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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RESEARCH: Scientists think penguins in Antarctic prefer ice-free conditions

Scientists have been studying penguins in the Antarctic Region.

Polar biologists have seen populations of penguins increase during years when there is not a lot of ice in the region. They have also seen breeding reductions during the years when there is a lot of sea ice. However, they did not know why ice-free conditions made populations increase. But after this recent study, the polar biologists think they know why.

Polar biologists at the Japanese National Institute of Polar Research put electronic global positioning system (GPS) tags on 175 Adelie Penguins (Pygoscelis adeliae) in the Antarctic Region. They also put video cameras in different locations to monitor what happens during the four seasons of the year when there are different sea ice conditions.

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RESEARCH: Tracking Red Pandas in Nepal

Research scientists are satellite tracking the movements of Red Pandas in the mountains of Nepal. 

Red Pandas (Ailurus fulgens) are endangered and there are only a few thousand individuals in their native environment in the eastern Himalayas and in southwestern China. The population numbers are declining due to habitat loss, poaching (illegal hunting), and inbreeding. 

In Nepal, Red Pandas are a protected species. The conservation scientists have put Global Positioning System (GPS) collars on 10 Red Pandas to remotely monitor their range of movements in the forests near Mount Kangchenjunga. 

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RESEARCH: Orangutans scratching is contagious

Contagious behaviour occurs when someone sees a behaviour and then does the same behaviour involuntarily as a reflex action. For example, if we see someone yawn, we yawn. We say that yawning is contagious. 

Scientists have found that orangutans scratch as an involuntary reflex when they see another orangutan scratch. 

Scientist Daan Laméris and a team of researchers studied Bornean Orangutans (Pongo pygmaeus).

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RESEARCH: Otters juggle stones when they are excited about food

Scientists have shown, in a new study, that otters juggles stones when they are excited about food.  

Scientists think that the behaviour might help to train young otters to learn the skills they will need to help them get food from mussels and clams. For older otters, the behaviour might keep them active and busy. 

The scientists observed zoo otters tossing stones in the air, like juggling stones, while standing or lying on their backs. 

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RESEARCH: Insect numbers are decreasing

German researchers wanted to determine the effects of urbanisation on insect numbers. They found that insects are disappearing more quickly than they expected.

The researchers collected more than one million insects across 300 sites in Germany in 2008. They did the same exercise in the same sites 10 years later in 2018. They wrote about their experiment results in the Nature journal in 2019.

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RESEARCH: African Grey Parrots help other parrots

African grey parrots voluntarily and spontaneously help other parrots to achieve a goal, without obvious immediate benefit to themselves. Research co-author Désirée Brucks of the Max Planck Institute for Ornithology, Germany, announced this result in January 2020.

Parrots and crows are known for having large brains relative to the size of their bodies, and that they are good at problem-solving. However, earlier studies showed that crows don’t help other crows, so researchers wondered whether parrots help other parrots, explained Désirée Brucks and study co-author Auguste von Bayern.

In their new study, Brucks and von Bayern enlisted several African Grey Parrots and Blue-Headed Macaws to help the research team.

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RESEARCH: Fish can sing, researchers say

Marine biologists have found that fish can sing.

Some marine biologists have recorded fish singing. The sound recordings were captured by two sea-noise loggers (marine biologists) near the Port Hedland shore in Western Australia and also 21 kilometres (13 miles) away from shore. The sounds were recorded for 24 hours a day for seven days a week for 18 months. 

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RESEARCH: Bird feeders – are they good for birds?

Bird feeders are containers filled with birdseed and placed in the garden to attract wild birds.

A British study has found that putting bird feeders in your garden helps the growth of bird populations.

The study, published in May 2019 in the Nature Communications journal, looked at the advantages, disadvantages and impact of bird feeders in people’s garden over the past 40 years.

The researcher, Kate Plummer of the British Trust for Ornithology, and a team of volunteers, have been monitoring the species of birds that feed on seeds and fruit from bird feeders across England since the 1970s. 

The 40-year data shows that about 68 species of birds have always used the bird feeders from the 1970s to the present day. 

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RESEARCH: Dog intelligence – does size matter?

Does size matter when determining the intelligence of a breed of dog? If a bigger dog has a bigger brain, does that make big dogs smarter than small dogs? As dogs increase in size, does their intelligence increase proportionately?

A new study in the Animal Cognition journal examines the intelligence of big dogs and small dogs. 

Daniel Horschler and his research scientists at the School of Anthropology at the University of Arizona in Tucson, America, conducted dog experiments with dog owners. He used ‘citizen science’ to help his research team collect dog information – specifically to research the mental capabilities of dogs.

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RESEARCH: Why does the Giant Tortoise live for a century or more?

Why does the Giant Tortoise have a long life span? 

Why does the Giant Tortoise, particularly the Galapagos Island Giant Tortoise, a land tortoise, live for a century – a 100 years – or more? 

An individual Pinta Island Giant Tortoise (Chelonoidis abingdonii), called Lonesome George, died in 2012, at the age of 100 or more. Scientists used his body for research to determine why he lived so long.

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RESEARCH: Why do ostriches have two legs but four knees

Why do ostriches, the largest living bird species, with the largest eggs of any bird, have two legs but four knees? Specifically, ostriches have four kneecaps, and therefore four knees. Emus and cassowaries have no kneecaps.

Sophie Regnault, and her research colleagues at the Royal Veterinary College in London, examined a dead ostrich donated to the college.

They bent and straightened the ostrich’s knees, and used an imaging technique called biplanar fluoroscopy to track how the bones moved. Then they built a simple model to understand how the kneecaps affected the leverage of the muscles controlling the knee.

Kneecaps help animals to flex the extensor muscles in their knees, so that they don’t need to exert force to straighten their knees.

However, ostriches have an upper kneecap and a lower kneecap on each leg that act differently from the kneecaps of other animals.

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RESEARCH: Larks and Owls – Chronotypes: early riser or late to bed?

The lark – a small diurnal songbird – rises early and is active during the day, whereas the owl – a large nocturnal bird – is active at night.

Psychology Today has documented a recent study on chronotypes – whether a person is a morning person (up with the lark) or a late night person (to bed with the owl) and who they attract as partners.

Many studies have been previously conducted on personality traits, but there has been limited studies on chronotypes. Chronotypical behaviour is a preference for rising early or going to bed late. Morning people are called larks (and they reach peak performance early in the day) and late night people are called owls (who perform well in the afternoon or evening).

However, there is a continuum, with most people clustering around the middle – a neutral chronotype.

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RESEARCH: Pets may help people beat mental health problems

Scientists at the University of Liverpool in England have conducted a study on the benefits of pets for people with mental health problems.

Researcher Helen Brooks, and her colleagues at the University of Liverpool, studied 17 international research papers on pets and human benefits, particularly involving people with mental health problems. They studied the extent, nature, and quality of the evidence of pet ownership.

They found positive, negative, and neutral impacts of pets on people with mental health problems. However, there were many ways in which pets contributed to the work associated with managing a mental health condition, particularly in times of crisis, trauma, or stress.

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RESEARCH: Primate group size is not random

Scientists have learned that the size of groups of primates is not random. There is a preferred group size.

Excluding humans, primates are mammals that have two arms and two legs, with the ability to climb trees (with most having five digits on each limb and an opposable thumb). Primates have large brains, and forward-facing eyes. Primates include apes, monkeys, lemurs, tarsiers, and lorises.

Susanne Shultz at the University of Manchester in the United Kingdom, and her research colleagues, compared group sizes in 215 primate species.

The researchers found that the average number in a group varied between species but was always clustered around five distinct sizes.

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