RESEARCH: Parrots love video chats 

Parrots love video chats, say scientists conducting research on parrot intelligence.  

Scientists have found that parrots need social connection and mental stimulation. They then wondered whether parrots would welcome video chats to satisfy their need for sociability.

Rebecca Kleinberger, a researcher at the Northeastern University in Boston, America, enrolled 18 parrots and their human owners in an unusual experiment to see if the parrots would connect with their owners and other parrots over video calls.

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RESEARCH: Hammerhead Sharks conserve body heat during deep dives 

Tropical Hammerhead Sharks can dive into frigid depths to find food, say scientists in a recent study of shark behaviour documented in The New York Times on 11 May 2023.

The Scalloped Hammerhead Shark (Sphyrna lewini) is an elasmobranch ectotherm fish in the Sphyrnidae family with a cartilaginous skeleton. It is also known as the Bronze Hammerhead, the Kidney-Headed Hammerhead, or the Southern Hammerhead. It likes warm ocean water, such as the tropical waters of Hawaii. 

Research scientists have found that the tropical Hammerhead Shark can dive more than 790 metres (2,600 feet) from the warm ocean surface to frigid depths multiple times a night to hunt for fish and squid.

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Why are insects thriving in England’s rivers?

Why are insects thriving in England’s rivers?

Researchers have studied insects in English rivers for thirty years. The Environment Agency monitoring data shows that insects and other invertebrates are increasing and it may be linked to lower levels of metals in the rivers, such as zinc and copper.

The New Scientist magazine (19 May 2023) reported that insects are more abundant now than at any time over the past thirty years. 

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RESEARCH: Gibbons plan ahead for breakfast

Gibbons plan ahead for breakfast to beat out their rivals and competitors. This is the view of scientists studying Gibbon behaviour, who maintain that the reason they plan ahead is to get the best breakfast spots. 

Scientists say that the Gibbons remember the locations of the best food and they go to these locations earlier than other animals when they want to eat fruit for breakfast.

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Slug poop can produce mushroom colonies

Slug poop can produce mushroom colonies, say scientists in Japan. Scientists have found that a Mantleslug (Meghimatium fruhstorferi) can play an important role is dispersing the spores (seeds) of fungi – especially species of mushrooms.

Scientists at Kanazawa University in Japan examined the faeces of the Mantleslug and its DNA. Researcher Nobuko Tuno said she initially did not think the role of the slug was effective because it is not very mobile. However, when she saw the results of a different study on mushroom-eating fly larvae, which reported increased fungal colonisation in soil, Nobuko Tuno took a closer examination of slugs.

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RESEARCH: How do balls of worms untangle? It’s in the way they move!

How do balls of worms untangle? Harry Tuazon of the Georgia Institute of Technology in America has found that a ball of worms can untangle in milliseconds with a corkscrew wiggle.

What does this mean? And why is it important to know?

Researcher Harry Tuazon studied California Blackworms (Lumbriculus variegatus). He found that they tangle themselves into a ball to preserve moisture during droughts. He calls these ‘balls’ of worms knotted ‘worm blobs.’ In the wild, these balls can have up to 50,000 individual worms.

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Goats that take more risks get more food

Studying innovation in animal behaviour is difficult, say psychologists. Innovation in animals is determined by the way they solve new problems or if they find new ways to solve old problems. 

When studying animal innovation, most animals are scared or cautious about new things, especially new objects, near them. Also, most animal psychology studies focus on birds (crows and parrots are very innovative) and primates (chimpanzees, monkeys, gorillas, etc.). 

Psychology students at the University of Barcelona, Spain, conducted a recent study on animal innovation and cognition, and published the results in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B. Alvaro Caicoya and his research team wanted to study animals that were not birds or primates – i.e., animals not usually known for being innovative. They looked at 13 species of hoofed mammals (ungulates) – a total of 111 animals in zoos in Spain and Germany. 

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Why is seabird poop good for the environment?

Why is seabird poop good for the environment?

The poop of seabirds is important for the environment, writes Jason Bittel for the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC). Jason Bittel writes that seabird droppings – from Penguins and especially flying seabirds – help to fertilize plants, and whole colonies of seabirds depositing their poop can have a positive affect on coral reefs and climate. 

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Research shows that wild African Elephants act like domestic animals

Research shows that wild African Elephants act like domestic animals, and that they may have domesticated themselves.

Humans have domesticated many animals to be friendly, sociable, and docile. Scientists have seen that wild African Elephants play, care for their young, and show social behaviours that domesticated animals have, even though they have never been domesticated by humans. 

Scientists say that wild African Elephants (Loxodonta africana) are one of the few species to show self-domestication, which has only previously been documented in Bonobo Chimpanzees (Pan paniscus).  

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RESEARCH: The changing vision of the Jewel Beetle 

A March 2023 study says that the Jewel Beetle evolves its vision to see new colours.

Scientists at the University of Minnesota in America are studying the Jewel Beetle, known for its elytron (shell) of vivid, iridescent, and metallic colours.

The Jewel Beetle is an insect in the Buprestidae family of wood-boring beetles. It has large, well-developed eyes, and scientists in the College of Biological Sciences at the University of Minnesota want to learn about its vision. 

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Beehome is the first robotic hive to protect the planet’s bees

An American-based company called Beewise created the world’s first robotic hive – called a Beehome – in 2017 to help save and protect the planet’s bees. 

The Beehome is a solar-powered, artificially-intelligent, robotic hive, placed in a field, that accommodates 24 colonies of bees – about 2 million bees. It is 1 metre (3 feet) high and 3 metres (10 feet) wide. It can replace the traditional 150-year-old Langstroth wooden bee boxes used by beekeepers.

The beekeeper can care for the bees remotely.The Beehome replicates what human beekeepers do, but on a minute-by-minute real-time basis.

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After 12 years apart, elephants may recognise the smell of a relative’s poop

Elephants have a reputation for having a long memory. Scientists have now found that elephants seem to recognise the smell of a relative’s poop – dung, manure, faeces, stools, excrement – even after 12 years apart.

New Scientist’s Life magazine (February 2023) reports on the findings of researchers at the University of Wuppertal in Germany who are studying elephant behaviour, especially elephant memory. 

Two mother-daughter pairs were about to reunite after years apart, and the researchers wanted to test their memories of each other. Would the mothers recognise their daughters’ manure, and would the daughters recognise their mothers’ manure?

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RESEARCH: War in the Banded Mongoose colony

The Mongoose is a solitary mammal, but not the Banded Mongoose which lives in a colony of about 20 individuals, and up to 55 individuals. The colony lives underground in burrows, called dens.

The Banded Mongoose (Mungos mungo) is a small carnivorous mammal found in central and eastern Africa – and is related to the Meerkat.

Robert Businge, a researcher in the Banded Mongoose Research Project in the Queen Elizabeth National Park in western Uganda (established in 1995), says the colony is extremely violent and warmongering. ‘They are aggressively violent animals that wage war on neighbouring colonies.’ They are also violent towards each other in their own colony. He added, ‘They brutally murder and maim their rivals, and they also expel close relatives from their group, and will kill them if they don’t leave.’

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Monk Parakeets have unique voices so that they can identify each other

Humans have unique voices and can tell the difference between one person’s voice and another person’s voice (most of the time). Our friend next door sounds different from our teacher. 

The Monk Parakeet is the first bird species known to have multiple vocalisations within its colony of individuals, reports New Scientist magazine in February 2023. Having different individual voices in the parakeet colony means that they can tell the difference between their friends and their enemies.

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RESEARCH: Cockatoos can use several tools in a toolkit to retrieve food

Scientists found that cockatoos understand when a job requires a toolkit and multiple tools.

Scientists at the University of Veterinary Medicine Vienna, in Austria, studied Goffin’s Cockatoos (Cacatua goffiniana) from Indonesia, reported the New Scientist LIFE magazine in February 2023.

Antonio Osuna-Mascary, a researcher at the University, said that the cockatoos know when to use more than one tool to retrieve food which, previously, scientists thought only chimpanzees could do. This makes the cockatoos only the second non-human animal to use multiple tools to achieve one task.

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See-through Glass Frog hides its blood

People can see the beating heart of the see-through Glass Frog. But, its blood is less visible. Scientists have recently discovered why. The Glass Frog hides its blood in its liver when it sleeps.

The Glass Frog (Hyalinobatrachium yaku) and the Fleischmann’s Glass Frog (Hyalinobatrachium fleischmanni) live in the tropical, dense Amazonian lowlands of Ecuador. 

The size of a marshmallow, the amphibians are called Glass Frogs because their skin is translucent and transparent (see-through). Jesse Delia at the American Museum of Natural History in New York said to the New Scientist LIFE magazine in 2022, “If it wasn’t for that green skin on their back, you would probably be able to read a newspaper through them.”

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RESEARCH: Reindeer can help humans treat depression

In 2019, the New Scientist LIFE magazine wrote about the superpowers of reindeers. Do they really have superpowers?

The Reindeer, or Caribou, is a large mammal in the Cervidae family of deers. Nearly 5 million Reindeers live in the freezing climate of the Arctic, from Alaska to Siberia and Greenland, where there are more periods of night-time darkness than day-time light. 

Genetic scientists know that Reindeers can change the colour of their eyes from gold in summer to blue in winter. They are also working on the Ruminant Genome Project to study Reindeer genes – their DNA – to compare their genes to human genes and other animals, especially other ruminants. Ruminants are animals that chew their cud, such as deer, cattle, goats, sheep, giraffes, gazelles, and antelopes.

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RESEARCH: Mice can tell the difference between an image and the real thing

This is the first study that shows behavioural evidence that laboratory mice have perceptual abilities, just like mammalian humans and non-human primates (apes, chimpanzees, gibbons, gorillas, lemurs, monkeys, etc.). 

Robert W Stackman and FAU neuroscience researchers from the Department of Psychology, Charles E Schmidt College of Science, Stiles-Nicholson Brain Institute, Center for Complex Systems and Brain Science, and Institue for Human Health and Disease Intervention found that ‘a functional mouse hippocampus is required for this form of non-spatial visual recognition memory and picture-object equivalence.’

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Why do parrots live long lives?

Why do parrots live so long?

Scientists knew that large birds and parrots live long lives, but now a new study reveals the mystery of parrot longevity.

Researchers at the Max Planck Institute of Animal Behaviour and the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Germany studied 217 parrot species (half of the known species of parrots), such as the Scarlet Macaw (Ara macao) in South America and the Sulphur-Crested Cockatoo (Cacatua galerita galerita) in Australia. They published their results in March 2022 in Proceedings of the Royal Society B.

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RESEARCH: Long distance travel for migrating birds has disadvantages – a high ‘divorce’ rate

There are some disadvantages of long distance travel for migrating birds says a scientific study.

The New Scientist’s LIFE magazine (November 2022) reports on the high rate of break-ups – ‘divorce’ – in bird species with longer migration routes. But why would there be a high rate of bird divorce?

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