RESEARCH: The bulging eyes of a stingray make it swim fast

The more streamlined an animal, the faster it is. To be streamlined means that the shape of the animal has smooth, flowing lines that enable it to reduce resistance to movement (called drag), such as through water or air. 

Research scientists have found that the bulging eyes and mouth of a stingray makes it a faster swimmer. This seems impossible, because any part of a body that is protruding (sticking out) usually makes an animal slower.

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Entomology Collection at Drexel University in Philadelphia

The Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University in Philadelphia is America’s oldest natural history museum. Established in 1812, it has a collection of 19 million specimens, with 4 million insect specimens, representing about 100,000 species of insects. 

Jon Gelhaus is Curator of Entomology at the ANS, where he has worked since 1990. He looks after the Entomology Collection. Since 2012, he has also been Professor in the Biodiversity, Earth and Environmental Science department where he teaches courses in Conservation Biology, Entomology, and Plant and Animal Identification. Entomology is the study of insects.

Jon Gelhaus and Jennifer Sontchi, Senior Director of Exhibits and Public Spaces at The Academy of Natural Sciences (ANS), presented a small portion of the collection during a live streaming event on 12 August 2021.

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RESEARCH: Snakes know how much venom they have and they won’t attack if they don’t have enough

Not all snakes are venomous, but scientists at the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Chengdu wanted to know more about venomous snakes.

The researchers studied venomous Sharp-Snouted Pit Vipers (Deinagkistrodon acutus). The New Scientist magazine (22 June 2021) reported the research results.

The aggressive Sharp-Snouted Pit Viper may be able to sense how much venom it has and it won’t attack if it doesn’t have enough venom (poison). 

Previous research indicates that venomous animals, including spiders, scorpions, and snakes, use their venom frugally and carefully because they do not produce a lot of venom. However, previous research did not study the possibility of whether venomous snakes save their venom for specifc situations, such as self-defence.

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RESEARCH: Elephant trunks use extreme suction to suck up water quickly: faster than a human sneeze

Extreme suction helps elephants suck up water quickly, and to hold water and food in their trunks. Extreme suction enables elephants to inhale water at speeds nearly 30 times faster than humans exhale air during a sneeze.

New Scientist magazine, on 2 June 2021, announced recent research results on the effectiveness of elephants using extreme suction. Elephants use their trunks, which weigh more than 100 kilograms (220 pounds), in a variety of ways: to forage through vegetation for food, to drink, and even as a snorkel when wading through deep water.

To better understand the trunk in action, scientist Andrew Schulz at the Georgia Institute of Technology in America, and his colleagues, filmed a 34-year-old female African Savannah Elephant (Loxodonta africana) while she completed a series of tests at a zoo in Atlanta.

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RESEARCH: The four most common wild bird species in the world

There are 50 billion wild birds on Earth – but four species dominate – says a New Scientist article on 17 May 2021.

Earth has around 50 billion wild bird species according to a new global estimate, but most species are very rare and only a handful number in the billions.

Just four wild species have over a billion individuals, and they are the most common wild bird species in the world. This is in contrast to 1,180 species that have less than 5,000 individual birds each.

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RESEARCH: Plan Bee – Honey Bee research in Australia

Plan Bee is a national genetic improvement program for bees. It uses innovative breeding technologies to transform the performance of Honey Bees in Australia.

Dr. Nadine Chapman from the University of Sydney is Plan Bee’s lead researcher. The BEE molecular laboratory and bee house at the university actually stands for Behaviour, Ecology, and Evolution.

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RESEARCH: Lions yawn when it’s time to get moving

In research conducted in 2020, scientists think that lions have contagious yawns – when one lion yawns, nearby lions yawn too. This is shown in human behaviour too. Also, scientists noticed that a lion’s yawn signals to other lions that it is time to get moving.

Scientist Elisabetta Palagi at the University of Pisa in Italy, and her research students, were collecting hyena data in South Africa. The New Scientist magazine in April 2021 reported that the researchers also filmed lion behaviour. Elisabetta Palagi noticed, when she watched the videos, that the lions were yawning one after the other and then got up and moved in near-synchroncity – that is, they all made similar movements. 

Palagi’s research students, Grazia Casett and Andrea Paolo Nolfo, observed 19 lions living in two social groups at the Siyafunda Wildlife & Conservation Camp, which is a research camp in the Greater Makalali Private Game Reserve in Limpopo province in South Africa. They took about five hours of video for each lion, day and night, over four months in 2020. 

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RESEARCH: Insects play dead to avoid being eaten

Insects play dead to avoid being eaten. Playing dead might help prey animals stay alive.

Nigel R. Franks at the University of Bristol in the United Kingdom, and his colleagues, were conducting a study on beetle-like larvae (grubs) of the flying Antlions (Euroleon nostras). When they dropped the 12-millimetre-long larvae onto a tray to weigh them, the insects froze.

Franks and his colleagues observed the behaviour repeatedly, noting that the insects would stay immobile for a few seconds to more than an hour.

The researchers thought that this behavioiur was a survival mechanism, imitating the times when birds accidentally dropped the Antlions after grabbing them out of their sandpits.

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RESEARCH: Sparrows are healthier when living in groups with diverse personalities

House Sparrows are healthier when living in groups with diverse personalities. Research scientists think that House Sparrows that live in groups in which different individuals have different personality types are healthier than those that live in groups with the same personality type.

The “surprising” findings suggest that personality diversity promotes not only a healthier society of sparrows, but also better physical and mental health for each individual within that society, says Zoltan Barta at the University of Debrecen in Hungary.

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RESEARCH: Fish are getting smaller as sea temperatures rise

Scientists think that adult fish are getting smaller as sea temperatures rise. 

Research scientists have been studying the size of fish in the ocean over the past 50 years, since 1970, and they think that they are shrinking in size due to warmer oceans.

At the University of Aberdeen in the United Kingdom, Idongesit Ikpewe and his colleagues have found that warmer seas are linked to changes in fish size. They looked at trends in four commercially fished species: cod, haddock, whiting, and saithe. They researched these fish in two locations: (1) the North Sea and (2) in the waters of Scotland. 

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RESEARCH: Kangaroos can learn to ask humans for help

Research scientists have recently found that kangaroos in zoos and sanctuaries use body language to ask humans for help, much like horses and dogs do. The researchers think this suggests that wild animals can learn to engage in inter-species communication just by being around humans.

Previously, researchers thought that only domesticated animals had the ability to communicate with humans, said Alan McElligott at City University of Hong Kong.

Kangaroos in Australia have never been a domesticated animal. In Australia, there are about 50 million kangaroos that roam in groups, called mobs. But there are also thousands of kangaroos, and other marsupials such as wallabies and pademelons, that live in zoos, parks, and sanctuaries.

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RESEARCH: Animals have played an important health role during the COVID-19 pandemic

A 2020 research study indicates that animals, mainly pets, have played an important health role during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Researchers at the University of South Australia studied the effects of animals during the pandemic when human-to-human contact was restricted to reduce the spread of the virus. 

Researcher Dr. Janette Young said, “To fill the void of loneliness and provide a buffer against stress, there has been a global upsurge in people adopting dogs and cats from animal shelters during lockdowns. Breeders have also been inundated with demands for puppies quadrupling some waiting lists.”

It is estimated that more than half the global population share their lives with one or more pets. The health benefits have been widely reported, but little data exists regarding the specific benefits that pets bring to humans in terms of touch. 

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RESEARCH: Humans love big animals

All creatures great and small, but which ones are the best of all?

Humans seem to love big animals. Research scientists have found that people think that larger animals are more charismatic than smaller ones, with some exceptions.

Scientist Emilio Berti, previously from the Aarhus University in Denmark, and his colleagues, compiled information from 9 existing datasets on animal charisma. Some datasets included information from volunteers about their attitude to particular species of birds and mammals. Other datasets included information on the number of Wikipedia page views seen by readers for particular species of animals, and the number of images of species posted to Twitter and the photo-sharing site Flickr.

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RESEARCH: Bumblebees can fly sideways

Can bumblebees fly sideways? New research shows that bumblebees can fly sideways to fit through tight gaps.

In November 2020, the New Scientist magazine included an article about bumblebees. Researcher Sridhar Ravi and his science colleagues from the University of New South Wales in Sydney, Australia, studied the flight of the Buff-Tailed Bumblebee (Bombus terrestris).

The scientists were testing whether bumblebees are aware of their size, because they are larger than honeybees. The scientists connected four bee hives to tunnels. The Buff-Tailed Bumblebees had to go through the tunnel to reach some food. Then the science researchers put a wall in the middle of the tunnel which partially blocked the tunnel, leaving a small gap (space). The scientists observed the bees to see what they would do when they reached the wall. Would they go through the gap or not?

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The longest whale dive ever recorded

Scientists have recorded the longest ever dive by a whale. The whale was a Cuvier’s Beaked Whale (Ziphius cavirostris). 

The time of the longest whale dive ever recorded was 3 hours and 42 minutes holding its breath. It broke the previous record in 2016 of 2 hours and 43 minutes. The human record for holding their breath underwater is 24 minutes. The human is floating motionless, but the whale is moving.

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RESEARCH: Crocodile tears are true – reptiles and birds can cry

Animal evolutionary researchers have found that reptiles and birds cry similar tears to humans.

Researchers in Brazil, at the Federal University of Bahia in Salvador, published their new study in Frontiers in Veterinary Sciencein 2020.

They collected samples of the tears of captive healthy animals in conservation centres. The tears were from seven species of reptiles and birds. The reptiles included tortoises, caiman lizards, and sea turtles. The birds included macaws, hawks, owls, and parrots.

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RESEARCH: Reef Sharks have friendship groups

Marine research scientists have found out that Grey Reef Sharks hang out with the same friends in the same spot for years.

Researchers at the Florida International University in America have studied Grey Reef Sharks (Carcharhinus amblyrhynchos) for four years in the remote Palmyra Atoll in the Pacific Ocean.

To study the Grey Reef Sharks, the researchers tagged about 40 individual sharks with acoustic transmitters that emit a unique high-frequency sound. A network of 65 receivers recorded the identiy of any tagged shark that came within 300 metres of any of the receivers. The batteries on the transmitters last for four years.

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Spider webs provide DNA information about insects

Scientists have discovered that spider webs provide DNA information about insects in forests. The information enables scientists to monitor the biodiversity of ecosystems.

Matjaž Gregorič at the Slovenian Academy of Sciences and Arts, and his colleagues, conducted a study on spider webs in 2020. 

They used the webs of two species of spiders: (1) Garden Spiders (Araneus diadematus) that make orb webs, and (2) Common Hammock-Weaving Spiders (Linyphia triangularis) that make cup-shaped webs. 

The spider webs act like a filter, trapping air particles, which also contain DNA from insects, fungi, and other bacteria. 

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Rare Chequered Skipper Butterfly reintroduced to England

The Chequered Skipper Butterfly (Carterocephalus palaemon) died out in England in 1976 due to changes in the woodlands. A rise in conifer plantations did not suit the butterfly, which led to their extinction. 

The Chequered Skipper Butterfly exists in parts of Europe, including Belgium. After more than 40 years of extinction, 24 butterflies were caught in Belgium and sent to England by Eurostar in 2018. They were released at a secret site in Rockingham Forest, Northamptonshire, as part of a wildlife charity Butterfly Conservation project called “Back from the Brink.”

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What is the difference in the way a baboon and an orangutan sleep?

What is the difference in the way a baboon and an orangutan sleep? 

Scientists conducted a research study to see if there was a difference in the way large primates sleep.

American scientists, Dr. Samson of Duke University in Durham, North Carolina and Robert Shumaker of Indiana University in Bloomington, chose two primate species to study, and they published their findings in the American Journal of Physical Anthropology in 2015. 

The primate species they chose to study were the baboon and the orangutan. The baboon is a monkey (it has a tail) and the orangutan is an ape (it does not have a tail). 

They video-taped 12 baboons and 5 orangutans sleeping over a period of 1-4 months. The scientists studied their sleeping positions, body movements, sleep patterns, and brain activity by measuring rapid eye movement (REM) sleep (which is light sleep) and non-rapid eye movement (NREM) sleep (which is deep sleep associated with dreaming). 

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