Animal Behaviour

Neurophilosophy

Category archives for Animal Behaviour

THE United States military funded research into using networks of ‘spy crows’ to locate soldiers who are missing in action, and extended the work to see if the birds might be useful in helping them to find Osama bin Laden. The idea may seem far-fetched, but unlike some military research programs (such as the Stargate…

Ernst Haeckel’s Kunstformen der Natur (Artforms of Nature) was a landmark in biological illustration. Published in 1904, it was lavishly illustrated with 100 exquisitely detailed lithographic plates, including this one, showing nine different species of cubomedusae, or box jellyfish. It has been known, since around the time that Haeckel’s masterpiece was published, that box jellyfish…

SNAKES have a unique sensory system for detecting infrared radiation, with which they can visualize temperature changes within their immediate environment. Using this special sense, they can image the body heat radiating from warm-blooded animals nearby. This enables them to track their prey quickly and with great accuracy, even in the dark, and to target…

SEVERAL hundred species of fish have evolved the ability to generate electric fields, which they use to navigate, communicate and home in on prey. But this ability comes at a cost – the electric field is generated continuously throughout life, so consumes a great deal of energy, and it can also attract predators which are…

The star-nosed mole’s amazing appendages

THIS weird and wonderful creature is the star-nosed mole (Condylura cristata), a small, semi-aquatic mammal which inhabits the low wetlands of eastern North America. Like other moles, it ekes out an existence in a network of narrow underground tunnels, and digs shallow surface tunnels where it forages for insects, worms and molluscs. Living as it…

Those clever corvids

NOT so long ago, the idea that birds might possess some form of what we call intelligence seemed quite ridiculous. Yet this view has changed dramatically in recent years, with numerous studies showing that some bird species are capable of complex cognition. Members of one family of birds in particular – the Corvidae, which includes…

Tiger moths jam bat sonar

BATS use sonar, or echolocation, to navigate complex environments, and also to forage and then accurately pinpoint the flying insects on which they prey. Insects in turn have evolved various counter-measures to evade capture. Some species have ears which are in tune to the echolocation signals, while others are capable of performing complex evasive flight…

Human cultural traits such as language, dress, religion and values are generally said to be passed from one generation to the next by social learning. And in animal species which have language, the same is true; male song birds, for example, learn the songs with which they serenade potential mates from older male relatives. A…

Brain & behaviour of dinosaurs

Bones have been big news recently, following the publication of two papers which document remarkable fossil finds. First, a group of palaeontologists led by Phil Gingerich of the University of Michigan described Maiacetus inuus, a primitive whale which lived in the water but gave birth on land, and which marks the transition between modern whales…

The harmonic duets of mosquitoes in love

The familiar buzzing sound made by a mosquito may be irritating to us humans, but it is an important mating signal. The sound, produced by the beats of the insect’s wings, has a characteristic frequency called the “flight tone”; when produced by a female, it signals her presence to nearby males, thereby attracting potential mates.…