What is a Penguin Tester?

A Penguin Tester was installed at the Zoological Park in Paris, France. What is a Penguin Tester?

A Penguin Tester is a robot for use in the Humboldt Penguin enclosure at the zoo. The Humboldt Penguin (Spheniscus humboldti) is a marine (saltwater) bird. It is also known as the Peruvian Penguin. 

But the robot is not testing the penguins. The penguins are testing the robot. The penguins are helping zoologisits test that the machine works.

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RESEARCH: Albatrosses divorce more often when ocean waters are warm

Research scientists think that albatrosses divorce and seek new partners when conditions are harsher than usual, reported Science News in November 2021. The research was documented in the Proceedings of the Royal Society, Series B.

The albatross is a large seabird in the Diomedeidae family. The albatross is a monogamous bird, which means that it stays with the same partner for life. However, when ocean waters are warmer than average, more of the albatross birds break up and look for a new partner, says a recent study.

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RESEARCH: Older male elephants keep younger males calm

Older male elephants keep younger males calm and help prevent conflict with humans, says a new study reported in Science News in December 2021.

Researchers at the Centre for Research in Animal Behaviour at the University of Exeter in England conducted research with a British-based charity organization called Elephants for Africa that is also a registered non-government organization (NGO) in Botswana, Africa.

The researchers studied 281 male elephants in an all-male area in Makgadikgadi Pans National Park in Botswana for three years. They divided the elephants into four groups, by age: two groups of adolescents and two groups of adults. In one group of adolescents, the elephants were 10-15 years old, and in the other group of adolescents, the elephants were 16-20 years old. In one group of adults, the elephants were 21-25 years old, and in the other group of adults, the elephants were older than 26 years of age.

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Can animals live beneath the Antarctic ice?

Can animals live beneath the Antarctic ice? 

An article in the New Scientist magazine in December 2021 reports that a variety of marine (saltwater) animal species has been found below the Antarctic ice shelf, and that they can live there for thousands of years. They can live in the harsh freezing ice, with limited food, and in the darkness. These animals include corals, clams, sea mosses, snails, and worms.

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RESEARCH: Pet dogs respond to verbs, nouns, and terms of endearment

Current research demonstrates that pet dogs respond to verbs, nouns, and terms of endearment. Also, pet dogs respond to a range between 15-215 words or phrases – with an average of 89 words, documents New Scientist in December 2021.

Researchers Sophie Jacques and Catherine Reeve at Dalhousie University in Canada conducted a study of dogs and an itinerary of words to determine how many words, on average, dogs respond to. Rather than defining how many words dogs ‘know’ the researchers studied how many they ‘respond to’ – which means that the dog performed a trick or obedience behaviour, or performed an action such as tail wagging, or began looking at something or a direction, or search around for an item.

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RESEARCH: Dark-feathered turkeys are bolder and more adventurous than light-feathered turkeys

Researchers think that the colour of a turkey’s feathers can determine how scared or fearful, or how bold and brave, it might be. 

The New Scientist magazine, in December 2021, writes that in Nigeria, at the Federal University of Agriculture in Abeokuta, agricultural scientists are studying the Common Wild Turkey (Meleagris gallopavo). The Common Wild Turkey is a large bird in the Phasianidae family of pheasants, partridges, francolins, junglefowl, and grouse. It is a galliforme. The turkey can have black, white, or lavender feathers.

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RESEARCH: Waxbill birds have a social ranking based on the redness of their feathers

Researchers have found that the bird, the Common Waxbill (Estrilda astrild), chooses its leader based on the redness of its chest feathers. Leadership is not dependent upon intelligence, or size, or size of its family, or stress tolerance, or aggressiveness, or the wealth of the objects it collects – it is based on the colour of its feathers.

The study, reported in The New Scientist magazine in November 2021, found that a Waxbill’s social rank or dominance is linked to how richly red its chest feathers are. The rich red feathers are thought to be a signal of health. The redder the feathers, the healthier the bird, and the most likely it is to be a strong leader. 

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RESEARCH: Lemur songs are similar to human music

Lemur songs are similar to human music says new research reported in The New Scientist magazine on 25 October 2021.

Research scientists from the University of Turin in Italy are studying the Indri Lemur (Indri indri) in the lowland rainforest in eastern Madagascar.

Their research suggests that the primate’s calls have a great deal in common with human music.

The Indri Lemur sings to communicate with other family groups, or to locate and reunite with family members, says Chiara De Gregorio, the research leader. The Indri Lemur is a large, black and white lemur in the Indriidae family.

The researchers recorded songs from 20 different Indri Lemur groups over 12 years in Madagascar’s rainforests and analysed the timing of the notes.

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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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