Rogues Gallery of Animal Pests.
The Daily News has accumulated a list of 19 invasive species that have assailed our shores. Some were introduced intentionally in a misguided effort to control other pests. Others have been imported accidentally. They range from feral pigs to fire ants, and each one has a fascinating story of its own.
Great Apes Are Also Great Architects.
Scientists studying the tree nests made by primates such as orangutans and chimpanzees have concluded that the nests’ complexity has been underestimated. Orangutan nests are built high up in trees, which are selected carefully for their weight bearing ability. The nests themselves are constructed in a manner akin to basket-weaving. The branches are bent and interwoven to maximize strength, and different materials are used to insure comfort. Interestingly, chimpanzees build their nests closer to the ground, possibly because they are more adept at keeping insects away or because they prefer the warmer near-ground temperatures. Whether or not human ancestors made a similar transition down from the trees for similar reasons is still a matter of speculation.
More at Scientific American.
New Island Home For Dinosaur-Age Reptiles.
The island of Motuihe off of New Zealand has become a refuge of last resort for many of the areas natural flora and fauna. Newly added to its population will be 60 Tuatara Reptiles—lizard-like creatures who had survived for millions of years until rats and other introduced pests nearly drove them into extinction. By removing feral cats, rats and other pests, the island is now safe for the introduction of the founder population of Tuatara. The authorities would like to eventually open the island to tourism because the Tuatara is so rare, but that can only be accomplished if tourists and their vessels are carefully checked for imported pests.
More at Scientific American.
Baboons Can Distinguish Real English Words from Nonsense.
An experiment conducted to see whether Baboons could distinguish actual English words from nonsense groupings of letters seems to suggest that they can indeed. In this study, which was conducted at a French research facility near Marseilles, the baboons learned on average 81 words (one prodigy learned some 300) and could distinguish the real words from nonsense about 75% of the time. The take-away from the study is that the circuitry that enables the recognition of words was hardwired into the brains of primates. And although the Baboons do not understand the meaning of the words they recognize, their ability to see patterns in the formation of words is one of the rudimentary skills that helped humans master written language.
More at Discovery.
New Species of Shrimp-like Creature Found In New Mexico Cave.
A cave in Southeastern New Mexico is the unlikely hiding spot for a new species of amphipod. At around one-half inch long, the tiny animal is sightless and mostly translucent, as would be expected in its lightless world. Still unknown is what the animal eats and how it interacts with its water environment some 80 feet below the surface. Scientists say the cave has been explored before, but this animal was not noticed. As yet unnamed, the new species will face challenges since the ecological impact of mining operations in the area in fact spurred the biological inventory that led to its discovery.
More at Huffington Post./li>
Did Egg-Laying Disadvantage the Dinosaurs?
A new theory posits that dinosaurs could not compete with mammals because their newborns were hatched. The reasoning behind the hypothesis is that eggs can only accommodate a limited body size, meaning that dinosaur newborns were relatively much smaller compared to mammal young. In addition, the newborn dinosaurs had to find their own food, competing with other small animals including mammals. Mammal young, by contrast, received nourishment directly from their mothers.
More at Science Daily.
Temperate Climate Animals May Be More Tolerant of Climate Change.
As part of its Dimensions of Biodiversity campaign, the National Science Foundation is conducting a survey comparing animals that live near mountainous streams in temperate versus tropical climates. Their goal is to measure biodiversity and predict the impact of global warming. The working hypothesis is that in temperate areas, such as the streams along the Rocky Mountains, fish and insects at all elevations normally endure wide ranges of temperature fluctuations with the seasons. That may make them more adaptable to long-term warmer temperatures than the fish and insects in tropical areas like Ecuadorian mountain streams, where the temperature is relatively stable all year. Scientists analogize the Ecuadorian bio-system to a layer cake, in which each layer of elevation has a stable temperature that is not much affected by the seasons. The species that inhabit these stable layers may not be able to adapt to warmer overall temperatures.
More at Red Orbit.
The Plight of the Tasmanian Tiger.
Among the unique animals found only in the Australian continent, the Tasmanian tiger has had a particular hold on the imagination. The animal became isolated on the island of Tasmania and evolved with aspects of both mammals and marsupials. Its strange appearance was reminiscent of both a cat and a dog. The animals were hunted ruthlessly through the end of the 19th century and by the 1930’s had become extinct. But recent DNA analysis from museum collections around the world suggest that the animals genetic diversity was extremely low — a sign that it had become inbred in an unsustainable way. Whether or not the Tasmanian tiger was already doomed is an open question, but the study shows how geographic isolation can lead to a genetic dead end.
More at Science Daily.
Old Giraffe Bulls Go Dark Not Gray.
In most mammals, hair lightens with age. The gray distinguished look is not only common in humans but also in primates such as the silver back gorillas in which gray hair is a sign of old age. Male giraffes, however, have a different response to aging. Rather than lightening, the spots on male giraffes become darker with age, with the usual light brown spots turning black. The giraffes’ secret might interest the cosmetics industry, but so far the animals are not sharing.
More at Discovery.
Some Dogs Suffer From Separation Anxiety.
Experts estimate that about 10% of dogs suffer from separation anxiety — a feeling of fear and restlessness when their human companions leave the house without them. Not only is this upsetting for the dogs, but dog owners must cope with a pet that acts out when it is left alone. The reasons for doggie separation anxiety are not unfamiliar to people. Experts suggest that a traumatic experience in the animal’s early life, too early a separation from its mother, and environmental changes such as moving to a new house can trigger a separation anxiety episode.
More at Global Animal.
“The Dirt: This Week in Nature” curated and written by Robert Raciti.
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