Crayfish and the Sweet Science of Deception.
When male crayfish engage in fighting, deception seems to be part of the strategy for success. Larger but weaker claws can visually intimidate an opponent while the smaller but deceptively stronger claw can provide an advantage by surprising an opponent during a fight. The behavior interests scientists because examples of deception and dishonesty in nature are often suspected but are difficult to prove.
More at Science News.
New Bronx Frog Species? — Figgetaboutit.
New animal species from exotic places on the globe get relatively short shrift from the local press. However, a species of leopard frog from the Bronx and Staten Island is getting some attention. It had been documented that these particular leopard frogs have a slightly different call from their New Jersey relatives. But it’s more than a NYC accent thing. New DNA evidence shows that the Bronxite really is a distinct species of leopard frog. However, scientists adamantly deny that its croak sounds like a Bronx cheer.
More at National Geographic.
Choosing Mood Music for Your Pet.
Just because you like classical or country music doesn’t mean that it will calm your cat or dog while you’re at work. Animals appear to react positively to music, but the tones and the tempo must be breed-specific. For example, tamarins are monkeys which vocalize at much higher frequencies than humans. Understandably, they do not react to human music, which is engineered to correspond to our own heart rate and hearing range. When scientists composed more tamarin-like music, higher pitched and a much faster beat, they had a platinum hit on their hands as far as the tamarins were concerned. Of course, these developments have been closely tracked by entrepreneurial types, and at least one company, “Music for Cats,” now has cat songs for sale.
More at Discovery.
The Long Journey of the Monarch Butterfly.
Considered among the most beautiful of butterflies, the monarch has a wide migration range that extends from Mexico to southern Canada. Along this migration path, the monarch lays eggs and new generations of the butterfly continue the journey, which seems to be part of its genetic blueprint. To determine how many individuals actually make the entire trip from Mexico to Canada, Prof. Ryan Norris, Department of Integrative Biology of the University of Guelph, extensively studied the butterflies. Using clues such as distinct chemical markers and wing wear, Norris and his team concluded that as many as 10% of the individuals studied had made the entire journey from Mexico to Canada. Monarchs face new threats, however, including the increasing scarcity of the milkweed plants on which they lay their eggs.
More at Red Orbit.
The Gwinnett Detention Center in Lawrenceville, Georgia has embarked upon a program to match saved dogs with prison inmates. Dogs saved from euthanasia are being supplied to the prisoners who in turn train and care for them until they can be adopted. The benefit to the dogs is obvious, but the benefit to prisoners is also significant. One prison official called it, it’s “a little bit of light in a bunch of darkness” for the inmates.
More at Global Animal.
Know Your Enemy, Then Cook Him.
Japanese honeybees were observed forming bee-balls in 2005 — tight spheres of bees that seem stuck together as if glued. It turns out that these honeybees have developed an ingenious method for dealing with an old enemy — the hornet. Because hornets attack bees’ nests, the bees need an effective response. They cannot sting the hornets, because hornet shells are too thick. What to do? If enough bees can tightly surround an invading hornet and form a ball with the hornet at the center, they can raise the temperature on the hornet’s body to lethal levels, thereby literally cooking the enemy. Scientists are still studying just how the Japanese honeybee brain coordinates this countermeasure and modulates the core temperature of the bee-ball.
More at MSNBC.
Genetically Pure Bison Relocated to Indian Reservation.
Montana was once home to millions of bison before 19th century hunting brought them to the point of extinction. Soon, Montana’s Fort Peck Reservation will be the new home for 64 bison that are being relocated from Yellowstone National Park. The Yellowstone herds have retained their genetic integrity and have not interbred with cattle, as has happened in most other areas where bison roam free. Of course, not everyone is happy about the development. Cattle ranchers and some Montana residents have opposed the move for fear that there will be a negative impact on cattle ranching.
More at Washington Post.
Noise Pollution Is Bad News for Plants and Trees.
Except for the specimens in the “Wizard of Oz,” trees cannot hear, at least not as we think of it. So how is it that they and other plants are being negatively impacted by noise pollution? The answer can be summed up as the ripple effect. Pollinators, such as birds and animals, are quite aware of noise pollution in affected areas. They respond by moving away to quieter locales. However, without the help of the pollinators, trees and plants are facing reduced fertility. The problem is not isolated to urban areas: construction, superhighways, and air traffic patterns pollute even rural areas. Thus, modern noise pollution is having a ripple effect that will eventually be felt by people as well.
More at Discovery.
“Spiders Alive” Opens at the AMNH in July.
A new exhibition opens at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City in July. Called “Spiders Alive,” it will feature spiders from around the world including their arachnid cousins, tarantulas. To make the exhibit an up-close and personal experience, museum handlers will hold and show the tarantulas to the public. However, because tarantulas are sensitive to touch and experience much of their world by means of touch and vibration, they are being desensitized to humans in preparation of the exhibition. The tarantulas eat cockroaches, but NYC visitors are asked not to feed the animals.
Read more at the New York Times.
Ever dream of building a robotic jellyfish? Probably not even the most enthusiastic gadgeteer can say yes. But naval scientists believe that a robot (nicknamed “robojelly”) that can swim and maneuver like a jellyfish can be a valuable asset. With funding from the U.S. Office of Naval Research, they are using high-tech “shape-metal” — a highly flexible metal alloy, to recreate a jellyfish’s bell shape. The device will have carbon rod “muscles,” which will be powered by a platinum catalyst that can break down sea water into hydrogen and oxygen, thereby releasing heat, which in turn energizes the artificial muscles to expand and collapse. The hopeful result is that the “robojelly” will be able to simulate a real jellyfish’s unique ability to glide underwater.
More at Red Orbit.
“The Dirt: This Week in Nature” curated and written by Robert Raciti.