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News articles on Animal behvaior

Mongabay.com news articles on Animal behvaior in blog format. Updated regularly.









Lemurs communicate by scent

(01/29/2007) Ringtailed lemurs can recognize each other by scent according to a study published in the current issue of the journal Animal Behaviour. The research, conducted by Elizabeth S. Scordato and Christine M. Drea of Duke University, looked at olfactory communication in the ringtailed lemur, a charismatic primate that forms complex social groups led by a dominant female, so see what information is contained within the scent marks of the species.


Females fish whisper to initiate sex

(01/29/2007) Female Croaking gouramis whisper to initiate sex according to research published in the current edition of the journal Animal Behaviour that describes the use of sound by this freshwater aquarium fish species during aggressive displays and courtship.


Snake becomes poisonous by eating toxic frogs

(01/29/2007) A new study shows that the Asian snake Rhabdophis tigrinus becomes poisonous by sequestering toxins from its prey which consists of venomous toads. While sequestering defensive toxins from prey is unusual among terrestrial vertebrates it is not unknown. Research published last year by Valerie C. Clark of Cornell University showed that poison dart frogs (Dendrobates species) and their Madagascar counterparts, the Mantella frogs, sequester toxic skin chemicals, called alkaloids, from the ants they eat. These alkaloids protect the frogs from predation. Similarly, some garter snakes are known to store tetrodotoxin from ingested newts while birds in New Guinea appear to sequester poisons from insects.


Captive chimpanzees 'talk' to humans

(01/29/2007) Captive chimpanzees use specific vocalizations to communicate with humans according to new research published in the current issue of the journal Animal Behaviour. The researchers, lead by Dr. William Hopkins of Yerkes National Primate Research Center at Emory University, say these sounds are not used in other contexts -- only to elicit attention from humans. The researchers say the findings may help explain the evolution of language in primates.


Apes sing for protection

(12/25/2006) White-handed gibbons in Thailand use songs as a defense against predators according to a study by researchers at the University of St Andrews in Scotland and the Max Planck Institute in Germany.


Leaf-mimicking insects at least 47 million years old

(12/25/2006) With the discovery of a 47 million year old fossil of a lead insect, new research suggests that cryptic leaf-mimicking camoflauge is a time-tested strategy used by insects to avoid predators.


Squirrels predict years of bounty

(12/22/2006) Squirrels are able to plan for the boom and bust seed production cycle of trees by producing an extra litter of babies in anticipation of a particularly rich season of tree seeds, according to new research published by scientists at the University of Alberta.


Are Brazil nuts really sustainable?

(12/20/2006) A lot of rainforest conservation initiatives embrace sustainably harvested non-timber forest products (NTFPs) like seeds and nuts as a means to provide income to locals without harming the forest. Operating on the premise that such products are eco-friendly, hundreds of outfits ranging from Whole Foods to the Body Shop to Ben & Jerry's Homemade Ice Cream tout their use of sustainably harvested Brazil nuts and related products. But really, how sustainable are these products?


Moles and shrews can smell underwater

(12/20/2006) Mammals can smell underwater according to a study published in the December 21 issue of the journal Nature. Kenneth Catania, an assistant professor of biology at Vanderbilt University, found that moles and shrews are capable of detecting prey underwater using their sense of smell.


Virgin dragon to give birth this Christmas

(12/20/2006) A virgin Komodo dragon will give birth to offspring this Christmas (or thereabouts) at the Chester Zoo in Britain according to researchers. Flora, a female Komodo dragon, will reproduce asexually in a process called parthenogenesis, where eggs become embryos without male fertilization. The process is known to occur in about 70 reptile species but hadn't been observed in Komodo dragons -- the world's largest lizard species -- until this year. Another dragon, Sungai, had virginal conception earlier this year. Both cases are described in Thursday's issue of the journal Nature


Audible warfare: how moths avoid bats

(12/18/2006) A new study published in Current Biology suggests bats and moths may be engaged in evolutionary warfare when it comes to their sense of hearing.


Global warming improves sex life of seals

(12/15/2006) Climate change is enhancing the sex life of subordinate male grey seals on the remote Scottish Island of North Rona according to researchers at Durham University and the University of St Andrews.


Small insects tell us Earth is warming

(12/11/2006) Small insects known as midges are telling scientists that Earth is warming, according to research to be presented December 15 at the annual meeting of the American Geophysical Union in San Francisco.


Moray eels and groupers hunt together

(12/05/2006) Moray eels and groupers hunt together according to research published in the December 5 issue of PLoS Biology. A team of researchers lead by Redouan Bshary, a biologist at the University of Neuchatel in Switzerland, found that moray eels and groupers practice cooperative hunting in Red Sea coral reefs -- behvaior not before described outside primates and birds. The hunting habits of groupers, which are diurnal (day-active) predators that hunt in open water, are markedly different from moral eels, which are evasive nocturnal hunters that sneak through reef crevices in an attempt to ambush and corner prey. As such prey have distinctly different evasive behvaior when confronted by groupers versus morays.


City life causes song birds to change their tune

(12/04/2006) Cities cause birds to change their songs according to research published in the December 5th issue of the journal Current Biology. Hans Slabbekoorn and Ardie den Boer-Visser, biologists from Leiden University in the Netherlands, studied songs of the great tit (Parus major), a species that has successfully adapted to urban life, in ten major European cities, and compared them to songs of great tits living in nearby forest areas. They found that urban songs were shorter and faster-paced than the forest songs, and tended to be higher frequency to overcome the low-frequency environmental noise, such as traffic noise, associated with cities.


Invasive ants use genetic differences to distinguish friend from foe

(12/01/2006) A study led by University of California, San Diego biologists shows that invasive Argentine ants appear to use genetic differences to distinguish friend from foe, a finding that helps to explain why these ants form enormous colonies in California.


Climate change could cause sex switch in crocs

(11/27/2006) Warming climate could cause a sex imbalance in crocodiles making it more difficult to find mates, according to a south African scientist. Dr. Alison Leslie, a prefessor at South Africa's University of Stellenbosch, said that crocodile gender is determined by embryo temperature during incubation and that higher temperatures could skew the sex ratio of populations.


Lots of sex produces healthier offspring -- for carnivorous marsupials

(11/02/2006) Promiscuous females are more likely to give birth to healthier offspring -- at least in mouse-sized, insect-eating marsupials -- say researchers at The Australian National University (ANU). ANU scientists showed, for the first time, that promiscuity increases the survival rate of offspring in an animal species, the brown antechinus (Antechinus stuartii) nocturnal, forest-dwelling, carnivorous marsupial. Their results are published in the current edition of the journal Nature.


Tiny crab protects coral

(10/23/2006) Researchers have discovered a symbiotic relationship between tiny crabs and coral in the South Pacific. The relationship between the crab and the coral is detailed in the November 2006 issue of the journal Coral Reefs.


Bears becoming couch potatoes thanks to dumpsters

(10/18/2006) Research by the Bronx Zoo-based Wildlife conservation Society (WCS) has found that bears living near urban areas are becoming couch potatoes, a third less active and weighing up to thirty percent more than bears living in more wild areas. Bears are apparently forsaking their natural food sources and spending more time foraging in dumpsters.


The science behind 'Snakes on a Plane'

(08/07/2006) Even in the dark, snakes on a plane could keep a close watch on terrorized passengers and crew thanks to small cavities near their snouts known as pit organs, according to a forthcoming article by Andreas B. Sichert, Paul Friedel, and J. Leo van Hemmen published in Physical Review Letters.


Predators prefer to eat stupid animals

(08/02/2006) Predators such as jaguar and chimpanzees consistently target smaller-brained prey less capable of escape according to research published in the Royal Society Journal Biology Letters.


Orangutans and chimps are smarter than monkeys and lemurs

(08/01/2006) The great apes are the smartest of all nonhuman primates according to scientists at Duke University Medical Center. The researchers found that orangutans and chimpanzees consistently outperformed monkeys and lemurs on a variety of intelligence tests, conclusively proving that apes are more intelligent than monkeys and prosimians.


Elephants avoid hills

(07/24/2006) Using global-positioning system data corresponding to the movements of elephants across the African savannah, researchers have found that elephants exhibit strong tendencies to avoid significantly sloped terrain, and that such land features likely represent a key influence on elephant movements and land use. On the basis of calculations of energy use associated with traversing sloped terrain by such large animals, the researchers found that this behvaior is likely related to the fact that even minor hills represent a considerable energy barrier for elephants because of the added calorie consumption required for such movements.


Bees and flowers disappearing together

(07/23/2006) The diversity of bees and of the flowers they pollinate, has declined significantly in Britain and the Netherlands over the last 25 years according to research led by the University of Leeds and published in Science this Friday (21 July 2006). The paper is the first evidence of a widespread decline in bee diversity.


Meerkats are teachers

(07/13/2006) A team of scientists from Cambridge University has found that adult meerkats directly teach their young how to obtain food. The findings which are significant because they depart from the more commonly observed behvaior whereby young learn simply by observing older members of their group. Evidence of true "teaching" with the sole intent of instructing young has been rare in animal research.


Dragonfly migration similar to that of birds

(05/10/2006) Scientists have discovered that migrating dragonflies and songbirds exhibit many of the same behvaiors, suggesting the rules that govern such long-distance travel may be simpler and more ancient than was once thought.


Bats Hunt Using Guided Missile Strategy

(05/04/2006) When it comes to rocket science, it looks like bats had it worked out before the scientists did. A new University of Maryland study finds that echolocating bats use a strategy to track and catch erratically moving insects that is much like the system used by some guided missiles to intercept evasive targets and different from the way humans and some animals track moving objects.


In tungara frogs, female choice for complex calls led to evolution of unusual male vocal cord

(05/03/2006) Male tropical tungara frogs have evolved masses on their vocal cords that help them woo females with complex calls, show scientists working at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute (STRI) in Panama.


Monkeys indicate economic decision-making may be innate

(05/03/2006) New research out of Yale University argues that monkeys and humans exhibit similar economic biases, suggesting that economic decision-making have deeper roots that many economists suspect. The Yale researchers found that monkeys conducting business-like activities - including trading and gambling - behave in ways that closely mirror human behvaioral inclinations.


Good-looking birds more immune against bird flu

(03/20/2006) A research team at Uppsala University, Sweden has shown in a new study, published in the journal Acta Zoologica, that the size of the spot on a male collared flycatcher's forehead reflects how well the immune defence system combats viruses such as avian influenza. The white spot is also attractive to female birds searching for a mate.


Predator control fails to help sheep industry

(03/15/2006) Decades of U.S. government-subsidized predator control has failed to prevent a long-term decline in the sheep industry, according to a study by the Wildlife conservation Society, which says that market forces are responsible for the drop-off in sheep numbers.


Harmless frogs gain protection by mimicking toxic species

(03/13/2006) When predators learn to avoid a highly toxic frog, they generalize, and this allows a harmless frog to mimic and be more abundant than a frog whose poison packs less punch, biologists at The University of Texas at Austin studying poison dart frogs in the Amazon have discovered.


First demonstration of teaching in non-human animals

(01/11/2006) Scientists from Bristol University said on Wednesday they had uncovered the first proof of teaching in non-human animals -- ants showing each other the way to food.


Urban coyotes thriving in American cities

(01/04/2006) Even in the largest American cities, a historically maligned beast is thriving, despite scientists' belief that these mammals intently avoid urban human populations.


Unified Physics Theory Explains Animals' Running, Flying And Swimming

(12/30/2005) A single unifying physics theory can essentially describe how animals of every ilk, from flying insects to fish, get around, researchers at Duke University's Pratt School of Engineering and Pennsylvania State University have found. The team reports that all animals bear the same stamp of physics in their design.


Redheads top the pecking order by flaunting it

(12/30/2005) Red-headed finches dominate their black-headed and yellow-headed peers by physical aggression and by the mere fact of being red-headed, according to research published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society. University of New South Wales biologists made the discovery following experiments with stunningly colourful Gouldian finches (Erythrura gouldiae). Among Australia's most endangered native birds, Gouldian finches are now restricted to small isolated populations across the tropical north.


Male lizard color may result from female preference

(12/27/2005) The anole lizard's dewlap -- a flap of skin that hangs beneath its chin -- plays an important role in species recognition, territorial defense and courtship. According to the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute (STRI), a leading research institution in Panama, male slender anoles (Norops limifrons) exhibit variation in dewlap color ranging from orange dewlaps in Gamboa populations, white with an orange spot on Barro Colorado Island, and mixed populations in Soberania.


Sea slug chemical defense has potential industrial applications

(12/16/2005) When threatened by predators, sea slugs defend themselves by ejecting a potent inky secretion into the water consisting of hydrogen peroxide, ammonia and several types of acids. A team of researchers with the Atlanta-based Center for behvaioral Neuroscience (CBN) has found that this secretion is produced from normally inert chemicals stored separately in two glands. The discovery, published in the Dec. 16 on-line edition of the Journal of Experimental Biology, provides insight into a natural chemical process with potential industrial applications.


Ability to capture large prey may be origin of army ants' cooperative behvaior

(12/16/2005) Animal behvaiorist Sean O'Donnell was having an afternoon cup of coffee when a giant earthworm exploded out of the leaf litter covering the jungle floor in an Ecuadorean nature preserve. The worm, later measured at nearly 16 inches long, was pursued by a column of hundreds of raiding army ants that quickly paralyzed or killed it.


Sex vs. Intelligence: Bigger balls mean smaller brain

(12/13/2005) In a recent study of bats, Scott Pitnick, professor of biology at Syracuse University, found that testis size is negatively correlated with brain size. In other words, the bigger the balls of a bat species, the smaller its brain.


Elephant drunk from fruit not likely, finds study

(12/05/2005) Dispelling years of anecdotes in travelogues, the popular press, and scholarly works, biologists from the University of Bristol argue that it is nearly impossible for elephants to become intoxicated from eating the fruit of the marula tree.


Bird songs can serve as a warning system to detect ecological disturbances

(11/30/2005) Changes in bird song could be used as an early warning system to detect man-made ecological disturbances, new research published in the British Ecological Society's Journal of Applied Ecology has found.


Demise of passenger pigeon linked to Lyme disease

(11/14/2005) Traditionally, the passenger pigeon has been held as one of the more beloved animal species to fall prey to humankind's often relentless expansion into and disregard for the natural world and its creatures. Once abundant, the bird experienced a rapid decline in the late 1800s, due almost entirely to rampant hunting, and the last passenger pigeon died in 1914. In light of new findings however, this image of a naturally plentiful species laid to waste by man is now being tested. Evidence collected over the past few years from a significant number of Native American archeological sites is beginning to upset long-accepted beliefs about one of the most famous extinct species in modern history.


Vampires kill 23 in Brazil, deforestation blamed

(11/07/2005) Rabid vampire bats killed 23 people and attacked more than 1,000 Brazilian officials confirmed last week. The bats have been displaced from their normal rain forest environment by worsening deforestation in the region. In an attempt to slow deaths, health agencies have treated 1,350 people with anti-rabies medication in the past two months.


Sharks tracked by satellite

(10/09/2005) Electronic tags broadcasting from the dorsal fins of salmon sharks reveal that these top predators migrate from the glacial waters of Alaska to the warm seas off Hawaii, according to a new study in the journal Science.


Climate change to affect migratory birds and animals

(10/06/2005) Climate change could affect and disrupt breeding, hamper migrations, and increase disease transmission in migratory birds and animals, a new report has warned. The report, Climate Change and Migratory Species, was commissioned by Defra and prepared by a group led by the British Trust for Ornithology, and draws together broad research on the effects of climate change migratory wildlife.


Last 4 missing Gulfport dolphins rescued following hurricane

(09/21/2005) The NOAA Fisheries Service and the Marine Life Aquarium of Gulfport, Miss., working with a number of other partners, rescued the last four of the eight trained bottlenose dolphins that were swept out of an aquarium tank torn apart by the storm surge of Hurricane Katrina on August 29. Normally held in captivity, the dolphins don't have the necessary skills to survive on their own. They have survived various injuries and predators and have stayed together since the storm.


conservation scientists want $404 million to save disappearing amphibians

(09/20/2005) Yesterday conservation scientists proposed a $404 million effort to preserve declining global amphibian populations. The strategy would call for funding from governments, private institutions and individual donors to finance long-term research, protect critical habitats, reduce the trade in amphibians for food and pets, and establish captive breeding programs.


Florida panther population growing due to controversial plan

(08/18/2005) The number of living Florida panthers has grown from a previously estimated 30 to a recently counted 87 as a result of a controversial breeding effort to improve the genetic health of the endangered and inbred animals, according to a new assessment.



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