Animals differ strikingly in character and temperament. Yet only recently has it become evident that personalities are a widespread phenomenon in the animal kingdom. Animals as diverse as spiders, mice and squids appear to have personalities. Personality differences have been described in more than 60 species, including primates, rodents, birds, fish, insects and mollusks.
Long before the National Security Agency began eavesdropping on the phone calls of Americans, young song sparrows were listening to and learning the tunes sung by their neighbors. University of Washington researchers exploring how male song sparrows (Melospiza melodia) acquire their song repertoires have found the first evidence that young birds choose many of their songs by eavesdropping on the tuneful interactions between other sparrows.
Many insects living in northern climates don't die at the first signs of cold weather. Rather, new research suggests that they use a number of specialized proteins to survive the chilly months. These so-called "heat-shock proteins" ensure that the insects will be back to bug us come spring.
More under the fold....
Mule deer are giving new meaning to watching out for other mothers' kids. An intriguing study of mule deer and whitetail deer conducted by the University of Alberta in Edmonton, Canada and the University of Lethbridge, also in Canada, showed that both species responded to the recorded distress calls of fawns, similar to the responses elicited when coyotes attack fawns, with mule deer mothers responding to both whitetail and mule deer calls, even when their own fawn stood next to them. In contrast, the whitetail mothers responded only to their own species' call, and only when they could not see their own fawn.
Sharks are known to have a keen sense of smell, which in many species is critical for finding food. However, according to new research from Boston University marine biologists, sharks cannot use just their noses to locate prey; they also need their skin -- specifically a location called the lateral line. The lateral line is an organ used by all fish to detect, with exquisite sensitivity, movement and vibration in the surrounding water. According to the research team, this is similar to how humans can sense air flow with the small hairs on the face. Until now, it had not been demonstrated that the lateral line also aids in the tracking of odor plumes.
"Offshore oil and gas development in Bristol Bay would be the wrong step for the right whale," said Margaret Williams, director of WWF's Bering Sea program. "This is a risk we simply can't afford to take. It would jeopardize the nation's most important fishery, the hundreds of communities that rely on fishing and a treasure trove of wildlife."
A bacterium discovered by Agricultural Research Service (ARS) scientists that is toxic to Colorado potato beetle also has been found to be toxic in varying degrees to gypsy moth, small hive beetle and tobacco hornworm.
Scientists have identified the receptor in cells of the peripheral nervous system that is most responsible for the body's ability to sense cold. The finding, reported on-line in the journal "Nature" (May 30, 2007), reveals one of the key mechanisms by which the body detects temperature sensation. But in so doing it also illuminates a mechanism that mediates how the body experiences intense stimuli -- temperature, in this case -- that can cause pain.