how the pitcher plant’s slippery walls are constructed may ultimately inspire commercial applications. Indeed, the 3-M company has already developed a prototype hyper-slippery surface that is based upon the pitcher plant’s design.
Read the full story at New Scientist.