Archives for May, 2011

Multi-media Finches

Young male finches are able to copy their father’s songs and will adopt the songs of foster parents from other species. However, they resist learning tape-recorded songs. Researcher Patrice Adret at the University of Chicago wanted to know if they would be able to learn recorded bird songs if they were allowed to control the…

Top 20 Common Birds in Decline

It should not be surprising that the decline of most bird species may be attributed to changes in their habitat. These changes may include human-related causes such as increased farming, urban sprawl, industrial development, logging, drilling and mining. Global warming is to blame for earlier springtimes that can impact the mating habits of birds. Fires…

The Birds and the Bees

PHOTO CREDIT: M. Walters, University of Canterbury Like bees, birds are important plant pollinators. Scientists have provided evidence that declining bird populations have negatively impacted plant reproduction. They found that on islands where bird populations have dwindled, the density of Rhabdothamnus solandri shrubs (shown above from figure 1 of the article) have also declined. This…

Mongoose 1, Cobra 0

In this amazing video from National Geographic, a mongoose is shown winning a battle with an Asian cobra. How can these cute animals compete against such a deadly snake? It turns out that the mongoose is resistant to snake venom, specifically, alpha-bungarotoxin. This toxin is lethal to many creatures because of its ability to block…

Leprosy

Image Source: tsuru-bird.net The low body temperature of armadillos is thought to contribute to their susceptibility to infection with the bacteria responsible for causing leprosy, Mycobacterium leprae. In fact, armadillos were intentionally inoculated with the bacteria in the 1960’s to allow researchers to learn more about this disease and to develop treatments. In 1975, researchers…

Photo by Bryan Roeder of a hibernating ground squirrel courtesy of Dr. Sandra Martin. I sent these great comments and questions about a recent blog on Dr. Sandra Martin’s work with hibernating ground squirrels to the expert for her response: Halie J: I really found this article interesting. Knowing that animals gain muscle mass while…

Burning Proteins to Save Water

Image Source: http://www.ontfin.com/Word/marwick-head/ Migratory birds utilize significant amounts of protein during their long distance flights. Researchers Schwilch et al., have studied this process in migratory passerines, or perching songbirds. What they found was that most of the protein is derived from breast muscles with some proteins from coming from organs. Until now, researchers had assumed…

Translucency

Photo Credit: Photograph by Ingo Arndt, Minden Pictures Looking rather like an alien from a Star Trek episode, this sea butterfly snail is just one of many marine animals found in a photo gallery of translucent marine life on the National Geographic website. However the strangest cartoon-like fish has to be the Pacific barreleye shown…

Image of gypsy moth larvae from: USDA Forest Service Archive, Bugwood.org According to the Smithsonian Encyclopedia, the gypsy moth (Lymantria dispar) was brought to the United States in the mid-19th century in an attempt to find a silk-producing moth that would not be susceptible to diseases that afflicted Silkworm Moths. Deserving of their name, these…