Animal Behaviour

Neurophilosophy

Category archives for Animal Behaviour

Half-brain micro-napping

Every autumn, millions of songbirds embark upon long distance southerly migrations to warmer climes. Some species migrate during the day, but the majority – including sparrows, thrushes and warblers – do so at night, leaving their daytime habitats just after dusk and spending the next 8-10 hours on the wing. Nocturnal migration has several benefits.…

The brain keeps time with a metronome

The fourth dimension – time – is essential for many cognitive processes, and for rhythmic movements such as walking. Recent research has begun to elucidate how neuronal activity encodes events that occur on the timescale of tens to hundredths of milliseconds (hundredths of a second) and contain cues which are required for processes such as…

The staggering escape of the crayfish

When confronted with threatening stimuli and predators, the crayfish responds with an innate escape machanism called the startle reflex. Also known as tailflipping, this stereotyped behaviour involves rapid flexions of the abdominal muscles which produce powerful swimming strokes that thrust the small crustacean through the water and away from danger. In the struggle for existence,…

The smell of fear

NEARLY 70 years ago, Karl von Frisch described the alarm response in a species of small freshwater fish called the European minnow (Phoxinus phoxinus). Frisch, who was one of the founders ethology – the scientific study of animal behaviour – demonstrated that when a minnow was eaten by a predator, a chemical released from its…

Who’s a clever boy then?

Self-recognition was long believed to be unique to humans. However, it was established more than 30 years ago that the great apes are capable of recognizing themselves in the mirror, and more recently it has been found that dolphins and elephants can too. Now Prior et al provide the first evidence of mirror self-recognition in…

Nematodes see without eyes

The humble nematode Caenorhabditis elegans is a millimeter-long roundworm which eeks out its existence in the soil and feeds on bacteria. Because it lives in a dark environment, and lacks specialized light-sensing organs, the nematode has always been assumed to be completely blind. However, a new study published online in Nature Neuroscience shows that C.…

Rockatoo

Nature News has an interesting article by Philip Ball about a dancing cockatoo named Snowball: Aniruddh Patel of the Neurosciences Institute in La Jolla, California, and his colleagues say that Snowball’s ability to shake his stuff is much more than a cute curiosity. It could shed light on the biological bases of rhythm perception, and…

5 amazing feats of animal intelligence

In recent years, researchers have found that a wide variety of animal species, many of the cognitive skills that were once thought to be unique to humans. These findings show that we have grossly underestimated the intelligence of other animals, and that we are not as different from them as we like to think we…

But do chimps look forward to sex?

Our closest extant relatives have received a fair bit of attention in the past few days, with the publication of two new studies which have been picked up by numerous news outlets. First came the study by Fraser et al, which shows that chimps, like humans, console each other with physical contact following bouts of…

Photo by Einat Adar  Our feathered friends provide us with some beautiful examples of the link between brain and behaviour. In some bird species, groups of cells involved in seasonal behaviours die after they have performed their function, but are regenerated by neurogenesis as and when they are needed. Male songbirds, for example, serenade females;…