Tag Archives | Animals

Monkeys, Money, and The Primate Origins of Human Irrationality with Laurie Santos

Via You Are Not So Smart:

Our guest in this episode of the You Are Not So Smart Podcast is psychologist Laurie Santos who heads the Comparative Cognition Laboratory at Yale University. In that lab, she and her colleagues are exploring the fact that when two species share a relative on the evolutionary family tree, not only do they share similar physical features, but they also share similar behaviors. Psychologists and other scientists have used animals to study humans for a very long time, but Santos and her colleagues have taken it a step further by choosing to focus on a closer relation, the capuchin monkey; that way they could investigate subtler, more complex aspects of human decision making – like cognitive biases.

One of her most fascinating lines of research has come from training monkeys how to use money. That by itself is worthy of a jaw drop or two.

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Rare Red Fox Reappears in Yosemite Park

A rare photo of a Sierra Nevada red fox, snapped by a remote camera trap in Yosemite National Park. Credit: National Park Service

A rare photo of a Sierra Nevada red fox, snapped by a remote camera trap in Yosemite National Park.
Credit: National Park Service

via Live Science:

The elusive and rare Sierra Nevada red fox has been spotted in Yosemite National Park for the first time in nearly a century, park officials said yesterday (Jan. 28).

Camera traps caught the sleek animal in a remote northern corner of the park on Dec. 13, 2014, and again on Jan. 4 of this year. The cameras were set up by wildlife biologists hoping to spot the red fox and the Pacific fisher,Yosemite National Park’s rarest mammals. The ongoing study is funded by the Yosemite Conservancy.

There hasn’t been a verified sighting of the Sierra Nevada red fox inside Yosemite National Park since 1916, said Ben Sacks, director of the University of California, Davis Veterinary School’s Mammalian Ecology and Conservation Unit. That year, two animals were killed in Yosemite’s Big Meadows, northeast of El Portal, for the University of California, Berkeley’s Museum of Vertebrate Zoology.

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Animals Just Want To Get High

Yellow-mongoose.jpg

Yellow mongoose by Julielangford (CC)

In an excerpt from his new book Chasing the Scream: The First and Last Days of the War on Drugs at BoingBoing, Johan Hari explains why animals eat psychoactive plants (hint: to get high):

The United Nations says the drug war’s rationale is to build “a drug-free world — we can do it!” U.S. government officials agree, stressing that “there is no such thing as recreational drug use.” So this isn’t a war to stop addiction, like that in my family, or teenage drug use. It is a war to stop drug use among all humans, everywhere. All these prohibited chemicals need to be rounded up and removed from the earth. That is what we are fighting for.

I began to see this goal differently after I learned the story of the drunk elephants, the stoned water buffalo, and the grieving mongoose. They were all taught to me by a remarkable scientist in Los Angeles named Professor Ronald K.

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Seals Having Sex With Penguins (Video)

Depending on your preferences, you might consider this video somewhat disturbing and possibly NSFW. There’s no doubt what the seal is trying to do to the penguin!

BBC Earth explains what biologists make of the horny seals going cross-species:

Things are heating up in the cold climes of the sub-Antarctic. On a remote, and mostly desolate island, seals have been caught engaging in an extreme form of sexual behaviour.

Specifically, they have been trying to have sex with penguins.

More than one fur seal has been caught in the act, on more than one occasion.

And it’s all been captured on film, with details being published in the journal Polar Biology.

The sexual behaviour of the fur seals hasn’t come as a complete shock to the scientists that recorded it.

In 2006, they saw, for the first time, a fur seal attempting to copulate with a king penguin, on Marion Island, a sub-Antarctic island that is home to both species.

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How Animals Get High

Yup, your pet wants to get high too. Animal New York explains how:

Everyone likes to get high. Whether from your morning cup of coffee, taking 2C-I to trip balls, or a surge of endocannabinoids after doing exercise, we love the feeling. This is rooted in a common chemistry that all creatures share.

Scientists and cat toy makers have long known that animals too enjoy the fruits of our shared biology. They go for the chemical shortcut to fun times as much as we do. Here are just a few.

CATS

These perennial internet favorites seek out a certain chemical in catnip (Nepeta cataria), called nepetalactone. The mechanism of action is unknown at this time, but what is well known is how cats react when they sense it nearby. They want it.

Once cats notice catnip, they rush over to the stuff. They begin pawing at it, chewing, licking, and generally rolling around like a happy cat.

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World Has Lost More Than Half of Wildlife in 40 Years

Sumatraanse Tijger.jpg

Can you imagine the conspiracy theories that certain usual suspects would be broadcasting far and wide if the human population was halved in just 40 years? So why isn’t there more outcry over that happening to the Earth’s wildlife population? From BBC News:

The global loss of species is even worse than previously thought, the London Zoological Society (ZSL) says in its new Living Planet Index.

The report suggests populations have halved in 40 years, as new methodology gives more alarming results than in a report two years ago.

The report says populations of mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians and fish have declined by an average of 52%.

Populations of freshwater species have suffered an even worse fall of 76%.

Severe impact
Compiling a global average of species decline involves tricky statistics, often comparing disparate data sets – and some critics say the exercise is not statistically valid.

The team at the zoological society say they’ve improved their methodology since their last report two years ago – but the results are even more alarming.

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Alien Life: Sea Animal ‘Mushroom’ Discovered

No one knows what this new animal that looks like a mushroom might be, reports BBC News:

A mushroom-shaped sea animal discovered off the Australian coast has defied classification in the tree of life.

Dendrogramma enigmatica sp. nov., holotype.png

“Dendrogramma enigmatica sp. nov., holotype” by Jean Just, Reinhardt Møbjerg Kristensen and Jørgen Olesen – Dendrogramma, New Genus, with Two New Non-Bilaterian Species from the Marine Bathyal of Southeastern Australia (Animalia, Metazoa incertae sedis) – with Similarities to Some Medusoids from the Precambrian Ediacara. PLOS ONE, September 03, 2014. DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0102976. Licensed under CC BY 4.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

A team of scientists at the University of Copenhagen says the tiny organism does not fit into any of the known subdivisions of the animal kingdom.

Such a situation has occurred only a handful of times in the last 100 years.

The organisms, which were originally collected in 1986, are described in the academic journal Plos One.

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Beaver Attacks And Pulls Man Off Of A Kayak

718px-Beaver_(CC)I’d say that this was like something out of a Roger Corman movie, but I think even he has his limits. Apparently, nature does not.

Rochester, N.Y. – A beaver jumped out of Irondequoit Creek and attacked a man in a kayak, knocking him into the water last Tuesday.

The victim, Michael Cavanaugh of Lima, N.Y. is recovering after being treated in the hospital for bite wounds on his back and deep puncture wounds on his arm. He is also being treated for rabies as a precaution.

BayCreek Paddling Center trainer Nate Reynolds saw part of the attack.

“I heard my name called out from the shop and I ran out the door to see a guy getting pulled into the water,” Reynolds said, describing the attack. “It was like watching a horror film.”

Reynolds said Cavanaugh was able to get to his feet and approach the dock, but the beaver would not let go of him, so Reynolds hit the beaver with a nearby paddle several times.

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Twenty-Eight Acts of Fellatio Observed Between Bears Dwelling In Sanctuary

412px-Black_bear_largeTwenty-eight? That’s a very specific number. Wonder whose job it was to count bear blow jobs?

[This space intentionally left blank for your own “bear” joke.]

The club of fellatio-loving animals just gained a new member: bears.

Scientists have observed a pair of male brown bears in captivity in Croatia that regularly engaged in oral sex over several years. While the creatures in this case study likely do it for pleasure, their fellatio habits might have started because they were forced to wean too early, the researchers suspect.

The two, unrelated male bears in the study were orphaned soon after they were born in 2003 and put in captivity at a sanctuary in Kuterevo, Croatia. Over the course of six years and 116 hours of observation time, scientists led by Agnieszka Sergiel, of the Polish Academy of Sciences’ Department of Wildlife Conservation, witnessed 28 acts of fellatio between the two male bears.

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Rats Can Feel Regret, Says Scientists

"I regret nothing." (Pic-Joanna Servaes.)

“I regret nothing.” (Pic-Joanna Servaes cc)

Sounds like it’s about time we get an apology for bubonic plague, then.

New research from the Department of Neuroscience at the University of Minnesota reveals that rats show regret, a cognitive behavior once thought to be uniquely and fundamentally human.

Research findings were recently published in Nature Neuroscience.

To measure the cognitive behavior of regret, A. David Redish, Ph.D., a professor of neuroscience in the University of Minnesota Department of Neuroscience, and Adam Steiner, a graduate student in the Graduate Program in Neuroscience, who led the study, started from the definitions of regret that economists and psychologists have identified in the past.

“Regret is the recognition that you made a mistake, that if you had done something else, you would have been better off,” said Redish. “The difficult part of this study was separating regret from disappointment, which is when things aren’t as good as you would have hoped.

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