36 Animal Intelligence News Articles
from 1st Quarter of 2016
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3-31-16 Giant rats trained to detect tuberculosis in prisons
Giant rats trained to detect tuberculosis in prisons
Rats are already used to sniff out landmines, but now they are going to be used to sniff out tuberculosis (TB) in Tanzania and Mozambique. Scientists from APOPO, a non-governmental organisation, have trained African giant pouched rats to detect the disease. The organisation will use them in crowded prisons, where TB often goes undiagnosed, because prisoners do not have money or awareness to go to screenings. (Webmaster's comment: They are also used to find people in collapsed buildings. They can get in where nothing else can.)
3-31-16 How do you bring up a baby gorilla?
How do you bring up a baby gorilla?
A baby gorilla who was born by caesarean section, is being cared for by humans until she can be reunited with her mother at Bristol Zoo. Lynsey Bugg, who is the Curator of Mammals at the zoo, said the gorilla - who has been named Afia - was getting "stronger by the day". She also described what it was like bringing up a baby gorilla at home with her family.
3-30-16 Girl trains dog, Pip, to 'sniff out' diabetes dange
Girl trains dog, Pip, to 'sniff out' diabetes dange
A 13-year-old girl with diabetes says she has taught her dog, Pip, to sniff out changes in her blood sugar levels. Katie Gregson, from St Anne's in Lancashire has type 1 diabetes, which can be dangerous and needs to be closely managed. Pip's strong sense of smell can help detect when Katie's glucose levels fall below or creep above critical levels.
3-30-16 Human versus pig: Can we outwit the hog hordes?
Human versus pig: Can we outwit the hog hordes?
Feral pigs have ruined crops, dug up cemeteries and even crashed a fighter jet. The challenge: eliminate a foe that's smarter than a chimp and can run at 50 km/h. Across the world, and especially in the southern US, feral pigs are a problem. Marauding hordes of swine are destroying crops and sensitive natural environments, causing traffic accidents and spreading disease and parasites. They have even dug up cemeteries. The US Department of Agriculture estimates the damage at $1.5 billion a year. Traps of the sort Woodson lays are generally thought to be the least bad option in dealing with the pigs. But porcine intelligence makes trapping a full time job. Pigs have been shown to beat chimps when it comes to IQ, are whizzes at navigating complex mazes and can manipulate cursors on a screen by controlling a joystick with their snout. It means in simple traps they soon work out how to jump over short fences and climb taller ones, for example by gaining purchase at a corner.
3-28-16 Why some male hyenas leave and others are content to stay home
Why some male hyenas leave and others are content to stay home
Males that stay with their birth clan, instead of taking off to join a new group, may simply be making a good choice, a new study suggests. Spotted hyenas are a matriarchal society. Females are in charge. They rank higher than every male in the clan. And the females generally stay with the clan for their entire lives. But males face a choice when they reach two and a half years in age. They can stay with the clan, or they can leave and join a new clan.
3-25-16 A golden retriever steering a moped through traffic
A golden retriever steering a moped through traffic
A golden retriever named Sidney became an overnight celebrity in Indonesia after he was filmed steering a moped through traffic with his owner on the back. The video shows the dog wearing sunglasses and cruising down a busy road in the city of Manado while his owner, Revol Gerungan, relaxes on the rear seat. Gerungan said he used to seat Sidney behind him on the moped, but moved him forward to keep him more secure. “Over time,” Gerungan said, “he showed a talent for steering.”
3-25-16 Charity of the week
Charity of the week
Bats make up more than 20 percent of the world’s mammal species, filling vital roles as pollinators, seed dispersers, and pest managers. But bat populations around the world are declining, largely because of human activity. Of the more than 1,300 bat species, some 954 are considered vulnerable, with 26 critically endangered. Bat Conservation International (batcon.org) has worked since 1982 to study and protect bats and their habitats. The organization supports bat conservation programs around the world, partnering with NGOs, businesses, and local governments to address issues affecting bat species. BCI also invests in the next generation of bat conservationists and scientists through scholarships and grants, supporting training for graduate students in 62 countries.
3-23-16 Woodpeckers carry wood-eating fungi that may help them dig holes
Woodpeckers carry wood-eating fungi that may help them dig holes
Red-cockaded woodpeckers carry spores of wood-decaying fungi on their beaks, wings and feet, which could make it easier for them to excavate cavities. The red-cockaded woodpecker seems to carry spores of fungi that rot wood in what appears to be a symbiosis that benefits both partners. Red-cockaded woodpeckers live in the pine forests of the south-eastern US. They have an important role as “ecosystem engineers”, digging tree cavities that they use for many years and that are then used by other species when they move out. The birds live in family groups, and each group usually has several cavities at different stages of construction. It’s no quick bodge job – carving out the holes can take eight years. Some people think that woodpeckers get help from fungi to make their cavities, but evidence for this has been lacking – until now. (Webmaster's comment: Eight Years! Than's planning ahead!)
3-21-16 Manta rays are first fish to recognise themselves in a mirror
Manta rays are first fish to recognise themselves in a mirror
Mirror test suggests big-brained manta rays have what it takes to be self-aware, but not everyone is convinced by results or even the test itself. Giant manta rays have been filmed checking out their reflections in a way that suggests they are self-aware. Only a small number of animals, mostly primates, have passed the mirror test, widely used as a tentative test of self-awareness. “This new discovery is incredibly important,” says Marc Bekoff, of the University of Colorado in Boulder. “It shows that we really need to expand the range of animals we study.” But not everyone is convinced that the new study proves conclusively that manta rays, which have the largest brains of any fish, can do this – or indeed, that the mirror test itself is an appropriate measure of self-awareness.
3-10-16 Why killer wales should not be kept in captivity
Why killer wales should not be kept in captivity
For the last few years there has been a torrent of stories of captive orcas suffering severe health problems, and in some cases attacking and even killing their trainers. Many of these stories have focused on an orca called Tilikum, who lives at SeaWorld Orlando in Florida. Tilikum has been involved in three deaths during his time in captivity. SeaWorld has now announced that Tilikum's health appears to be deteriorating, possibly due to a bacterial infection in his lungs. In response, conservation groups are once again calling for an end to the practice of keeping orcas, and other large marine mammals, in captivity. Are they right?
3-4-16 What do chimp ‘temples’ tell us about the evolution of religion?
What do chimp ‘temples’ tell us about the evolution of religion?
Biologists working in the Republic of Guinea have found evidence for an apparent "sacred tree" used by chimps, perhaps for some sort of ritual. All hail the sacred tree. I’ve often wondered aloud in the newsroom about the possibility of finding evidence of a chimp shrine, the discovery of a place where chimps pray to their deity. Biologists working in the Republic of Guinea found evidence for what seemed to be a “sacred tree” used by chimps, perhaps for some sort of ritual. Laura Kehoe of the Humboldt University of Berlin, Germany, set up camera traps by trees marked with unusual scratches. What she found gave her goosebumps: chimps were placing stones in the hollow of trees, and bashing trees with rocks. The behaviour could be a means of communication, since rocks make a loud bang when they hit hollow trees. Or it could be more symbolic. “Maybe we found the first evidence of chimpanzees creating a kind of shrine that could indicate sacred trees.”
2-29-16 Whale algorithm could unlock secrets of their many dialects
Whale algorithm could unlock secrets of their many dialects
Could we speak whale one day? A whale song algorithm can pick up their different dialects and could help work out how they communicate with one another. A computer has learned to suss out the different dialects of long-finned pilot whales. The approach is a step towards unlocking the secrets of how whales communicate with one another. Some marine mammals, like sperm whales, develop distinct songs that are particular to their social groups. Just as a human might pick up an accent or a set of idioms from their parents, so too whales have their own cultures of communication. Analysing whale song recordings can help us learn more about these differences. This process normally involves assessing recordings visually, with computers only used to check for specific features like whistles. But this means you might miss important clues to how the whales communicate, says Sarah Hallerberg at the Max Planck Institute for Dynamics and Self-Organization in Germany. “Some features that might seem very relevant to a human might be very different to the whale.”
2-26-16 Bromance helps stressed out warring chimps keep their cool
Bromance helps stressed out warring chimps keep their cool
Strong friendships in primates may have evolved to counteract the damaging health effects of living in complex social groups. When it comes to warfare, chimps are a bit like the ancient Greeks. They like to head into battle with a close friend at their side – a tactic that seems to lower their stress. Many primate species, including macaques and baboons, form strong, long-lasting social bonds with particular individuals that resemble human friendship. These relationships appear to benefit both males and females: they are associated with higher reproductive success and even longer life. In male chimps these bonds can seem surprising, given that adult males are extremely aggressive, sometimes killing each other. “Chimpanzees are highly territorial and encounters with neighbouring groups tend to be very hostile and can be deadly,” said Catherine Crockford of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany, last week at the Ethological Society annual meeting in Göttingen. Yet pairs of strongly bonded males also engage in relaxed, cooperative behaviours, including sharing food and grooming vulnerable, intimate areas, such as genitalia.
2-24-16 Wild gorillas compose happy songs that they hum during meals
Wild gorillas compose happy songs that they hum during meals
Humming their individual songs may be a way for gorillas to communicate dinner times and contentment with their meals. Gorillas sing and hum when eating, a discovery that could help shed light on how language evolved in early humans. Singing seems to be a way for gorillas to express contentment with their meal, as well as for the head of the family to communicate to others that it is dinner time. Food-related calls have been documented in many animals, including chimpanzees and bonobos, but aside from anecdotal reports from zoos, there was no evidence of it in gorillas. To see if they make these noises in the wild, Eva Luef, a primatologist at the Max Planck Institute for Ornithology in Seewiesen, Germany, observed two groups of wild western lowland gorillas in the Republic of the Congo. Luef identified two different types of sound that the gorillas sometimes made when eating. One of them was humming – a steady low-frequency tone that sounds a bit like a sigh of contentment.
2-14-16 The pigeon will see you now
The pigeon will see you now
A rat or pigeon might not be the obvious choice to tend to someone who is sick, but these creatures have some superior skills that could help the diagnosis and treatment of human diseases. Pigeons are often seen as dirty and an urban nuisance, but they are just the latest in a long line of animals that have been found to have abilities to help humans. Despite having a brain no bigger than the tip of your index finger, pigeons have an impressive visual memory. Recently it was shown that they could be trained to be as accurate as humans at detecting breast cancer in images. The African pouched rats are highly accurate TB detectors. Doctor dog - the emergency seizure detector. It has been shown that trained dogs are able to provide signals, such as persistently nudging someone's leg, between 15 and 45 minutes before their owner had a seizure.
2-12-16 Amazingly Human Behavior
Amazingly Human Behavior
A buff kangaroo that likes flexing his muscles and posing for beefcake shots has become a star in Australia. Visitors are flocking to Alice Springs’ Kangaroo Sanctuary after photos of Roger, 9, flaunting his bulging biceps and pecs went viral online. The 6-foot-7-inch, 196-pound roo works out by wrestling with other males and “crushing metal buckets” between his paws, said keeper Chris Barnes. Sanctuary visitors aren’t able to take a selfie with the macho marsupial, because Roger will “attack anyone or anything that gets too close to him or his women,” said Barnes.
2-10-16 Horses recognise human emotions
Horses recognise human emotions
Horses are able to discriminate between happy and angry human facial expressions, according to research. In an experiment using photographs of male human faces, scientists from the University of Sussex showed that domestic horses "responded negatively" to angry expressions. The scientists say domestication may have enabled horses to adapt to and interpret human behaviour.
2-8-16 How do you prepare orangutans to go back into the wild?
How do you prepare orangutans to go back into the wild?
The school that teaches orangutans. Orangutans living at a sanctuary in Indonesia are being prepared for release back into the wild. Forest fires and poaching have led to a decrease in the population. International Animal Rescue has more than 100 at its sanctuary in Ketapang in western Kaliman province. Rehabilitation can take up to eight years.
2-5-16 Spread of bee disease 'largely manmade'
Spread of bee disease 'largely manmade'
The global trade in bees is driving a pandemic that threatens hives and wild bees, UK scientists say. A deadly bee disease has spread worldwide through imports of infected honeybees, according to genetic evidence. Stricter controls are needed to protect bees from other emerging diseases. The virus together with the Varroa mite can kill-off whole hives, putting bee populations at risk.
2-4-16 First orangutan murder seen as pair team up to kill female
First orangutan murder seen as pair team up to kill female
Orangutans are normally solitary, only coming together to mate. But violence could increase as they are forced closer together by habitat destruction. It was a deadly rumble in the jungle. A female orangutan was attacked and killed by another female and a male – the first time lethal aggression has been seen in the species. Female orangutans are normally solitary, and very rarely engage in fights. It’s also unusual for females and males to form coalitions. In this case, Kondor, a young female, and Ekko, her suitor, beat and bit an older female named Sidony in the swamp forests of Indonesia’s Mawas Reserve. Sidony sustained serious wounds that became infected, and she died two weeks later.
2-2-16 Ravens’ fear of unseen snoopers hints they have theory of mind
Ravens’ fear of unseen snoopers hints they have theory of mind
The cunning birds hide their food more quickly if they think they are being watched, suggesting they can attribute mental states to others. Fears over surveillance seem to figure large in the bird world, too. Ravens hide their food more quickly if they think they are being watched, even when no other bird is in sight. It’s the strongest evidence yet that ravens have a “theory of mind” – that they can attribute mental states such as knowledge to others.
2-1-16 Europe’s song birds perfect their tunes when wintering in Africa
Europe’s song birds perfect their tunes when wintering in Africa
Birds such as the great reed warbler sing outside their breeding season in tropical lands to practise their complex tunes. For many of Europe’s song birds, the winter migration south isn’t just about finding food – it’s band camp. Sorensen’s team studied the great reed warbler, whose males have complex songs. The three leading hypotheses are that birds sing to defend their winter feeding territory, that they do it as a non-adaptive consequence of elevated testosterone levels, or that they sing as a practice to improve complex songs for subsequent breeding. The most elaborate crooners are more successful at winning mates during the breeding season back in Europe.
1-29-16 Honeybees know it’s going to rain, so work more before it starts
Honeybees know it’s going to rain, so work more before it starts
Busy bees put in longer hours in anticipation of a day off work because of rain. But why they do so is still a mystery. Busy bees get busier if the next day looks rainy. This is according to Xu-Jiang He and colleagues at Jiangxi Agricultural University in Nanchang, China, who attached tiny radio-frequency identification (RFID) tags to 300 worker honeybees from each of three hives. They used these to monitor when the bees left the hive, how long they were gone and when they quit work in the evening. The bees spent more time out of the hive foraging and stopped work later in the afternoon when the following day proved to be rainy rather than sunny. They seemed to be responding to cues such as changes in humidity, temperature and barometric pressure that preceded rainstorms.
1-29-16 Fighting octopuses 'change colour to signal intent'
Fighting octopuses 'change colour to signal intent'
Octopuses may have more complex social interactions than previously believed, a new study has found. Biologists studied a group of Sydney octopuses off Australia's east coast and observed a range of behaviour that may indicate complex social signalling. Octopuses that stand tall, turn dark and spread their web in a "Nosferatu pose" are likely showing aggression. Conversely, octopuses may display a pale colour after losing a fight or when trying to avoid conflict. (Webmaster's comment: They're talking, they're just not talking like us.)
1-28-16 Octopuses resolve conflicts with many-armed body language
Octopuses resolve conflicts with many-armed body language
Often thought of as solitary animals, octopuses have been observed changing colour and posture to prevent confrontations in crowded spots from escalating. Eight arms may allow for very expressive body language. Octopuses have been captured on video changing their colour and posture, and spreading out their limbs to communicate, during tense interactions with each other. Octopuses are known to change their appearance, but this was thought to be a camouflage tactic rather than for social purposes. These animals are typically thought to be solitary, often hiding at the bottom of the sea on their own – though some recent observations suggest this isn’t always the case.
1-25-16 Watch brainy zoo animals figure out a box puzzle to get at food
Watch brainy zoo animals figure out a box puzzle to get at food
Tests on 35 species show that relative brain size predicts a carnivore's ability to solve problems, with bears beating meerkats. Carnivores with bigger brains are better at problem solving. It’s a no-brainer: animals with bigger brains are better problem-solvers. But there has been little evidence for the idea – until now. Sarah Benson-Amram at the University of Wyoming in Laramie and colleagues have tested it using puzzle boxes baited with food. When they presented these to 140 carnivores from 39 species in North American zoos, they found that those with larger brains relative to body mass, such as river otters and bears, were better at opening the boxes (see video). “Meerkats and mongooses pretty much failed completely,” says Benson-Amram. Problem-solving is linked to cognitive ability, she says, although intelligence is so broad that “it would be difficult, if not impossible, to measure”. Another issue is whether the size of specific brain regions, for example the hippocampus, which deals with spatial memory tasks, is more important in problem-solving than overall brain size. Benson-Amram and her team tackled this by creating virtual models of the carnivores’ brains. This allowed them to deduce the size of specific areas and examine the role they played. The team concluded that overall relative brain size was still the best predictor of problem-solving ability. They also found that manual dexterity, or whether an animal lived in groups, was not a factor. This contradicts the social brain hypothesis – the idea that complexities of group living are responsible for the evolution of large brains and cognitive ability. (Webmaster's comment: But the crows and parrots beat them all.)
1-24-16 The sneaky way falcons control their prey's minds
The sneaky way falcons control their prey's minds
Peregrine falcons and their sandpiper prey are engaged in a psychological war, where a mistake means death.
1-23-16 The whales that speak in code to show their identity
The whales that speak in code to show their identity
Eavesdropping on sperm whales has revealed that they can convey a lot of information about themselves in just a few clicks. It has now become apparent that each individual whale makes unique calls. These are similar to two kinds of markers that humans use to identify ourselves: our names and voices. Each whale produces short bursts of clicks called "codas". They are so distinct, researchers can identify the whales from sound alone. (Webmaster's comment: And so can the whales identify each other. They have a language just like the dolphins do, and just like we do.)
1-22-16 Cross-species dolphin society gets friendlier after hurricanes
Cross-species dolphin society gets friendlier after hurricanes
Unusual coalitions of bottlenose and spotted dolphins drop their aggression following hurricanes, revealing peaceful interactions as the basis for mingling. The bottlenose and spotted dolphins of the Bahamas are unusual in that they often intermingle. Now, observations show these unusual coalitions survived two deadly hurricanes. Afterwards the dolphin interactions were less aggressive, perhaps to allow them to adjust to post-disaster life. Bottlenose and spotted dolphins in the Bahamas play and forage together, sometimes even babysitting each other’s young. But bottlenose males also routinely use their size advantage to forcibly hone their mating skills on their smaller cousin species.
1-21-16 Venus flytrap 'counts' to control digestion
Venus flytrap 'counts' to control digestion
Venus flytraps "count" the number of times a struggling insect touches their trigger hairs and use that information to ramp up their digestion, according to a study by German scientists. They recorded the impulses generated by these hairs, on the inside of the plant's maw, and measured various changes within the plant. For example, two touches trigger a hormone increase; five bring on the production of digestive enzymes.
1-21-16 Venus flytrap can count prey’s steps to dissolve them alive
Venus flytrap can count prey’s steps to dissolve them alive
When an insect lands on a flytrap, the plant counts the number of times it is touched to trigger different stages of digestion. When an insect wanders on to one of these carnivorous plants, every misstep is tallied and converted into chemical signals. This helps the plant to catch its prey and then work out how to go about digesting it. We knew that some plants use maths – namely arithmetic division – to ration their food supplies overnight. The new research now shows that the Venus flytrap (Dionaea muscipula) counts external signals in real time, recording the number of times it is touched and translating that information into chemical signals that do different things. Brushing just one of the sensitive trigger hairs on a flytrap once isn’t enough to spring it shut. But if a second touch follows, the trap closes in a tenth of a second. That’s because the first touch causes molecules to build up in the trap’s sensory hairs and the second pushes their concentration across a threshold, resulting in an electrical impulse that activates the trap.
1-18-16 How to make friends with wild gorillas
How to make friends with wild gorillas
Grauer’s gorillas are the largest primates in the world and are capable of awesome displays of power and brute strength. But a harmonious family life lies at the heart of society for these elusive and threatened giants. Wildlife cameraman and presenter Gordon Buchanan tells BBC Earth how he attempted to get to know a population of the great apes living deep in a forest in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
1-10-16 Mass bee die-offs are threatening nearly half of U.S. crops
Mass bee die-offs are threatening nearly half of U.S. crops
es are in trouble. One in 10 wild bee species faces extinction in Europe, and another U.S. species may soon be declared endangered. Now, scientists are abuzz after a new study in PNAS offers even more sobering news: Wild bees declined in 23 percent of the contiguous U.S. between 2008 and 2013, and the absence of those key pollinators could threaten nearly 40 percent of U.S. crops. (Webmaster's comment: Scientists have been trying to solve this problem for nearly 10 years now and still are little closer to a solution. We have two documentaries on the subject: Vanishing of the Bees and More Than Honey)
1-8-16 Falcons imprison live birds to keep them fresh for a later meal
Falcons imprison live birds to keep them fresh for a later meal
Eleonora's falcons in Morocco seem to pluck and imprison small birds in rocky crevasses so they can eat them later. In a census of the island’s falcons in 2014, Abdeljebbar Qninba of Mohammed V University in Rabat, Morocco, and his colleagues came across small birds trapped in deep cavities, their flight and tail feathers removed. The birds were unable to move their wings or use their dangling legs, the team reported. Crippling and imprisoning prey might be a means of keeping fresh food nearby, so parents can stay on the nest and still have snacks nearby to feed hungry offspring. (Webmaster's comment: Amazing! The falcons are keeping livestock, just as humans do. We also clip the wings of geese and ducks so they can't fly away so we can eat them later. We also often imprison them in pens for the same reason.)
1-6-16 Farting plants have a built-in stink bomb that deters predators
Farting plants have a built-in stink bomb that deters predators
Plants may be better at sensing their surroundings than we thought, with the roots of the Mimosa kicking up a real stink when they sense a potential threat. Many plants are famed for their putrid smells, and it has been known for decades that unpleasant sulphurous odours are released when soil is disturbed around the roots of some plants – including members of the Mimosa genus. Until now, it has been assumed that these odours are released passively as a result of tissue damage, like when a bay leaf is crushed or onions are cut with a knife. But Musah has found that the roots of some species actively release their foul smell. Her team made this discovery while growing seedlings of Mimosa pudica, known for its sensitive leaves that fold up when touched. They found that this plant’s roots are also touch-sensitive, releasing the odour when accosted
1-6-16 Monitor lizards trained not to eat toxic cane toads
Monitor lizards trained not to eat toxic cane toads
Scientists have devised a radical solution to reduce the damaging impact of Australia's deadly cane toads. They have trained wild monitor lizards, known locally as goannas, not to eat the toxic amphibians. They did this by feeding the reptiles small, less potent cane toads. Many that tried the toads once did not make the same mistake again. The researchers say that extending the trial could help the continent's wildlife.
1-3-16 Goat and tiger's unlikely friendship
Goat and tiger's unlikely friendship
It is the story of an animal friendship that was never meant to be. A month ago, at a safari park in the far east of Russia, a goat was released into a tiger's enclosure as a live prey. Things haven't turned out as might have been expected for Timur and Amur - and now fans are following the pair's progress via a live webcam.
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36 Animal Intelligence News Articles
from 1st Quarter of 2016
Animal Intelligence News Articles from 2nd Half of 2015