A team of scientists, led by the University of Exeter, has used game theory to explain the bizarre behaviour of a group of ravens. Juvenile birds from a roost in North Wales have been observed adopting the unusual strategy of foraging for food in ‘gangs’. New research explains how this curious behaviour can be predicted by adapting models more commonly used by economists to analyse financial trends.
Veterinarians frequently suffer psychosocial stress and demoralization associated with heavy workloads. New research analyses the extent of the problem and reveals a complex relationship with binge drinking, tobacco consumption and drug use.
Ken Dial at The University of Montana has unveiled a major new theory for the evolution of flight that is changing textbooks around the world. It involves wing-assisted incline running and a fundamental bird wing angle. When Ken Dial made one of the sweetest, most surprising discoveries of his career, he swore like a sailor.
It happened like this: The University of Montana researcher and two grad students were working in the University’s Flight Laboratory, a high-tech avian research facility at Fort Missoula. Once a U.S. Cavalry stable, the building now sports a modern interior with offices, aviaries, holding cages, a surgical suite, a wind tunnel, electrical gear and lots of different bird species.
Capsaicin, the active ingredient in spicy hot chili peppers such as the jalapeno, is most often experienced as an irritant, but it may also be used to reduce pain. A new work published by Drs. Feng Qin and Jing Yao in this week’s PLoS Biology uses capsaicin to uncover novel insight into how pain-receptor systems can adapt to painful stimuli.
Wash away your gray? Maybe. A team of European scientists have finally solved a mystery that has perplexed humans throughout the ages: why we turn gray. Despite the notion that gray hair is a sign of wisdom, these researchers show that wisdom has nothing to do with it.
The evolutionary tendency of corals to alter their skeletal structure makes it difficult to assign them to different species. Researchers writing in the open access journal BMC Evolutionary Biology have used genetic markers to examine coral groupings and investigate how these markers relate to alterations in shape, in the process discovering that our inaccurate picture of coral species is compromising our ability to conserve coral reefs.
When shopping, we often find ourselves choosing between lower- and higher-cost items. But most people make a choice based on the first digit they see, according to a new study in the Journal of Consumer Research. “Shoppers pay a disproportionate amount of attention to the leftmost digits in prices and these leftmost digits impact whether a product’s price is perceived to be relatively affordable or expensive,” write authors Kenneth C. Manning (Colorado State University) and David E. Sprott (Washington State University).
“Psychedelica” seems the perfect name for a species of fish that is a wild swirl of tan and peach zebra stripes and behaves in ways contrary to its brethren. So says University of Washington’s Ted Pietsch, who is the first to describe the new species in the scientific literature and thus the one to select the name.
“What you see is what you get” often is the mantra in the highly competitive life of birds, as they use brilliant displays of color to woo females for mating. Now researchers are finding that carotenoids — the compounds responsible for amping up red, orange, and yellow colors of birds — also may play a role in color perception and in a bird’s ability to reproduce, making it a cornerstone in birds’ vitality.
Prof Dave Stuart, Director of Life Sciences at Diamond – the UK national synchrotron – and head of the Structural Biology Laboratory at Oxford’s Wellcome Trust Centre for Human Genetics will unveil the structure of a biological protein from the vaccinia virus at the American Association for the Advancement of Science – AAAS- in Chicago. This is a significant step towards unlocking effective therapies to treat viruses.
Researchers at Uppsala University can now show that what is good for one sex is not always good for the other sex. In fact, evolutionary conflicts between the two sexes cause characteristics and behaviors that are downright injurious to the opposite sex. In both males and females in the animal world it is common – much more common that one might like to think – for one sex to evince characteristics and properties that are injurious to individuals of the other sex, according to Professor Göran Arnqvist at the Department of Ecology and Evolution, who adds:
The extinction of species is a consequence of their inability to adapt to new environmental conditions, and also of their competition with other species. Besides selection and the appearance of new species, the possibility of adaptation is also one of the driving forces behind evolution. According to the interpretation that has been familiar since Darwin, these processes increase the “fitness” of the species overall, since, of two competing species, only the fittest would survive. LMU researchers have now simulated the progression of a cyclic competition of three species. It means that each participant is superior to one other species, but will be beaten by a third interaction partner. “In this kind of cyclical concurrence, the weakest species proves the winner almost without exception,” reports Professor Erwin Frey, who headed the study. “The two stronger species, on the other hand, die out, as experiments with bacteria have already shown. Our results are not only a big surprise, they are important to our understanding of evolution of ecosystems and the development of new strategies for the protection of species.”
Chinstrap penguins and fur seals showed persistent preferences for particular foraging areas even after a storm reduced the availability of food of choice in those areas, according to a study by Dr. Joseph Warren, Assistant Professor in the School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences at Stony Brook University and colleagues, published in the journal Marine Biology.
Magnets usually attract, but the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) want magnets to do just the opposite. FWC biologists are studying if magnets can keep state-endangered American crocodiles from returning to situations where they are not welcome, primarily in neighborhoods in Miami-Dade and Monroe counties. Crocodile-human interactions have increased as the crocodile population has recovered. One technique to resolve these conflicts is translocation. This involves capturing the crocodile and moving it to suitable crocodile habitat as far away as possible, in an attempt to keep it away from an area. However, translocation is seldom effective. FWC biologists have found that translocated crocodiles will travel an average of 10 miles per week to return to their capture site, in a practice called “homing.” Others never make it because they are hit and killed by vehicles as they cross roads. Some may be killed by other crocodiles at the release site or during their journey back.
Most wild species are expected to colonise northwards as the climate warms, but how are they going to get there when so many landscapes are covered in wheat fields and other crops? A study published February 25, 2009 shows it is possible to predict how fast a population will spread and reveals the importance of habitat conservation in helping threatened species survive environmental change