Steve Jenkins, 69, Dies; His Children’s Books Brought Science to Life

In plain language, he answered many burning questions: How do you catch a fly? What do animals do the day they’re born? How loud is a lion’s roar?

#animals, #art, #books-and-literature, #caldecott-medal, #children-and-childhood, #deaths-obituaries, #jenkins-steve-1952-2021, #writing-and-writers

The Kunga Was a Status Symbol Long Before the Thoroughbred

A new study finds the first known instance of a human-engineered hybrid, bred from a donkey and a Syrian wild ass 4,500 years ago.

#animals, #archaeology-and-anthropology, #biotechnology-and-bioengineering, #breeding-of-animals, #dna-deoxyribonucleic-acid, #donkeys, #horses, #research, #science-advances-journal, #your-feed-science

New Bait Uses Mosquitoes’ Love of Malaria Parasite to Bite Them Back

Molecules produced by the parasite lure mosquitoes to a beet-based bait

— Read more on ScientificAmerican.com

#advances, #animals, #biology

Fossils Reveal When Animals Started Making Noise

For billions of years Earth was quiet. Then life got loud

— Read more on ScientificAmerican.com

#animals, #biology, #evolution, #features

Desert Beetles Rely on Oral Sex for Successful Mating

The more time the insects spend on the courtship ritual, the better mating goes

— Read more on ScientificAmerican.com

#advances, #animals, #biology

Dogs Can Distinguish Speech from Gibberish–and Tell Spanish from Hungarian

A new study’s authors say their investigation represents the first time that a nonhuman brain has been shown to detect language

— Read more on ScientificAmerican.com

#animals, #biology

Pope Scolds Couples Who Choose Pets Over Kids

Expressing concern about global birthrates, Francis said such couples were acting in a selfish way that diminished humanity.

#animals, #francis, #pets, #roman-catholic-church

The Ghost Wolves of Galveston Island

A population of strange canids in Texas could hold the key to reviving the highly endangered red wolf.

#animal-behavior, #animals, #breeding-of-animals, #coyotes, #endangered-and-extinct-species, #galveston-tex, #galveston-island-tex, #genetics-and-heredity, #research, #vonholdt-bridgett-m-1980, #wolves, #your-feed-animals, #your-feed-photojournalism, #your-feed-science

Omicron Doesn’t Infect the Lungs Very Well, Animal Studies Find

Compared with earlier variants, Omicron may cause less damage to the lungs, new animal research suggests.

#animals, #coronavirus-delta-variant, #coronavirus-omicron-variant, #immune-system, #lungs, #mice, #research, #your-feed-science

Researchers built a gecko-bot to study how geckos glide and crash land

A gecko perches on a leaf. A September study found that geckos are very good gliders, and their tails help stabilize them when they crash-land into tree trunks.

Enlarge / A gecko perches on a leaf. A September study found that geckos are very good gliders, and their tails help stabilize them when they crash-land into tree trunks. (credit: MPI for Intelligent Systems)

There’s rarely time to write about every cool science-y story that comes our way. So this year, we’re once again running a special Twelve Days of Christmas series of posts, highlighting one science story that fell through the cracks in 2020, each day from December 25 through January 5. Today: Asian flat-tails geckos gliding in the wild use their tails to stabilize the landing after colliding head-first into tree trunks.

There are plenty of examples of gliding animals: flying squirrels, for instance, as well as certain snakes, lizards, and frogs. Now we can add geckos to that list. Researchers caught Asian flat-tailed geckos gliding in the wild on high-speed video, and found they used their tails to stabilize the landing after colliding head-first into tree trunks, according to a paper published in September in the journal Nature Communications Biology. They verified the biomechanics by building a mini gecko-bot and simulating the gliding behavior in the lab.

As we’ve reported previously, the diminutive gecko is capable of some extraordinary feats of locomotion, zipping along vertical walls with ease and even running short distances across water. Precisely how they accomplish these feats has long interested scientists. For instance, geckos are known for being expert climbers, able to stick to any surface thanks to the tiny hair-like structures on the bottoms of their feet. The little lizards can also zip along the surface of water at high speeds to elude predators. They can’t do it for very long; the energy expenditure required is too great.

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#animals, #biology, #biomechanics, #engineering, #geckos, #science, #soft-robotics

How We Treat Farmed Animals

Readers react to a column by Ezra Klein about the horrors of factory farming. Also: Hospitals and the unvaccinated; unwanted holiday gifts. 

#agriculture-and-farming, #animal-abuse-rights-and-welfare, #animals, #christmas, #coronavirus-2019-ncov, #factory-farming, #gifts, #hospitals, #meat, #vaccination-and-immunization

Tiny tardigrades walk like insects 500,000 times their size

SEM Micrograph of a tardigrade, commonly known as a water bear

Enlarge / SEM Micrograph of a tardigrade, more commonly known as a water bear or “moss piglet.” (credit: Cultura RM Exclusive/Gregory S. Paulson/Getty Images)

There’s rarely time to write about every cool science-y story that comes our way. So this year, we’re once again running a special Twelve Days of Christmas series of posts, highlighting one science story that fell through the cracks in 2020, each day from December 25 through January 5. Today: the amazing physics of the humble tardigrade.

Is there nothing the tiny tardigrade can’t do? More commonly known as water bears (or “moss piglets”), these amazing micro-animals can survive in the harshest conditions: extreme pressure, extreme temperature, radiation, dehydration, starvation—even exposure in outer space.  That hardiness makes them a favorite case study for scientists.

Earlier this year, researchers at Rockefeller University examined the water bear’s distinctive gait and concluded the creature’s movement resembles that of insects 500,000 times their size, according to a paper published in August in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

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#animals, #biology, #biomechanics, #biophysics, #physics, #quantum-entanglement, #quantum-physics, #science, #tardigrades, #water-bears

The Best Fun Science Stories of 2021: Rhythmic Lemurs, a Marscopter and Sex-Obsessed Insect Zombies

Check out the weird and wonderful stories that delighted us this year

— Read more on ScientificAmerican.com

#animals, #biology, #planetary-science, #plants, #robotics

Fish Do the Wave to Ward Off Predatory Birds

The synchronized dances of sulfur mollies is not only mesmerizing to watch, but also confusing to predators

— Read more on ScientificAmerican.com

#animals, #biology, #evolution

Potty Training Cows and Other Messy Stories from the Animal Kingdom

Wombats’ cubic poop, secret pee signals and pandas’ unusual strategy to stay warm

— Read more on ScientificAmerican.com

#advances, #animals, #biology

Inside the Campaign to Save an Imperiled Cambodian Rainforest

Deep in the Southern Cardamom Mountains, former loggers and poachers have assumed new roles as protective rangers and ecotourism guides. Can their efforts help preserve a vast stretch of wilderness?

#agriculture-and-farming, #animals, #cambodia, #conservation-of-resources, #environment, #forests-and-forestry, #koh-kong-province-cambodia, #logging-industry, #phnom-penh-cambodia, #southeast-asia, #travel-and-vacations, #wilderness-areas, #wildlife-trade-and-poaching

Newfound Millipede Breaks World Record for the Most Legs

It’s a millipede, literally

— Read more on ScientificAmerican.com

#animals, #biology

There Are Better Ways to Build a Burger

How we treat farm animals today will be seen as a defining moral failing of our age.

#agriculture-and-farming, #animal-abuse-rights-and-welfare, #animals, #content-type-service, #empathy, #factory-farming, #food, #good-food-institute, #innovation, #livestock, #meat, #mercy-for-animals

You asked. Ars answers. Here’s how to give an electric eel an MRI

Veterinarians at Chicago's Shedd Aquarium have pioneered a lot of unusual procedures to diagnosis and treat the animals in their care—including figuring out to give MRIs to electric eels.

Enlarge / Veterinarians at Chicago’s Shedd Aquarium have pioneered a lot of unusual procedures to diagnosis and treat the animals in their care—including figuring out to give MRIs to electric eels. (credit: Aurich Lawson | Getty Images)

Right before Thanksgiving, we reported on how Chicago’s Shedd Aquarium solved the Curious Case of the Missing Chloroquine. The antiparasitic drug is typically added to the water for new animals in quarantine, but it was mysteriously disappearing. The culprit: hungry, hungry microbes. The post included a throwaway line about how the aquarium vets also had the lowdown on how to give an electric eel an MRI.

That bit seemed to resonate with readers, and we received several queries about how, exactly, this feat might be accomplished. You asked. We wanted answers. So we turned to Bill Van Bonn, the clinical veterinarian in charge of the aquarium’s Center for Animal Health and Welfare, which boasts a state-of-the-art animal hospital for monitoring the health of all the animals in the exhibits and treating them as necessary. Dr. Van Bonn and his colleague, Dr. Karisa Tang, were happy to oblige.

Van Bonn describes the veterinary team at the aquarium as “family practitioners” rather than specialists, although they are able to draw on world-class expertise as needed from the greater Chicago area. And since there isn’t a lot of diagnostic and treatment precedent in the literature for many of the animals in their care, they practice comparative medicine by necessity.

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#animals, #biology, #electric-eels, #science, #shedd-aquarium, #veterinary-medicine

Movie-Making Tech Reveals Elephant Trunk Motions

The pachyderms build simple actions into complex movements

— Read more on ScientificAmerican.com

#advances, #animals, #biology

To See Where a Whale Has Been, Look in Its Mouth

The baleen that hangs from the jaws of some whale species contains clues about their migrations and diets

— Read more on ScientificAmerican.com

#animals, #biology, #ecology

The Ups and Downs of a Great Vertical Migration

Research is shedding light on why many water dwellers, from plankton to large fish, commute daily from the depths to the surface

— Read more on ScientificAmerican.com

#animals, #biology

How Cute Cats Help Spread Misinformation Online

A mainstay of the internet is regularly used to build audiences for people and organizations pushing false and misleading information.

#animals, #computers-and-the-internet, #epoch-times, #facebook-inc, #jukin-media-inc, #rumors-and-misinformation, #social-media

The Surprising Architecture in Bees’ Honeycombs

The insects’ hives are more complicated than researchers thought

— Read more on ScientificAmerican.com

#advances, #animals, #biology

The Surprising Secret of Snakes’ Venomous Bites

Fangs evolved over and over because of this groovy process

— Read more on ScientificAmerican.com

#advances, #animals, #biology, #evolution

Albatross ‘Divorce’ Rate Rises as the Ocean Warms

Monogamous black-browed albatross may split up from the stress of less food availability

— Read more on ScientificAmerican.com

#animals, #biology, #climate-change, #environment

Metamorphosis: Scientists watch butterfly wings grow inside chrysalis in real time

Close-up photograph of gorgeous butterfly.

Enlarge / A painted lady butterfly lands on a flower. The bright iridescent colors in its wings don’t come from pigment molecules but from how the wings are structured. Chitin scales essentially form a diffraction grating tuned to specific wavelengths of light. (credit: Mark Rightmire / Getty Images)

One of the best-known poems by Gerard Manley Hopkins opens with a tribute to the phenomenon of iridescence. It’s represented by the colorful wings of kingfishers and dragonflies in Hopkins’ poem, but iridescence can also be found in the wings of cicadas and butterflies, in certain species of beetle, and in the brightly colored feathers of male peacocks. Now, a team of researchers at MIT have captured on video the unique structural growth of butterfly wings—continuously, as a butterfly develops inside its chrysalis—for the very first time. The researchers described their findings in a new paper published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

As I’ve written previously, the bright iridescent colors in butterfly wings don’t come from any pigment molecules but from how the wings are structured. It’s a naturally occurring example of what physicists call photonic crystals. The scales of chitin (a polysaccharide common to insects) are arranged like roof tiles. Essentially, they form a diffraction grating, except photonic crystals only produce certain colors, or wavelengths, of light, while a diffraction grating will produce the entire spectrum, much like a prism.

Also known as photonic bandgap materials, photonic crystals are “tunable,” which means they are precisely ordered in such a way as to block certain wavelengths of light while letting others through. Alter the structure by changing the size of the tiles, and the crystals become sensitive to a different wavelength. (In fact, the rainbow weevil can control both the size of its scales and how much chitin is used to fine-tune those colors as needed.)

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#animals, #biology, #butterflies, #mechanical-engineering, #metamorphosis, #photonic-crystals, #science, #structural-color

Mystery of Doomed Sardine Migration Is Finally Solved

Pulses of cold seawater mislead millions of sardines into swimming along the South African coast to their death

— Read more on ScientificAmerican.com

#animals, #biology

Rubbing Up Against Sharks May Feel Good Despite the Danger

Fish species were found deliberately chafing on sharks around the world, though why they do so is not entirely clear

— Read more on ScientificAmerican.com

#animals, #biology

Three Snow Leopards Died of Covid Complications at Nebraska Zoo

The mountain cats had tested positive for the virus about a month ago.

#animals, #cats, #coronavirus-2019-ncov, #leopards, #lincoln-neb, #tigers, #zoetis-inc, #zoos

2 Ivory Smugglers Captured in International Operation, U.S. Says

The undercover joint operation by the U.S. and Congolese governments also resulted in the seizure of millions of dollars’ worth of illegal wildlife plunder.

#africa, #animals, #congo-democratic-republic-of-congo-kinshasa, #elephants, #endangered-and-extinct-species, #homeland-security-department, #ivory, #money-laundering, #pangolins, #rhinoceroses, #smuggling, #wildlife-trade-and-poaching

Scientists tracked these spiders’ every movement as they wove their webs

Johns Hopkins University researchers discovered precisely how spiders build webs by using night vision and artificial intelligence to track and record every movement of all eight legs as spiders worked in the dark.

Ovid’s Metamorphoses speaks of the orb-weavers, said to be descendants of Arachne, a figure in Greek mythology who wove beautiful tapestries and dared to challenge Athena to a weaving contest. Angry that she could find no flaws with Arachne’s work—and also because the tapestry depicted the gods in an unflattering light—Athena beat the girl with a shuttle. When Arachne hanged herself in remorse, Athena took pity and transformed the rope into a web and Arachne into a spider.

It’s an apt literary allusion for a new study on how spiders weave their webs, which is no doubt why scientists at Johns Hopkins University referenced the Ovid story in a recent paper published in the journal Current Biology. The JHU team used night vision and AI to record every single movement of several hackled orb-weavers as they spun their webs. The experiment revealed that the spiders rely on a shared set of movements amounting to “a web-building playbook or algorithm” to create the elegant, geometrically precise structures—even though they have teeny-tiny brains compared to humans.

Co-author Andrew Gordus, a behavioral biologist at JHU, said that he was inspired to undertake the project while he was out birding with his son and saw an especially spectacular spider web. “I thought, ‘If you went to a zoo and saw a chimpanzee building this, you’d think that’s one amazing and impressive chimpanzee,'” said Gordus. “Well, this is even more amazing because a spider’s brain is so tiny and I was frustrated that we didn’t know more about how this remarkable behavior occurs. Now we’ve defined the entire choreography for web building, which has never been done for any animal architecture at this fine of a resolution.”

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#animals, #arachnids, #biology, #science, #spiders

Genes Reveal How Some Rockfish Live Up to 200 Years

Scientists surveyed dozens of species’ genomes to uncover keys to longevity

— Read more on ScientificAmerican.com

#animals, #biology, #genetics

Captured on video: Bees pipe out alarms to warn of “murder hornet” attacks

Wellesley College researchers have identified a sound that Asian honeybees use to warn the hive of a “murder hornet” attack.

Asian honeybees (Apis cerana) produce a unique alarm sound to alert hive members to an attack by giant “murder hornets,” according to a new paper published in the journal Royal Society Open Science. For the first time, scientists at Wellesley College have documented these so-called “anti-predator pipes,” which serve as clarion calls to the hive members to initiate defensive maneuvers. You can hear a sampling in the (rather disturbing) video, embedded above, of bees under a hornet attack.

“The [antipredator] pipes share traits in common with a lot of mammalian alarm signals, so as a mammal hearing them, there’s something that is instantly recognizable as communicating danger,” said co-author Heather Mattila of Wellesley College, who said the alarm signals gave her chills when she first heard them. “It feels like a universal experience.”

As I’ve written previously, so-called murder hornets rocketed to infamy after November 2019, when a beekeeper in Blaine, Washington, named Ted McFall, was horrified to discover thousands of tiny mutilated bodies littering the ground—an entire colony of his honeybees had been brutally decapitated. The culprit: the Asian giant hornet species Vespa mandarinia, native to Southeast Asia and parts of the Russian Far East. Somehow, these so-called “murder hornets” had found their way to the Pacific Northwest, where they now pose a dire ecological threat to North American honeybee populations. 

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#animals, #antipredator-pipe, #biology, #entomology, #honeybees, #murder-hornets, #science, #vocalizations

New Zealand’s Sea Lions Are Back, and Crashing Golf Courses and Soccer Matches

After their populations were decimated by hunters, New Zealand’s sea lions are returning to the coasts — sometimes surprising locals by turning up in unexpected places.

#animals, #dunedin-new-zealand, #ecology-and-evolution-journal, #environment, #michigan-state-university, #new-zealand, #research, #sea-lions, #south-island-new-zealand

On Tiny Guam, It’s One Dogcatcher vs. 30,000 Strays

They bite, they threaten, they carry the risk of rabies. Islanders are sharply divided over what to do about the dogs. And Nicholas Ibanez is caught in the middle.

#animal-abuse-rights-and-welfare, #animals, #dogs, #guam

Widespread Coronavirus Infection Found in Iowa Deer, New Study Says

The analysis by Penn State and Iowa researchers strongly indicates that deer are getting the virus from humans, worrying experts about a deep wild reservoir for the virus.

#animals, #coronavirus-2019-ncov, #coronavirus-risks-and-safety-concerns, #deer, #hunting-and-trapping, #minks-animals, #pennsylvania-state-university, #research, #your-feed-science

Dog and Cat ‘Moms’ and ‘Dads’ Really Are Parenting Their Pets

Evolutionary science suggests that humans nurture their pets like they do human children

— Read more on ScientificAmerican.com

#animals, #biology, #social-sciences

See through the Glasswing Butterfly’s Fascinating Wings

New research shows how these transparent wings develop

— Read more on ScientificAmerican.com

#advances, #animals, #biology

These Bugs Produce Smelly Defenses That Need to Be Heard to Be Believed

You read that right. Researchers have taken the chemical defenses of some insects and turned them into sounds, which, it turns out, repel people just as well.

— Read more on ScientificAmerican.com

#animals, #biology

A Frothy Mucus Nest Protects Frog Eggs from Drought

Frogs whip up climate-beating slime nests for their offspring

— Read more on ScientificAmerican.com

#advances, #animals, #biology

For Some Parents, Hiding a Dead Body Shows How Much You Care

In beetles—we are talking beetles—some of whom have learned, over millions of years of evolution, to dampen the stench of decay in order to help their young thrive.

— Read more on ScientificAmerican.com

#animals, #biology

Wild Animals Are Thriving in New York City Right Now

New York is now ‘the greenest big city on earth,’ one naturalist said. Some creatures have noticed, and are staying for a while.

#animals, #area-planning-and-renewal, #audubon-society-national, #benepe-adrian, #birds, #charlop-powers-sarah, #endangered-and-extinct-species, #floods, #flowers-and-plants, #greenbelt-native-plant-center, #natural-areas-conservancy, #new-york-city, #new-yorkers-for-parks, #parks-and-other-recreation-areas, #parks-and-recreation-department-nyc, #pesticides, #wetlands, #wildlife-sanctuaries-and-nature-reserves

How Did Elephants and Walruses Get Their Tusks? It’s a Long Story.

A new study reveals how some mammals evolved nature’s most impressive chompers (which are not always used for chomping).

#animals, #elephants, #endangered-and-extinct-species, #evolution-biology, #mammals, #paleontology, #pangaea, #proceedings-of-the-royal-society-b-journal, #teeth-and-dentistry

Home Alone: The Fate of Post-Pandemic Dogs

Our canine companions have become accustomed to having their humans around 24/7

— Read more on ScientificAmerican.com

#animals, #biology

Giant Lemurs Are the First Mammals (Besides Us) Found To Use Rhythm

Indris’ dramatic family ‘songs’ show repeatable timing patterns

— Read more on ScientificAmerican.com

#animals, #biology, #endangered-species

The Venus’s Flower Basket’s Weird Fluid Dynamics Explained

A deep-sea sponge’s unique structure helps it eat and mate while reducing drag

— Read more on ScientificAmerican.com

#advances, #animals, #biology

Dinosaurs May Have Been Socializing Nearly 200 Million Years Ago

A trove of fossilized eggs and skeletons in Argentina revealed that some dinosaurs likely traveled in herds and socialized by age.

#animal-behavior, #animals, #argentina, #dinosaurs, #endangered-and-extinct-species, #fossils, #paleontology, #research, #scientific-reports-journal, #south-america

Owner of Maryland’s Runaway Zebras Is Charged With Animal Cruelty

Jerry Lee Holly, 76, was charged a month after one of the wayward zebras was found dead in an illegal snare trap in Upper Marlboro, Md.

#agriculture-and-farming, #agriculture-department, #animal-abuse-rights-and-welfare, #animals, #humane-society-of-the-united-states, #maryland, #prince-georges-county-md, #upper-marlboro-md, #workplace-hazards-and-violations, #zebras

Trapped in amber: Fossilized dinosaur-era crab bridges evolutionary gap

Trapped in amber: Fossilized dinosaur-era crab bridges evolutionary gap

Enlarge

Once upon a time, during the Cretaceous period, a tiny crab wandered out of the water onto land and somehow got trapped in amber, which preserved it for 100 million years. At least that’s what a team of scientists hypothesize might have happened in a new paper announcing their discovery of the oldest known modern-looking crab yet found in the fossil record. The paper was published in the journal Science Advances.

This new type of “true crab” (aka a brachyuran) measures just five millimeters in leg span and has been dubbed Cretapsara athanata. The name is meant to honor the period in which the crab lived and Apsara, a South and Southeast Asian spirit of the clouds and waters. “Athanatos” means “immortal,” a sly reference to the fossilized crab being frozen in time.

It’s rare to find nonmarine crab fossils from this era trapped in amber; most such amber fossils are those of insects. And the previously discovered crabby fossils are incomplete, usually consisting of pieces of claws. This latest find is so complete that it doesn’t seem to be missing even a single hair. The find is of particular interest because it pushes back the time frame for when nonmarine crabs crawled onto land by 25 to 50 million years—consistent with long-standing theories on the genetic history of crabs—and offers new insight into the so-called Cretaceous Crab Revolution, when crabs diversified worldwide.

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#animals, #crabs, #cretaceous, #evolution, #fossils, #micro-ct-scanning, #paleontology, #science, #transitional-fossils