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!)

Sioux Falls Zoologists endorse Microcosmos for showing how
insects survive in a world where size really matters.

Beyond Anything We Could Imagine

Microcosmos (2005) - 80 minutes
Microcosmos at

A French meadow on a summer's day is the setting for this incredible, highly-acclaimed film that takes its microscopic cameras into the heart of the insect world.

In this miniature environment where a single raindrop can cause havoc, we are treated to an array of jaw-dropping moments: an underwater spider makes a home out of an air bubble, a colony of ants face a massacre when a pheasant attacks and a determined beetle struggles to relocate his ball of dung.

There's drama, comedy, action and even a little love in this astonishing film that invites us to share the trials and tribulations of its wonderful cast.

4-24-20 Earthy funk lures tiny creatures to eat and spread bacterial spores
Master chemist soil bacteria can waft a scent appetizing to springtails. The master chemists known as Streptomyces bacteria have turned a compound rich with the tangy odor of moist soil into a hitchhiking scam. This group of bacteria, the inspiration for streptomycin and other antibiotics, can release a strong, earthy whiff of what’s called geosmin. It’s not just an everyday scent for them. Some bacterial genes that regulate spore-making also can trigger geosmin production, an international research team reports April 6 in Nature Microbiology. When bacteria start making spores, geosmin wafts into the soil and attracts hungry little arthropods called springtails. They feast on the bacteria, inadvertently picking up spores that hitchhike to new territory, says Klas Flärdh, a microbiologist at Lund University in Sweden. Geosmin floats off many environmental microbes, including virtually all Streptomyces. People as well as many other animals can detect low concentrations of it. For instance, the common Drosophila lab fruit fly dedicates a circuit in its sensory wiring just to detecting geosmin, which the flies find repellant. That kind of disgust might help animals avoid microbially contaminated food. Various springtails, however, flock to the smell. Springtails abound in soil (SN: 1/19/14). The “spring” part of their name comes from a prong latched against the body that snaps loose to smack the ground in a crisis, bouncing the springtail up and away from danger. Scuttling specks of springtails showed up in unusual numbers when coauthor Paul Becher set out bits of Streptomyces bacteria forming spores under shrubbery at the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences in Alnarp. A springtail can smell the bacterial geosmin, Becher, Flärdh and colleagues say after testing the antenna sensitivity of a pale, all-female kind popular in labs, Folsomia candida.

2-5-20 Spiders think with their webs, challenging our ideas of intelligence
With the help of their webs, spiders are capable of foresight, planning, learning and other smarts that indicate they may possess consciousness. THERE is an alien intelligence living among us. These creatures possess an extraordinary kind of consciousness, including minds that extend beyond their bodies. Yet, thanks to our ignorance and arrogance, our immediate impulse is to kill them. This is no fantasy. These alien minds really are lurking in the shadows of our houses and gardens: spiders. We have long assumed that, like many invertebrates, they are little more than automata, lacking an inner life. But we are now discovering that some arachnids possess hidden cognitive abilities rivalling those of mammals and birds, including foresight and planning, complex learning and even the capacity to be surprised. Stranger still, the delicate silk threads they spin out behind them, so easily swept up by a feather duster, help them to sense and remember their world. Indeed, spiders’ silk is so important to their cognitive abilities that some scientists believe it should be considered part of their mind. Now that we are starting to appreciate spiders’ intellectual capabilities, we must surely change how we see one of the most ubiquitous, important and vilified groups of animals that has ever evolved. What’s more, these incredible creatures could also challenge our understanding of our own intelligence and minds. Spiders have deep evolutionary roots. The earliest fossil evidence of silk-producing arachnids dates from almost 400 million years ago, shortly after the first definitive evidence of insects. “Insects are the most successful lineage on Earth, but spiders pretty much follow them,” says evolutionary biologist Miquel Arnedo at the University of Barcelona, Spain. Today, there are more than 48,000 known species, with every square metre of land home to around 130 individuals on average. That may terrify arachnophobes, but without them, agriculture would be impossible. “You couldn’t have any crops – insects would eat them all,” says Arnedo.

7-7-19 Obituary: Georges Brossard, the man who stuck up for insects
Georges Brossard dedicated his life to helping humans appreciate the underappreciated world of insects. Brossard, who has died aged 79, gave up a career in law to travel the world and collect more than 250,000 specimens, a collection that would eventually become one of Montreal's most visited tourist attractions. He inspired millions through regular TV appearances, raising the profile of tiny creatures he believed were misunderstood and undervalued in human society. One particular journey to find a rare insect - an extraordinary trip into the Mexican rainforest - would go on to inspire a film. Georges Brossard was born in 1940 into a farming family in La Prairie, Quebec. His father, Georges-Henri, founded the nearby city of Brossard, on Montreal's South Shore. In a 1989 interview he described the La Prairie of his childhood as "a beautiful, unspoiled place" and recalled how a school science class inspired him to start his first collection of insects. "In a cupboard at school there were two specimens for our science class, a butterfly and a chunk of asbestos," he said. "I could gaze at them for hours. I guess that's when I became attracted to insects." Even the destruction of that early collection - by ants and spiders - only inspired him to greater things. "When I saw my collection in ruins like that, it hit me like a bolt of lighting. I knew that eventually I would be a great international collector. I saw my insectarium. I saw myself standing there explaining the world of insects to people," he said. His plan took a while to come fruition. Brossard went on to study law at the University of Ottawa and became a notary - an official witness to the signing of contracts, agreements and other legal documents. But by his late 30s he had decided to devote his career to his great passions - entomology and the environment.

8-16-18 Future robot swarms should copy lazy ants who let others do the work
The optimum strategy for tunnelling ants is to leave all of the digging to just a few workers. Swarms of robots could use similar techniques for clearing rubble. Too many cooks spoil the broth, and the same goes for ants. A study into how ants cooperate has found that the optimum strategy is for most of them not to do any work. The findings may be useful for creating large swarms of robots. Ants create networks of narrow underground tunnels by excavating soil bit by bit as a team. To understand the strategies they use, Daniel Goldman at Georgia Tech and his colleagues placed 30 ants into a transparent container filled with glass soil-like particles. For 48 hours ants entered and exited the tunnels hundreds of times to extend the network, but surprisingly only 30 per cent of the ants did around 70 per cent of the work. “Only a few ants would do the majority of the work, with the rest just hanging out trying to avoid clogging up the tunnel,” says Goldman. To further understand the process, Goldman and his colleagues tested out different strategies with four excavation robots. “One dug OK. Two dug OK. Three was kind of good. But with four the robots just couldn’t get anywhere,” says Goldman. However smart his team made the robots they kept causing clogs unless some took a back seat. The results suggest when groups of individuals work together, the best strategy may be for some to hang back, he says. The work can help uncover some of the strategies that biological organisms have evolved to use, but may also help write better software for controlling swarms of robots.

8-16-18 Here’s what robots could learn from fire ants
In tight quarters, sharing the work equally leads to traffic jams. Robots, take note: When working in tight, crowded spaces, fire ants know how to avoid too many cooks in the kitchen. Observations of fire ants digging an underground nest reveal that a few industrious ants do most of the work while others dawdle. Computer simulations confirm that, while this strategy may not be the fairest, it is the most efficient because it helps reduce overcrowding in tunnels that would gum up the works. Following fire ants’ example could help robot squads work together more efficiently, researchers report in the Aug. 17 Science. Robots that can work in close, crowded quarters without tripping each other up may be especially good at digging through rubble for search-and-rescue missions, disaster cleanup or construction, says Justin Werfel, a collective behavior researcher at Harvard University who has designed insect-inspired robot swarms (SN: 3/22/14, p. 8).

3-27-18 Beetlemania: How a supergroup scuttled to world domination
Handsome, hardy and diverse, beetles are supremely successful critters with a lot to teach us – but they’re suffering from our environmental waywardness. WHEN biologist J.B.S. Haldane was asked by a theologian back in the 1940s what we could infer about the mind of the creator from the works of creation, he supposedly replied, “an inordinate fondness for beetles”. The story is almost certainly apocryphal, but it reveals both an undeniable truth and an open question. Judging by their sheer numbers, God is certainly fond of beetles. But just how fond? The number of beetle species is just one lacuna in our knowledge of these extraordinarily successful creatures. Another is what makes them quite so successful. As we slowly fill in the gaps, we are beginning to appreciate the unique insights these insects can give us. Whether we want to understand evolution, the workings of the biosphere or how plate tectonics has shaped the continents, beetles hold the answers. But let’s deal with the numbers question first. New beetle species have been described at an average rate of about four a day since 1758, when Carl Linnaeus started cataloguing plants and animals using the two-part Latin scientific names we know today. Towards the end of the 20th century, there was general agreement that the total count was heading towards 400,000 species, based on specimens housed in the world’s museums and carefully documented in 250 years of scientific journals and monographs. Compare that with 5500 mammals, 10,000 birds, 85,000 molluscs and 250,000 plant species, and it is clear that in diversity beetles far outstrip any other multicellular organisms, perhaps quietly brushing aside nematode worms.

3-27-18 Beetlemania: Five amazing beetles from around the world
Whether it is harvesting water, doing origami or hitching free rides on termite backs, the sheer diversity of beetle behaviour is the key to their success.

  1. Head-stander beetles
  2. Hazel leaf-roller
  3. Giraffe weevil
  4. American burying beetle
  5. [No common name]

Beyond Anything We Could Imagine

Sioux Falls Zoologists endorse Microcosmos for showing how
insects survive in a world where size really matters.