Sioux Falls Zoologists

"Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent!"

The mirror test is an experiment developed in 1970 by psychologist Gordon Gallup Jr. to determine whether an animal possesses the ability to recognize itself in a mirror. It is the primary indicator of self-awareness in non-human animals and marks entrance to the mirror stage by human children in developmental psychology. Animals that pass mirror test are: Humans older than 18 mo, Chimpanzees, Bonobos, Orangutans, Gorillas, Bottlenose Dolphins, Orcas (Killer Whales), Elephants, and European Magpies. Others showing signs of self-awareness are Pigs, some Gibbons, Rhesus Macaques, Capuchin Monkeys, some Corvids (Crows & Ravens) and Pigeons w/training. (Sorry Kitty!)

37 Intelligence & Zoology News Articles
for May of 2022

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5-19-22 The urban beekeeping boom is hurting wild pollinator species
The recent global trend for urban apiary amounts to "bee-washing" that detracts from efforts to reverse the decline in wild pollinators, argues Graham Lawton. DURING one of the pandemic lockdowns in 2020 – it must have been the first, as we were spending a lot of time sunbathing in the garden – one of my neighbours started keeping bees. He would emerge from his back door wearing the full get-up and fumigate the hive before examining the interior for honey. We live in London, so barely knew him, and he never offered us a jar of honey, but it was an entertaining spectacle that gave us some cheer on those dreary days. I didn’t know it then, but my neighbour was part of a global trend. London, along with Berlin, New York, Paris, Zurich and many other cities, has seen a huge rise in urban beekeeping in recent years. I was all for it: we live in a gritty part of town where any sort of rewilding is welcome. My wife and I discussed taking up beekeeping too, or at least making our little garden more bee-friendly with a few bee hotels or more flowers. We didn’t do any of these things, and I am relieved that we didn’t. Because, although urban beekeeping feels like it must be making a positive contribution to nature conservation by helping to reverse the pollinator decline, the truth is rather different. Far from helping, it can actually do harm. To understand why, it is important to recognise that the domesticated bees we keep in hives – the European or western honeybee (Apis mellifera) – isn’t remotely endangered and doesn’t need saving. What do need saving are the hundreds of other species – many of them bees, but also butterflies, hoverflies, moths, beetles, bats and birds – that also provide vital pollination services. Many of these wild pollinators are in a worrying decline across the world. However, their city-dwelling populations are surprisingly healthy. Bee species richness has been found to be higher in urban areas than in surrounding farmland, and bumblebees also thrive better in cities. This is largely due to the fact that cities contain a wide variety of bee-friendly habitats with relatively low use of pesticides and copious blooms of wild and garden flowers: parks, gardens, allotments, cemeteries, railway verges, campuses and more.

5-18-22 How the massive dogs bred to protect livestock could save wolves too
Livestock guardian dogs traditionally used to protect herd animals from predators are now also being hailed as a way to conserve the animals they are trained to scare off. WOLVES were once common in Portugal. As in other parts of Europe, they have been persecuted almost out of existence, with their range reduced by 80 per cent and numbers down to just 300 or so. Even now, when it is illegal to kill wolves, farmers still poison or shoot them to protect livestock. Biologist Silvia Ribeiro is on a mission to change that. To help farmers coexist peacefully with wolves, she uses an ally from the past: livestock guardian dogs. For millennia, these dogs worked alongside shepherds to protect herds against wolves and bears that roamed in many regions of Europe and Asia. But in the 19th and 20th centuries, when such predators were largely exterminated, most guardian dogs lost their jobs and the breeds nearly went extinct. In the past 25 years, Ribeiro brought back four of them, placing 675 pups with herds of goats, sheep and cattle. The aim isn’t simply to protect livestock, but to conserve wolves too. Ribeiro’s work is part of a much bigger trend. Around the world, as the rewilding movement grows and predators return to or expand their ranges, guardian dogs are enjoying an unexpected revival. They are even being put to new uses, such as guarding penguins and marsupials in Australia. To increase the success of this venture, Ribeiro and other scientists are rediscovering what it takes to make a good guardian dog. But they also want to know whether they really can change how farmers perceive predators, reducing livestock deaths and averting revenge killings – and whether using them is a viable strategy to conserve threatened and endangered species.

5-18-22 Young wasps routinely eat their own siblings in the nest
Isodontia harmandi wasps make nests and leave food for their young in bamboo canes. When that food runs out, the larvae turn to cannibalism. Some wasp larvae take sibling rivalry to a new level by routinely cannibalising their nestmates. Most wasp and bee larvae grow in individual brood cells within a hive. But solitary wasps like Isodontia harmandi are different. Females tuck fertilised eggs and food for their young into tunnel-like chambers such as bamboo cane – so that up to a dozen larvae may share a single cell. Bunking in such tight quarters creates fierce competition for food, and new research shows the larvae frequently turn on each other to guarantee a meal. Before this study, “there were some anecdotal observations on cannibalism of this species”, says author Tomoji Endo at Kobe College in Japan. But “there was little evidence”, he says. To see if and how these wasps were feasting on their family, Endo and his colleague Yui Imasaki placed bamboo cane in various locations throughout central Japan between 2010 and 2015. They waited for the females to lay their eggs inside, then brought the nests into their lab and watched the larvae develop. In 30 of the 39 broods, young wasps opted to eat each other. The cannibalism continued in 23 of the nests after the cocoon phase began. “We were of course shocked that wasp larvae routinely cannibalise their nest mates,” says Endo. “We were also impressed that there were no obvious aggressive interactions between cannibal and victim.” The larvae seemed to accept their fate without a fight. Endo and Imasaki found that cannibalism was more likely to occur in brood cells with lots of larvae, and less likely to happen when foods provided by their mother like nectars, plants and smaller insects were abundant. The researchers hypothesise that female wasps produce more offspring to ensure a side buffet is always available to their larvae. That way, some of their babies can avoid starvation should traditional food supplies run low.

5-17-22 Beekeepers are struggling to keep up with farms' pollination needs
As demand for crops grows, the pollination services provided by the honeybees managed by beekeepers are becoming increasingly insufficient. Honeybee populations managed by beekeepers are “far too insufficient” to keep up with the world’s pollination demands, according to an analysis of data stretching back 30 years. The beekeeping industry is growing, but An Jiandong at the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences and his colleagues discovered that demand for the services the bees provide is growing even faster. Their analysis suggests that, in 1989, the global honeybee stock could supply around 56.9 per cent of demand. But this had declined to 44.1 per cent by 2019 because demand for pollination grew 2.3 times faster than the number of colonies kept by beekeepers. Oil crops, such as soybean and rapeseed, are driving the growing demand for honeybee pollination. Such crops are predominantly grown in monocultures over large areas, resulting in biodiversity loss and overreliance on managed bee stocks. “An insufficient number of managed honeybees will likely be unable to supply sufficient pollination services in agricultural ecosystems,” says An. “The resultant effect of this shortfall is low yields in crops dependent on these pollinators, which will exacerbate the current food and nutritional deficiency.” Pressures on honeybee colonies from disease and parasites are already presenting severe challenges to beekeepers, says Tom Breeze at the University of Reading, UK, whose research looking at managed honeybees in Europe was used as a source for calculations in the new work. He adds that a push for low-cost honey is also reducing incentives for large-scale commercial beekeeping operations. “What this really demonstrates is how reliant we are on wild pollinators. Honeybees are not enough; we have to lean on wild pollinators, but they are subjected to all manner of different pressures,” says Breeze.

5-16-22 Nearly a third of bites by malaria-carrying mosquitoes are in the day
Detailed analysis of mosquito bites in the Central African Republic found that, contrary to assumptions, many occur indoors during the daytime when people are not well protected by traditional anti-malaria defences. Malaria-carrying mosquitoes do up to 30 per cent of their biting indoors during the day. The finding could inform measures to combat malaria, which tend to focus on the insects’ night-time feedings. Malaria is a serious and sometimes fatal disease spread by female Anopheles mosquitoes. As the insects feed on blood to nourish their eggs, a parasite travels through their saliva and into their victim. In 2020, there were an estimated 241 million cases of malaria, and some 627,000 people lost their lives to the disease. Earlier estimates of mosquito biting patterns assumed the insects fed mostly at night. But until now, their daytime biting behaviour hadn’t been studied closely. When Claire Sangbakembi-Ngounou at the Institut Pasteur de Bangui in the Central African Republic noticed that mosquitoes in the capital city appeared to be biting around the clock, she wanted to investigate. In June 2016, Sangbakembi-Ngounou, her colleagues and a team of volunteers began a year-long mosquito collection project. Every month, working in six-hour shifts, they spent 48 hours collecting mosquitoes in four different locations around the city. As soon as a mosquito landed on them – but before it started to feed – the collectors trapped the insect inside of a glass vial. Volunteers were compensated for their effort and treated with anti-malaria medication in the event they contracted the pathogen. Over the course of the year-long study, the team collected nearly 8000 malaria-carrying mosquitoes from eight different species. Carlo Costantini at the University of Montpellier in France developed a model that displayed the insects’ feeding times over a 48-hour period. The analysis revealed that most biting events occurred indoors and between dusk and dawn, but to the researchers’ surprise, between 20 and 30 per cent of mosquito bites happened indoors during the daytime.

5-16-22 Two newly described Amazon fish species are on the brink of extinction
New varieties of South American darter fish were documented in Brazil’s Apuí region. But deforestation in the area means they may soon be extinct. DTwo newly discovered Amazon fishes may already be headed for extinction. When Murilo Pastana at Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History in Washington DC set out with a group of colleagues to search for fish in less explored regions of the Amazon River basin, he didn’t know what they would find. A few days into their 2015 expedition, Pastana pulled a net from the water and was surprised to see small, vibrant orange fish in the plastic netting. The animal’s combination of long, reddish fins and a dark spot in front of its tail were unlike anything he had seen before. “We knew right away that this fish was different,” says Pastana. “We were so excited, like little kids.” The 3-centimeter-long fish, now named Poecilocharax callipterus, was plucked from a blackwater stream in Brazil’s Apuí region. The researchers then combed the surrounding area to see if the fish lived elsewhere. That is when they found a second entirely new fish species among the tangled tree roots of a muddy stream bank. “I said, ‘Wait! There are two’,” says Pastana. Unlike the orange fish they had found previously, this new specimen shared the subtle yellow-brown coloration of other fishes in the area. Once a lab analysis confirmed the new species, the team named the 2-centimeter-long fish Poecilocharax rhizophilus for its apparent love (“phil”) of roots (“rhiz”).Genetic analyses have since verified that both fish are within the genus Poecilocharax, a subgroup of small freshwater fish known as South American darters. The species are the first additions to the genus since 1965. In 2016, Pastana and his colleagues returned to carry out another extensive search, which confirmed what he had feared: P. callipterus, was limited to a single stream with roughly 4 square kilometres of habitat. P. rhizophilus was in a slightly less dire position, with a range of around 50 square kilometres.

5-16-22 Red salamander found in Panamanian forest is a new species
The new-to-science Chiriquí fire salamander was found by a Panamanian team that has been investigating one of the least-explored regions of Central America. This brightly coloured amphibian has just been named the Chiriquí fire salamander (Bolitoglossa cathyledecae), a new-to-science species. It was found during an expedition to La Amistad International Park in Panama by a Panamanian team that has been investigating the Cordillera de Talamanca. This mountain range runs between the western part of the country and Costa Rica, and is one of the least-explored regions of Central America. Abel Batista at Universidad Autónoma de Chiriquí in Panama and his colleagues determined that it is new to science. While it can be difficult to tell some new species apart from their close relatives, this salamander differs from other members of its genus in its colours, the webbing of its hands and feet, and in its high number of upper teeth. Genetic analysis confirmed that the animal is distinct from other known salamanders.

5-16-22 A ‘mystery monkey’ in Borneo may be a rare hybrid. That has scientists worried
Habitat fragmentation may have driven two primate species to mate that wouldn’t have otherwise. Six years ago, tour guide Brenden Miles was traveling down the Kinabatangan River in the Malaysian part of Borneo, when he spotted an odd-looking primate he had never seen before. He snapped a few pictures of the strange monkey and, on reaching home, checked his images. “At first, I thought it could be a morph of the silvered leaf monkey,” meaning a member of the species with rare color variation, Miles says. But then he noticed other little details. “Its nose was long like that of a proboscis monkey, and its tail was thicker than that of a silvered leaf [monkey],” he says. He posted a picture of the animal on Facebook and forgot all about it. Now, an analysis of that photo and others suggests that the “mystery monkey” is a hybrid of two distantly related primate species that share the same fragmented habitat. The putative offspring was produced when a male proboscis monkey (Nasalis larvatus) mated with a female silvered leaf monkey (Trachypithecus cristatus), researchers suggest April 26 in the International Journal of Primatology. And that conclusion has the scientists worried about the creature’s parent species. Hybridization between closely related organisms has been observed in captivity and occasionally in the wild (SN: 7/23/21). “But hybridization across genera, that’s very rare,” says conservation practitioner Ramesh Boonratana, the regional vice-chair for Southeast Asia for the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s primate specialist group. Severe habitat loss, fragmentation and degradation caused by expanding palm oil plantations along the Kinabatangan River could explain how the possible hybrid came to be, says primatologist Nadine Ruppert.

5-13-22 Clever birds forced to find new homes as Cambridge lab faces closure
A seminal research lab that has revolutionised our understanding of the minds of rooks and jays is set to be closed down as funding dries up. Behind a thatched pub in the village of Madingley near Cambridge, UK, is a set of aviaries that is home to 25 jays and seven rooks. For Nicola Clayton, who set up the facility 22 years ago, these birds offer a unique window into the minds of other creatures. But not, perhaps, for much longer. Clayton’s Comparative Cognition Lab – or, as she dubs it, the corvid palace – is set to close in July due to a depressing confluence of circumstances. “It is so sad that this is happening now, especially given there are so many unanswered questions,” says Clayton. She and her team at the University of Cambridge applied to renew the European Research Council grant that financed the facility during the Brexit negotiations, a time of great uncertainty for research funding, and their application was unsuccessful. On top of this, the economic pressures of the covid-19 pandemic mean that the £75,000 per year it takes to run the aviaries just isn’t available. “Brexit was certainly a contributing factor, and it was not helped by the pandemic,” says Clayton, though she is still holding out hope that a benefactor can be found at the eleventh hour. The Madingley site has a long pedigree in the field of animal behaviour: for example, it was where the primatologist Jane Goodall was based for her PhD on chimpanzees in the 1960s. In the years since the corvid lab was founded, studies here have revealed how these birds – members of the crow family – can perform feats once thought to be the domain of only humans or great apes, including planning for the future and understanding the minds of others. Here, it was discovered that rooks (Corvus frugilegus) can use tools, and even work cooperatively to pull strings to obtain a treat. Research at the lab has also shown that corvids engage in mental time travel, showing an ability to remember the past and use this to plan for the future. Corvids can recall which other birds were watching when they hid food in caches, then use this experience to imagine and plan how to protect their caches for future recovery.

5-13-22 Experiments hint at why bird nests are so sturdy
Contact between sticks helps fortify nestlike materials, computer simulations show. To build its nest, a bird won’t go for any old twig. Somehow, birds pick and choose material that will create a cozy, sturdy nest. “That’s just totally mystifying to me,” says physicist Hunter King of the University of Akron in Ohio. Birds seem to have a sense for how the properties of an individual stick will translate to the characteristics of the nest. That relationship “is something we don’t know the first thing about predicting,” King says. A bird’s nest is a special version of a granular material: a substance, such as sand, made up of many smaller objects (SN: 4/30/19). King and colleagues combined laboratory experiments and computer simulations to better understand the quirks of nestlike granular materials, the researchers report in a study to appear in Physical Review Letters. In the experiments, a piston repeatedly compressed 460 bamboo rods scattered inside a cylinder. The computer simulations let researchers analyze the points where sticks touched, which is key to understanding the material, the team says. The more force the piston applied to the pile, the stiffer the pile became, meaning it resisted further deformation. As the piston bore down, sticks slid against one another, and the contact points between them rearranged. That stiffened the pile by allowing additional contact points to form between sticks, which prevented them from flexing further, the simulations showed. Changes in the pile’s stiffness seemed to lag behind the piston’s motion, a phenomenon called hysteresis. That effect caused the pile to be stiffer when the piston pushed in than when the material bounced back as the piston retracted. Simulations suggest that the hysteresis arose because the initial friction between sticks needed to be overcome before the contact points started to rearrange.

5-13-22 How dragonflies use ultrafast wing movements to flip over in flight
When dropped upside down, dragonflies rapidly flip 180 degrees by changing the angle of their wings – but only if they can see their surroundings. Dragonflies use a combination of visual cues and precise control of their wing pitch to perform aerial acrobatics. The four-winged insects can rapidly right themselves from an upside-down position but until now, researchers weren’t sure how they performed the feat. Jane Wang, who studies the physics of living organisms at Cornell University in New York, first noticed the intriguing behaviour almost eight years ago. To her surprise, when she dropped a dragonfly headfirst, the insect flipped itself faster than her eyes could follow. So Wang and her colleagues designed a series of experiments to find out exactly how the insects managed it. First, they painted white dots on the wings and bodies of seven dragonflies. Then, they released the insects upside down and recorded their movement with a high-speed video camera. They slowed down the footage to get a better look at the precise wing angles and used a computer algorithm to create a three-dimensional model of the dragonflies in motion. The digital simulation revealed what Wang’s eyes couldn’t see: the dragonflies were pitching their right and left wings at different angles to flip over in just 200 milliseconds. “When [dragonflies] normally beat their wings, they are constantly changing their pitch,” says Wang. “Now, on top of that, they have to create a difference between the left and the right wings – just by a small amount.”

5-13-22 Moon soil used to grow plants for first time in breakthrough test
Scientists have grown plants in lunar soil for the first time, an important step towards making long-term stays on the moon possible. Researchers used small samples of dust collected during the 1969-1972 Apollo missions to grow a type of cress. Much to their surprise, the seeds sprouted after two days. "I can't tell you how astonished we were," said Anna-Lisa Paul, a University of Florida professor who co-authored a paper on the findings. "Every plant - whether in a lunar sample or in a control - looked the same up until about day six." After that, differences emerged. The plants grown in moon soil started to show stress, developed more slowly and ended up stunted. But those involved say it is a breakthrough - and one that has earthly implications. "This research is critical to Nasa's long-term human exploration goals as we'll need to use resources found on the Moon and Mars to develop food sources for future astronauts living and operating in deep space," said Nasa chief Bill Nelson. "This fundamental plant growth research is also a key example of how Nasa is working to unlock agricultural innovations that could help us understand how plants might overcome stressful conditions in food-scarce areas here on Earth." One challenge for researchers is that there simply is not much lunar soil to experiment with. Over a three-year period from 1969, Nasa astronauts brought back 382kg (842lb) of lunar rocks, core samples, pebbles, sand and dust from the lunar surface. The University of Florida team were given just 1g of soil per plant for the experiment from the samples, which have been kept locked away for decades. Nasa plans to land humans on the moon for the first time since 1972 in a mission scheduled for 2025.

5-12-22 Growing plants in soil from the moon doesn't really work very well
Thale cress plants have been grown in regolith, the fine dust that covers the moon’s surface, using samples from Apollo missions – but they turn out small and stunted. Thale cress, a small flowering plant, has been grown in lunar regolith – the powdery material on the surface of the moon – for the first time, using samples collected during the Apollo 11, 12 and 17 missions. “Showing that plants will grow on lunar soil is actually a huge step in that direction of being able to establish ourselves in lunar colonies,” said Robert Ferl at the University of Florida at a press briefing on 11 May. “When humans move as civilisations… we always take our agriculture with us. The ability to take plants with us successfully to the moon is how we will grow our own food… stay there for a while without resupply, breathe by taking away carbon dioxide from the air and produce water,” he said. Ferl and his colleagues at the University of Florida planted thale cress seeds in 4 grams of lunar soil from each of the three Apollo missions and tracked their growth over 20 days. As a control, they also grew seeds in terrestrial volcanic ash, which is commonly used to mimic soil from the moon. Within 60 hours of planting, the researchers found that seeds had germinated in all the soil samples. Between day six and eight, they removed some seedlings so that just one plant grew in each gram of soil. On the removed plants, they found that the roots grown in lunar soil were stunted compared with those of plants grown in terrestrial soil. Over the following days, they found that plant leaves grown in lunar soil were smaller and had a darker pigmentation compared with those grown in terrestrial soil. “They do grow in lunar regolith, but they grow as if they are stressed,” said team member Anna-Lisa Paul.

5-12-22 A steroid might be why octopuses starve themselves after mating
After mating, female octopuses increase production of a steroid hormone, which may drive them to starve themselves while guarding their eggs. A steroid hormone may be responsible for making young female octopuses waste away and die soon after laying eggs. California two-spot octopuses (Octopus bimaculoides) are normally very active predators, but the females starve themselves while guarding their first – and last – clutch of eggs, until they finally die, usually at about 1 year of age. The octopuses have two optic glands near the optic lobes in their brains, which are considered roughly equivalent to the pituitary gland in humans and other vertebrates. More than four decades ago, researchers discovered that if the octopuses’ optic glands were surgically removed, the animals would abandon their eggs, hunt, eat and even mate again – and this didn’t affect the survival of their offspring. Scientists have come up with various explanations as to why octopuses have evolved this self-destructive phase in their life cycle. Octopuses frequently cannibalise other octopuses, so one suggestion is that mothers self-destruct to prevent them from eating the younger generation. It is particularly curious because when creatures have large brains, as octopuses do, they typically have long lifespans, says Z. Yan Wang at the University of Washington in Seattle. “We don’t see that in octopuses, and, in fact, we see something that’s almost aggressively the opposite, because they have this self-destruct system that forcefully ensures they have a short lifespan,” she says. Wang and her team used mass spectrometry to analyse optic glands and optic lobes in both mated and unmated female octopuses, to better understand the substances that lead to the animals’ early demise. They found that after mating, the optic glands pump up production of enzymes that convert cholesterol into the steroid 7-dehydrocholesterol (7-DHC).

5-12-22 Ants treat infected wounds of nestmates with medicine from their back
Matabele ants (Megaponera analis) in sub-Saharan Africa apply an antimicrobial substance to nestmates whose limbs are lost while raiding termite nests. An African ant seems to be the only known species, besides humans, that can diagnose infected wounds and treat them with antimicrobial medicine. Matabele ants (Megaponera analis) are relatively large insects found in sub-Saharan Africa that raid termite nests for food. This is risky because termite nests are defended by soldiers that can bite the ants, tearing off their limbs in up to a fifth of cases. Erik Frank at the University of Würzburg in Germany previously observed that Matabele ants that are injured during these raids are carried by their comrades back to their home nests, where “nurses” lick their wounds clean. Now, he and his colleagues have discovered that these nurses may even be able to tell if wounds are infected and treat them with an antimicrobial substance produced in glands in their backs. The researchers filmed injured ants receiving wound care. Nurse ants licked their wounds clean and, in about 10 per cent of cases, applied a substance they collected from glands in their own backs or the backs of the injured ants themselves. A chemical analysis of the substance revealed it contains several proteins and organic compounds with structures similar to known antibiotics and antifungals. In a laboratory experiment, the substance inhibited the growth of Pseudomonas aeruginosa, bacteria that commonly infect ant wounds, confirming its antimicrobial properties. Of the infected ants that received wound care, 90 per cent survived, compared with just 5 per cent when the insects were separated from their nestmates by the researchers, causing them to miss out on treatment.

5-12-22 Anglia Ruskin University gets £0.5m for Arctic beaver study
The changing habitats and behaviour of beavers as they move further north into the Arctic Circle will be examined in a new study. Anglia Ruskin University in Cambridge has been granted £553,491 to investigate the mammals' impact as they move northwards. Researchers want to understand their effects on the landscape, fish populations and indigenous people. Project leader Dr Helen Wheeler said she was "delighted" to receive the sum. The study will look at the effects of climate change and rising temperatures. The line where trees grow has moved northwards, as has the beaver, which builds dams and water pools by felling trees. The funding, from the government-sponsored UK Research and Innovation body, will build on studies being carried out by the university in Canada's Northwest Territories looking at how beavers are changing local ecosystems. Researchers will examine how beavers' dam-building can change landscapes by creating ponds and diverting rivers, leading to fewer fish that local people rely upon. The number of beavers heading north of the treeline and into the Arctic, together with the amount of new ponds they are creating, have caused permafrost to melt. This can lead to greenhouse gases methane and carbon dioxide being released. In an Arctic update for 2021, aerial and satellite images showed North American beavers had colonised the Arctic tundra of Alaska, with the number of ponds doubling to 12,000 in western Alaska since the year 2000. Between 1945 and 1955 no beaver ponds could be spotted on aerial photos of the region. The new study starts this month and will last for three years, looking at an area in Canada's Inuvialuit Settlement Region. UK researchers will work alongside Wilfrid Laurier University of Canada and the Inuvialuit Fisheries Joint Management Committee. Dr Wheeler said her team would bring together experts from a multitude of fields. "We will be able to investigate the complex effects of rapid environmental change in a truly interdisciplinary way," she said

5-11-22 The grand plan to create a periodic table of all animal intelligence
Animal minds are extraordinarily diverse, but a new attempt to categorise them aims to reveal the distinct nature of intelligence in everything from dolphins to bees – and even us. IF YOU have ever concluded that intelligence is in short supply in the modern world, perhaps you are looking in the wrong place. Humanity may seem to be suffering from collective stupidity, but there are still plenty of smarts to be found elsewhere. You will be familiar with the clever antics of whales and dolphins, chimpanzees and orangutans. But what about wasps? They can recognise human faces. Or crabs? They use stinging anemones to defend themselves against predators. Then there are alligators that place sticks on their snouts to catch egrets looking for nesting material. And mosquitoes can learn to avoid pesticides after a single taste. Plants show intelligence too. A parasitic vine called a dodder sniffs out its prey with remarkable discernment, for example. Blobby yellow things called slime moulds can learn and teach each other. Even biofilms – collectives of bacteria – possess short-term memory and the ability to make decisions. Such an astonishing array of aptitude is rather unsettling. It also raises some fundamental questions, including what actually is intelligence, how did it evolve and how do the abilities of various organisms compare? These are hard to answer. Evaluating intelligence in nature is tricky, particularly in life forms that are very different from us. But now a group of neuroscientists, AI researchers and philosophers have come up with a radical idea. They want to create a periodic table of intelligence akin to the one used to categorise the chemical elements. If they succeed, it could radically alter the way we see other species – and ourselves. It is a bold plan. When the Russian chemist Dmitri Mendeleev invented the periodic table in 1869, his contemporaries immediately recognised it as a monumental feat. It has been called “nature’s Rosetta Stone” and is still seen as one of science’s foremost breakthroughs. By ordering the chemical elements into columns and rows, the table transformed the somewhat mystical field of chemistry (think alchemy) into a powerhouse of hard science. Researchers need only note the position of an element in the table to tell whether it might react vigorously with water, for example, or is likely to conduct electricity. The table has even predicted elements that were subsequently discovered.

5-11-22 Kenyan chameleons evolved brighter colours after moving to Hawaii
Chameleons introduced to Hawaii in 1972 have started flaunting brighter colours, probably because they have fewer predators to hide from. Kenyan chameleons that were introduced to Hawaii half a century ago have evolved flashier colours, probably because they have fewer predators to hide from. Jackson’s chameleons (Trioceros jacksonii xantholophus) are native to Kenya and, like other chameleons, change colour depending on their context. Males turn yellow to attract females or to signal their dominance to other males. They switch to green and brown at other times to blend in with vegetation and avoid being noticed by predatory birds and snakes. In 1972, about 36 Jackson’s chameleons were imported from Kenya by a pet shop owner in Hawaii. He placed them in his back garden, but they escaped. Since Hawaii has few animals that can prey on them, they were able to establish themselves widely. Martin Whiting at Macquarie University in Sydney, Australia, and his colleagues wondered whether being released from this predation pressure led to changes in the chameleon’s colour displays. To test this, they conducted experiments using male Jackson’s chameleons collected from Hawaii and Kenya. They exposed each individual to another male, a female, a model bird and a model snake, then observed their colour changes in response. The Hawaiian and Kenyan chameleons both turned yellow when they encountered another male or a female, but the yellow of the Hawaiians was about 30 per cent brighter, as measured by an instrument called a spectrophotometer. When exposed to the bird and snake models, both groups changed colour to blend in to their environment, but the Hawaiian chameleons did this less effectively. The Hawaiians have probably become worse at camouflaging themselves since they no longer need to, says Whiting. “That’s how natural selection works – if you don’t use it, you lose it.”

5-11-22 Dismissing Australian mammals as weird hurts efforts to conserve them
When Australian animals such as platypuses and wombats are described as bizarre or primitive, it makes it harder to protect these incredible, highly adapted species, says Jack Ashby. HOW would you describe Australian mammals? My work involves regularly talking to people about them. When I say that platypuses’ duck-like bills can detect the electrical impulses controlling the heartbeats of their prey, or that males have venomous ankle spurs, or that their hands are like Swiss Army Knives, with different foldaway tools for swimming, digging and walking, the typical response is a wide-eyed, “That’s so strange!”. Not all mammals are considered equals. Why is it that the ingrained response to the incredible adaptations of Australian mammals is to call them “weird”? “Primitive” is often thrown into the mix too, even though all living complex species are equally evolved. The fauna of no other large land mass is treated this way. We have been conditioned to repeat such views because they are the typical messages featured by museums and documentaries. The BBC’s 2019 series Seven Worlds, One Planet included this line in its description of the episode on Australia: “Isolated for millions of years, the weird and wonderful animals marooned here are like nowhere else on Earth.” However conservation-focused the production was, the framing of Australian wildlife as weird is unhelpful. Thankfully, platypuses, koalas, kangaroos, wombats and their relatives are popular. People are enthusiastic about these creatures because they are interesting, but we need to avoid making subtle value judgements. These pejorative trends can be traced back to early colonial accounts of Australia, which are peppered with unscientific slurs. When Europeans first saw Australian marsupials and egg-laying mammals, they were so unlike anything they had seen before that it required them to rethink their understanding of the tree of life. Crucially, in perceiving Australian animals to be different to those they were familiar with in the “Old World”, European colonists assumed that they were inherently inferior.

5-11-22 Evidence finally collated of toads mating with things they shouldn’t
If we are looking a little lorn this week, with our mouth opening and closing to little effect, it is principally because we are staring at “Finding love in a hopeless place: A global database of misdirected amplexus in anurans”. This is a new paper in the journal Ecology by Filipe Serrano and his colleagues at the University of Sao Paolo in Brazil. No amount of science words can gloss over the fact that it amounts to a spreadsheet of all the instances recorded in the scientific literature in the past century of frogs attempting to mate with things that they shouldn’t. It can’t be easy being an amphibian, as evidenced by the touching – in a very real, excessive sense – story recently reported in this magazine of male Santa Marta harlequin toads in Colombia that cling to females’ backs for up to five months in hope of mating (23 April, p 19). The new database conveniently tags misdirected encounters with hour, month, year and geographical location. “We recorded a total of 282 interspecific amplexus, 46 necrophiliac amplexus and 50 amplexus with objects or non-amphibian species, with USA and Brazil being the countries with the highest number of records,” the authors report. “Why?” asks a colleague. Ah, well, if we knew why we were doing science in the first place, that wouldn’t be science, would it? Many of us have a special place we go when we want to think. In Feedback’s case, we are often accompanied by Think, a journal of the Royal Institute of Philosophy that promises “philosophy for everyone”.We think it may be getting a little too Everyman with a contribution in the latest issue entitled “The metaphysics of farts”. If the last item brought the sound of the barrel scraping, listen to us now drill right through.

5-11-22 A soil bacterium forms multicellular organisms with specialised roles
A type of Streptomyces bacterium that lives in soil forms multicellular structures in which some bacterial cells have specialised roles, like the cells of complex organisms – and a computer model suggests how this phenomenon evolved. In the multicellular soil bacterium Streptomyces coelicolor, some cells start producing lots of antibiotics after mutations delete big chunks of their genomes. Now a computer model has helped to confirm that this is no accident but an evolved mechanism for dividing labour among cells in a colony. “With Streptomyces, permanent differentiation happens by breaking the genome,” says Enrico Sandro Colizzi at the University of Cambridge. While definitions vary on what makes an organism multicellular, for many biologists it isn’t simply about having lots of cells, but about having those different cells take on different jobs. For instance, our bodies contain specialised muscle cells, brain cells and so on. Contrary to popular perception, lots of bacteria are multicellular according to these criteria. For instance, many species of cyanobacteria grow in filaments in which some cells take on specialised roles such as fixing nitrogen for other cells to use. In bacteria, as in other multicellular organisms, the cells doing different jobs are usually genetically identical. The division of labour comes about by key genes being switched on or off. This conventional form of cell division happens in Streptomyces bacteria, too. Colonies consist of a branching network of filaments in the soil. When they run out of food, some filaments grow upwards and produce spores, very much like a fungus. But recent studies by Daniel Rozen at Leiden University in the Netherlands have shown that some cells in Streptomyces colonies also mutate in ways that makes them pump out more antibiotics to help the colony compete against rival organisms. These mutations, however, impair their ability to reproduce. In other words, the mutated cells behave altruistically, just like almost all cells in multicellular organisms. That suggests this phenomenon is no accident but an evolved mechanism of specialisation via mutation. To test this idea, Colizzi, Rozen and their colleagues created a computer model of Streptomyces and let the virtual bacteria evolve over 500 generations.

5-11-22 Baby marmosets may practice their first distinctive cries in the womb
Ultrasounds tracking fetal mouth movements pinpoint when vocalization motor skills develop. Cradled inside the hushed world of the womb, fetuses might be preparing to come out howling. In the same way newborn humans can cry as soon as they’re born, common marmoset monkeys (Callithrix jacchus) produce contact calls to seek attention from their caregivers. Those vocalizations are not improv, researchers report in a preprint posted April 14 at bioRxiv. Ultrasound imaging of marmoset fetuses reveals that their mouths are already mimicking the distinctive pattern of movements used to emit their first calls, long before the production of sound. Early behaviors in infants are commonly described as “innate” or “hard-wired,” but a team at Princeton University wondered how exactly those behaviors develop. How does a baby know how to cry as soon as it’s born? The secret may lie in what’s happening before birth. “People tend to ignore the fetal period,” says Darshana Narayanan, a behavioral neuroscientist who did the research while at Princeton University. “They just think that it’s like the baby’s just vegetating and waiting to be born…. [But] that’s where many things begin.” Research shows, for instance, that chicks inside their eggs are already learning to identify their species’ call (SN: 9/16/21). “So much is developing so much earlier in development than we previously thought,” says developmental psychobiologist Samantha Carouso-Peck, executive director of Grassland Bird Trust in Fort Edward, N.Y., who was not involved in the research. But, she says, “we really haven’t looked much at all at the production side of this. Most of what we know is the auditory side.” Carouso-Peck studies vocal learning in songbirds and how it applies to how humans acquire language.

5-11-22 Amazon river dolphin may actually be multiple species
Genetic analysis has previously hinted that there are several species of Amazon river dolphin, and now differences in skull shape have added to the evidence. Evidence is mounting that the Amazon river dolphin (Inia geoffrensis), one of only a few remaining dolphin species that live purely in fresh water, is in fact multiple species. New research reveals that the skulls of these dolphins vary substantially between populations in different river basins in South America. If their physical differences represent evolutionary adaptations rather than just random variation within a population, there could be profound conservation implications for these animals, which have declined sharply in recent years. Amazon river dolphins, also called botos, have long been sorted into three subspecies geographically isolated by waterfalls and rapids: Inia geoffrensis geoffrensis in most of the Amazon basin, I. g. boliviensis in Bolivia and I. g. humboldtiana in Venezuela’s Orinoco river basin. In 2014, researchers proposed that a population in the Araguaia river basin in central Brazil should be considered a distinct species (I. araguaiaensis) based on its genetic uniqueness. But to accept new boto species, biologists require more information on the animals’ physical features, which has been lacking, says Erika Hingst-Zaher at the Butantan Institute in São Paulo, Brazil. Hingst-Zaher and her colleagues have now examined, measured and categorised 46 boto skulls from an international set of museum collections. Both Bolivian and Venezuelan botos have comparatively delicate skulls. The Bolivian botos have long snouts that are lined with extra teeth, and the Venezuelan botos are particularly small. But the proposed Araguaia species’ skull was difficult to differentiate from that of the Amazonian population, to Hingst-Zaher’s surprise.

5-10-22 Scientists study secrets of starling murmurations
The sight of hundreds of starlings swooping and diving in unison at dusk is one of the wonders of nature. Scientists and naturalists have marvelled at how the birds make shape-shifting clouds, known as murmurations. Researchers in Italy have undertaken the most detailed analysis yet of the physics of these aerial stunts. Their mathematical model suggests starlings copy other birds' flight paths and only make small speed fluctuations. "There is no leader in a flock; everyone imitates its neighbours," said Dr Antonio Culla of Università Sapienza in Rome. "And each bird is able to change its velocity a little bit in a very easy way." The physicists analysed video footage of starling flocks ranging in size from 10 birds to 3,000 to develop a mathematical model for this flocking behaviour. They then used computer simulations of an artificial flock of birds to check their mathematical model matched what happens in the real world. The scientists say the study, published in Nature Communications, could help in developing swarms of drones that can fly collectively over fields to tend crops. It may also help in finding new ways to track space debris. Murmurations are huge groups of starlings that come together at dusk to swoop and dive across the sky before roosting for the night. It's thought this offers protection from predators such as peregrine falcons, who find it hard to single out just one starling from a whirling mass of thousands.

5-10-22 Jackals seen stealing kills from lynx as they expand range in Europe
Camera traps in Slovenia have recorded golden jackals eating deer recently killed by Eurasian lynx in the first sign of conflict between these carnivores. Watch out cats — there’s a new dog in town. Golden jackals (Canis aureus) are expanding their range in Europe, and the acquisition of new territory may come at the expense of the Eurasian lynx (Lynx lynx). According to new research, jackals have been seen scavenging carcasses of deer killed by lynx in southern Slovenia. While the evidence is limited at this point, it shows the first recorded incidents of kleptoparasitism — the act of stealing food — against lynx in Europe by jackals. “There are a lot of concerns about what impact jackals will have ecologically because they are a new species [in parts of Europe] and they are spreading fast,” says Miha Krofel at the University of Ljubljana in Slovenia. Historically, golden jackals were found mostly in the Middle East and south Asia. In Europe, they were usually only found in the islands and coastal areas of the Black Sea and Mediterranean Sea. In the 20th century, they began expanding northwards, reaching Slovenia by 1955. Today, they can be found as far north as Norway. Wildlife researchers have long wondered how this expansion may affect other carnivores, but had scant evidence of direct interactions. Krofel and his colleagues had been conducting a long-term study from 2006 to 2021 on lynx in the Dinaric mountains in Slovenia when they found evidence of jackals stealing prey. Two different incidents captured on camera showed at least two jackals eating deer killed recently by lynx in the more recent years of this study. In both cases, the research showed that the lynx didn’t return to the kill site after the jackals arrived. It is unclear whether the lynx were scared away from their meal. Krofel says that a lynx would probably beat a jackal in a one-on-one fight, but jackals are known to travel in packs, which would give them the upper hand.

5-10-22 These bats buzz like wasps and bees. The sound may deter hungry owls
Mouse-eared bats may be the only mammal known to mimic an insect for protection. Some bats buzz like wasps and bees when grasped, and the sound seems to deter predatory owls. The findings reveal what may be the first known case of a mammal mimicking an insect, researchers report May 9 in Current Biology. From 1998 to 2001, animal ecologist Danilo Russo was conducting field studies on greater mouse-eared bats (Myotis myotis) in Italy, which involved capturing the live animals in mist nets. When he and his colleagues removed the bats, they made a buzzing noise in the scientists’ hands that was reminiscent of wasps or bees. “When you hear them, that’s what comes to your mind immediately,” says Russo, of the University of Naples Federico II in Italy. Years later, Russo and his team decided to test the idea that the uncanny buzzing wasn’t mere coincidence, but instead a type of defense mechanism called Batesian mimicry. Batesian mimics are themselves harmless, but have a resemblance — visually, acoustically or chemically — to a different species that is distasteful or dangerous. When wary predators can’t distinguish harmless mimics from the noxious originals that the predators typically avoid, the mimics are protected. The researchers caught more of the bats, recording their buzzing cries as they were being handled. The team also recorded the buzzing sounds of four stinging insect species (two wasps and two bees) commonly found in European forests. When Russo and his team compared the audio profiles of the insect and bat buzzing in the laboratory, the researchers found that their analyses could distinguish between the two sound sources most of the time. But audience matters. Tawny owls (Strix aluco) and barn owls (Tyto alba) commonly hunt bats, so Russo’s team wondered if the birds could be the target for the buzzing performance. When the researchers limited their sound analysis to just the frequencies that an owl hears, the buzzes became much harder to tell apart — particularly for comparisons involving the buzzing of European hornets (Vespa crabro)

5-9-22 Bats buzz like bees and hornets to scare off hungry owls
For the first time, researchers have recorded mammals mimicking the sounds of stinging insects as a survival mechanism: mouse-eared bats buzzing to keep barn and tawny owls at bay. Bats mimic the buzzing sound of stinging insects to scare off predatory owls. This type of acoustic trickery, when a harmless animal mimics a dangerous one, has been found previously in some insects but has never before been described in mammals. Danilo Russo at the University of Naples Federico II in Italy was first struck by the bizarre hum more than two decades ago while working with the bats as a PhD student. “I noticed that when we handled the bats to take them out of the net or process them, they buzzed like wasps or hornets,” says Russo. Only recently was he able to assemble the right group of researchers to investigate the phenomenon. Russo and his colleagues started by comparing recordings of buzzing greater mouse-eared bats (Myotis myotis) to the hum of insects like bees and hornets. When they limited the frequency of the sounds to reflect how an owl would hear them, the team noticed the buzz of the bats and insects appeared even more alike. Next, they played a series of sounds to eight barn owls and eight tawny owls, half of which were wild, and the other half captive-raised. Each owl heard four noises: a buzzing bat, a western honeybee, a European hornet and a non-buzzing bat vocalization. In all cases, the owls moved further away from the speaker when they heard a buzz. When the birds heard non-buzzing bat vocalizations, they approached the source of the sound. Benjamin Sulser, who studies bat evolution at the American Museum of Natural History in New York, says he is intrigued but not surprised by the findings. “If I grabbed a bat and it made a hornet sound, I’d think twice, and I’m not even a bat predator,” he says.

5-9-22 These six foods may become more popular as the planet warms
Mussels, millet, cassava and more are resilient, sustainable and nutrient dense. o matter how you slice it, climate change will alter what we eat in the future. Today, just 13 crops provide 80 percent of people’s energy intake worldwide, and about half of our calories come from wheat, maize and rice. Yet some of these crops may not grow well in the higher temperatures, unpredictable rainfall and extreme weather events caused by climate change. Already, drought, heat waves and flash floods are damaging crops around the world. “We must diversify our food basket,” says Festo Massawe. He’s executive director of Future Food Beacon Malaysia, a group at the University of Nottingham Malaysia campus in Semenyih that studies the impact of climate change on food security. That goes beyond what we eat to how we grow it. The trick will be investing in every possible solution: breeding crops so they’re more climate resilient, genetically engineering foods in the lab and studying crops that we just don’t know enough about, says ecologist Samuel Pironon of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew in London. To feed a growing population in a rapidly changing world, food scientists are exploring many possible avenues, while thinking about how to be environmentally friendly. Consumer preferences are part of the equation as well. “It does have to be that right combination of: It looks good, it tastes good and it’s the right price point,” says Halley Froehlich, an aquaculture and fisheries scientist at the University of California, Santa Barbara. Here are six foods that could check all those boxes and feature more prominently on menus and grocery shelves in the future.

5-8-22 The return of California's butterflies
Some of California's iconic butterflies, including the monarch, have been on the verge of extinction. But the efforts of conservationists to protect them may now be showing positive results. Find out more on the People Fixing the World podcast.

5-6-22 Vaquita: World's most endangered sea mammal 'not doomed'
The world's rarest sea mammal still has a chance of survival, despite numbering only about 10 in the wild, according to a genetic study. The vaquita porpoise is teetering on the brink of extinction, but scientists say DNA tests show the population is still genetically viable. The tiny silvery porpoise lives only in Mexico's Gulf of California. However, it faces an existential threat from being caught in large weighted nets, known as gillnets. "Our study very clearly shows that the vaquita has a really good chance of avoiding extinction, if we are able to protect it, by removing the gillnets from its habitat," said study researcher, Dr Jacqueline Robinson of the University of California, San Francisco. There was no reason to think the vaquita was "doomed" simply because it has small population sizes or low genetic diversity, she said. "It really comes down to our choices and actions in terms of giving the vaquita the best chance at surviving." Some had given up on saving the vaquita, thinking that even if the species could be protected from fishing pressures, the health effects of in-breeding would wipe it out. But the study, published in Science, found the vaquita is not "genetically compromised" and should be able to bounce back from near extinction, if its habitat is fully protected. "They have a very high chance of making it over the next 50 years, if they receive complete protection," said Dr Robinson. The researchers analysed DNA from vaquitas caught between 1985 to 2017, which are closely related to the ones alive today. And they developed a computer model to predict how the population might change over the next 50 years, based on their genetic findings. Because the species has been rare for a long time, with naturally low levels of genetic variation, the risks from in-breeding are reduced, the researchers say. And they believe there are lessons for other endangered species, such as those living on islands or with a limited range.

5-5-22 Vaquitas could breed their way back from the brink of extinction
The 10 remaining vaquitas have enough genetic diversity to rebuild their species, but only if there is a dramatic reduction of illegal fishing operations in the Gulf of California. There are only 10 vaquitas left in the world, but a genetic analysis suggests the small porpoises aren’t necessarily doomed to extinction – so long as they stop getting ensnared in fishing nets, that is. As the planet’s smallest marine mammals, vaquitas are especially vulnerable to entanglement in gill nets used in illegal fishing operations in Mexico’s Gulf of California, where they live. The metre-and-a-half-long porpoises weren’t known to science until the 1950s. Since then, they have become one of the world’s most endangered animals. Marine biologists estimate that even at their most populous, vaquitas never numbered more than a few thousand individuals. By the 1990s, there were just hundreds left. Vaquitas’ naturally small population size reduced their genetic diversity, which researchers worried could lead to offspring that are less healthy than their parents. “It’s cemented in people’s minds that low genetic diversity is a bad thing,” says Jacqueline Robinson at the University of California, San Francisco. “But our study is showing that reality is more nuanced than that.” To find out if the few remaining vaquitas could rebuild their population, Robinson and her colleagues conducted an analysis of 20 vaquita genomes. The genome samples were primarily collected from deceased animals between 1985 and 2017. Because the samples were collected close in time from an evolutionary standpoint, Robinson says they are probably “extremely similar” to those of the surviving vaquitas. The researchers then used a computer model to simulate future vaquita populations under different scenarios. They found that when vaquita deaths were reduced by 80 per cent, the species went extinct in more than half of the simulations. But when by-catch deaths completely halted, the species recovered in more than 90 per cent of the simulations.

5-5-22 Hungry worms will risk being hurt if it helps them reach a meal
When enticed by the smell of buttered popcorn, food-deprived nematodes are more willing to cross a toxic copper barrier to reach the smell of a snack compared to their well-fed counterparts. Hungry worms are more willing than satiated worms to cross a toxic barrier of copper to reach the scent of a meal. While there is plenty of anecdotal evidence that hunger can make animals act impulsively, less is known about how hunger is signalled in the brain and how that signal shapes choices. To better understand how hunger changes behaviour, Sreekanth Chalasani at the Salk Institute in California and his team turned to transparent roundworms called nematodes. They aimed to answer three key questions: how does hunger effect what is happening in the worm’s body, how is that change relayed to the brain and how does that ultimately shape choices? The researchers placed around 60 nematodes (Caenorhabditis elegans) on one side of a toxic copper barrier with the smell of buttered popcorn wafting over from the other side. Half of the worms hadn’t eaten for three hours, while the others had eaten a recent meal. The team found that around 80 per cent of the hungry worms crossed the repellent copper to reach the food compared to around 20 per cent of their well-fed counterparts. When the hungry worms were fed, they reverted to the less-risky behaviour of satiated worms. “If [the worm] is food deprived, it thinks, ‘I’m going to take that risk, because I’m getting hungrier, and so I have to make an effort to cross that barrier,’” says Chalasani. After demonstrating that the starved worms take bold action to reach the smell of food, Chalasani wanted to find out what mechanism was triggering the hunger signal to the brain. A genetic and imaging analysis pointed to certain proteins in the worms’ intestinal cells that may tell the brain that the gut needs food. The team also identified a receptor in the brain that they suspect is picking up the signal.

5-5-22 Frans de Waal on what apes can teach us about sex and gender
Having studied chimps and bonobos for decades, primatologist Frans de Waal argues that variation in gender-typical behaviour is likely to be more common than we thought in humans. WHERE once we thought of ape behaviour only in terms of sex and war, we now understand that our closest relatives live a much more nuanced life. A huge part of that understanding comes from the work of primatologist Frans de Waal, a professor of psychology at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia. Over the past five decades, he has shown that cooperation is at least as important as competition in explaining primate behaviour and society. His work has revealed that the great apes might fight, but they also reconcile their differences. They have a capacity for empathy and a concept of fairness that de Waal proposes is the foundation of the human moral compass. He believes that chimps, bonobos and humans are simply different types of ape and that empathetic and cooperative behaviours are continuous between these species. Now, he has turned his attention to gender and identity in his new book Different: What apes can teach us about gender. We spoke to de Waal to find out what he has learned. Rowan Hooper: You are well known for writing about the inner lives of chimpanzees and bonobos, but your new book is a bit different, because it discusses gender roles, gender identity and biological sex differences in both apes and us. What do we mean by gender in non-human primates? Frans de Waal: Well, some people insist that we have genders and chimps and bonobos have sexes, and that is the end of the discussion. I think that is nonsense. Gender as a concept exists mainly because we are a sexually reproducing species. Sex is predominantly binary – male and female – plus a small percentage of people who are intersex. Imagine if we reproduced by cloning and were all basically identical. No one would have even conceived of the concept of gender. Aspects of gender, such as social roles and gendered behaviour, represent the cultural side of biological sex. Gender in this respect is not male or female, but rather masculine, feminine and everything in between. It is a much more fluid concept than biological sex. This concept of gender roles and behaviour may also apply to apes, because they are cultural beings, too. They develop slowly and are adults by 16 years of age, so there is an enormous amount of learning that goes into their behaviour, which includes their sex-typical behaviour. Like our children, the young pick up aspects of their gender roles from the adults around them.

5-4-22 California condors make a triumphant return to the northern coastal redwoods
California condors are back soaring over the Redwood National Park in Northern California, more than 130 years after they were last spotted in the area. On Tuesday, four condors bred in captivity were put in a staging area with a remote-controlled gate. After the gate was open, two of the condors took their time peering out before finally making their way through the opening and flying away. The other two will have another chance to take off in the near future, The Associated Press reports. The California condor is a New World vulture and the largest North American bird. Starting in the mid-1800s, their numbers began to dwindle, largely due to the condors being shot for sport, the introduction of pesticides like DDT, and habitat destruction. When the wild population dropped to just 22 in the 1980s, biologists started captive-breeding programs at the Los Angeles and San Diego zoos. These programs are working; today, the Los Angeles Times reports, there are 300 wild California condors in the state. California condors are social and learn from their elders, and while in captivity, the young birds were raised by an older condor. They will be monitored by experts to ensure they are adapting to the wild. The birds were released at a facility within Yurok ancestral territory, and the tribe's wildlife coordinator, Tiana Williams-Clausen, said in a statement that the condor's reintroduction is part of an "obligation to bring balance to the world. We've been working toward these releases for 14 years. Now, the condor is coming home."

5-4-22 Male manakin birds with acrobatic mating dances evolved smaller bodies
Some manakin males court females with elaborate aerial routines – and in these species, males have evolved to be more lightweight for extra agility, Male birds that impress females with complex acrobatic movements tend to be smaller than females of the same species, probably because their reduced body size makes them more agile. In birds, it is common for males to be larger than females, particularly when there is strong competition between males for mates. Unusually, females are larger than males in some species of manakin, a family of birds that live in tropical forests in Central and South America. Elsie Shogren at the University of Rochester in New York suspected that this size difference might be related to their mating displays. Manakin males court females with dance movements that can range from just a few rhythmic feather displays in some species to elaborate aerial routines in others – often too fast for the human eye to see. “If you think about a gymnast, or a figure skater, a lot of times being small and compact might allow you to do flips and turns more efficiently or effectively,” she says. “And the movements that these birds do are things like high-speed dives, backflips and pirouettes, while the females go around checking out different males. It’s fascinating to watch!” Shogren and her colleagues gave manakin species an agility score depending on the number of aerial movements in the males’ courtship dances. The team trapped 3051 wild birds from 22 species and held each bird just long enough to measure its body mass, wingspan and leg length. They found that higher agility scores were associated with lighter body weight in males compared with females of the same species. For example, lance-tailed manakin (Chiroxiphia lanceolata) males were on average 2 grams lighter than the females they courted with rapid aerial flips and dives, often in synchronised teams of males. But red-headed manakin (Ceratopipra rubrocapilla) males, which court mainly by lifting their wings and moving their feet on a perch, were on average 1.5 grams heavier than their females.

5-3-22 Some hamsters are extremely susceptible to COVID-19
Low doses make the animals sick and rapid tests can sometimes detect the infection. Golden Syrian hamsters are highly susceptible to the coronavirus that causes COVID-19, a new study shows. While the species is popular among pet owners, the results, posted April 20 at bioRxiv, are not cause for panic, says Anne Balkema-Buschmann, a veterinarian at the Friedrich-Loeffler-Institut in Riems, Germany. “The message of this paper is not that hamsters are ticking time bombs that can’t be kept in households any longer.” But pinpointing just how sensitive the animals are to SARS-CoV-2 can help researchers fine-tune experiments that use hamsters to test potential treatments for COVID-19. The rodents made headlines in January when a cluster of COVID-19 cases in people emerged around pet shops in Hong Kong. In accordance with its “zero-COVID” strategy, the government culled over 2,000 animals. A viral genetic analysis ultimately revealed that infected hamsters had transmitted the delta variant of the virus to humans twice, leading to at least one further human-to-human transmission. Aside from an instance of mink-to-human transmission in Denmark and a possible case of white-tailed deer-to-human transmission in Canada, this is the only documented example of the virus going from animals to humans. Hamsters can transmit the virus to their uninfected brethren and display similar pneumonia symptoms to humans. So since the early days of the pandemic, the rodents, including Golden Syrians (Mesocricetus auratus), emerged as a useful animal model for COVID-19 drug and vaccine research. To better design their own COVID-19 vaccine and drug studies, Balkema-Buschmann’s team tried to determine how much SARS-CoV-2 virus actually makes the animals sick and shed the virus. The researchers found that the minimum infectious dose for hamsters is 1/5000th of some previous estimates and 1/100,000th the minimum infectious dose for humans — perhaps not too surprising given that hamsters are a lot smaller than humans.

5-2-22 Raspberries are a battleground between flies, yeast and fungi
A species of fly works together with a yeast to combat a raspberry-bound fungus that threatens the insects' larvae. DescriptionThe unassuming raspberry plays host to an ecological battleground, as a fly, a yeast and a fungus vie for dominance on its surface. Raspberries produce ethylene gas as they mature, and often get colonised by Botrytis cinerea, the grey mould you find on fruit left too long in the fridge. This poses a problem for the fruit fly Drosophila suzukii, which feeds on raspberries, as its larvae are very sensitive to both the fungus and ethylene. Now, Paul Becher at the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences (SUAS) and his colleagues have discovered that the fly can employ a biological weapon to even the odds. It spreads a yeast called Hanseniaspora uvarum with it from fruit to fruit that not only makes the raspberry mature more slowly, and thus produce less larvae-killing ethylene, but also attacks the B. cinerea fungus with volatile compounds, hampering its ability to harm the larvae. But the yeast is no mere passenger – it releases chemicals that attract the flies, helping ensure it gets picked up in the first place. “The yeast releases hundreds of volatile compounds,” says team member Peter Witzgall, also at SUAS. “These attract other insects too, but are most effective at summoning D. suzukii.” H. uvarum also grows more vigorously in the presence of the fly larvae, though exactly why is unclear. “It might be the mechanical processing of the pulp by the larvae, which opens up the fruit surface, giving access to a good substrate for the yeast to grow on,” says Becher. This growth boost gives the yeast the edge to keep the B. cinerea at bay, which otherwise outcompetes it on fruits with no larvae. Thus, the fly and the yeast work together to ensure their survival on the raspberry battleground.


37 Animal Intelligence & Zoology News Articles
for May 
of 2022

Animal Intelligence News Articles for April of 2022