Animals, Biology, News

Tiny hairs on bats’ wings act like airflow sensors – is this why they’re such great flyers?

Birds are great flyers, but few can rival the tenacious bat which hunts the tiniest prays: insects. Image: PIXGOOD

Apart from echolocation, bats have another ace up their sleeve that makes them formidable flying animals: tiny hairs that sense airflow and transmit this information to key areas of the brain. Here the info is decoded and used to steer the bats’ flight for pinpoint accuracy. In combination with echolocation, this makes bats awesome hunters even in pitch black darkness.

Animals, Environment, News, Pollution

25,000 Mexican Fisherman Sue BP Over Environmental Disaster

Image via BNet.

Five years after the British Petroleum catastrophe in the Gulf of Mexico, Mexican fishermen have still not received any compensation, so they’ve decided to sue the oil giant.

Animals, News

60% of large herbivores on the verge of extinction, bleak study finds

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The 74 largest terrestrial herbivores are on the verge of extinction, a new worrying study has found. All in all, over half of all large terrestrial herbivores are on the verge of extinction – and we’re to blame.

Animals, Environment, News

Coral disease threatens Hawaii reef

Image via Reef Builders.

A disease called black band coral disease is affecting nearly half of the reef sites researchers have surveyed in waters off Kauai and threatens to destroy Hawaii’s reefs, according to the state Department of Land and Natural Resources.

Animals, Biology, News

Courtship in the animal kingdom: the amazing blue-eyed satin bowerbird

bowerbird

Endemic to Australia and New Zealand, the satin bowerbird is considered one of the most intelligent birds found in nature. Mature males are very easy to spot because of their bright blue eyes, while their bodies are uniformly covered in black, although sometimes light diffraction makes the bird’s feathers turn almost into a metallic sheen. What sets these birds apart is their remarkable courtship ritual, and the male’s seemingly obsessive fixation for blue.

Animals, Biology

What’s all the Buzz about Pollinators?

Photo credit: USFWS (Adult monarch butterfly by Tina Shaw/USFWS).

It’s been in all the headlines: monarch butterflies are in decline, honey bees are experiencing colony collapse disorder (CCD), and our future food supply appears to be in peril. The importance of preserving pollinators has even reached the White House, as President Obama issued a presidential memo in June 2014 that directed federal agencies to 1) develop a Pollinator Health

Animals, Biology, News

The seemingly chaotic, but elegant movement of the octopus: how it pulls it off

octopus arms

Despite lacking a rigid skeleton, octopuses have a remarkable coordinated locomotion. Using high-speed cameras, a group at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem found the octopus achieves this by precisely and independently moving one or more of its eight legs to crawl its body, even when its facing a different direction. Moreover, there is no discernible rhythm or pattern to this undulating leg movement, making the octopus unique in this respect. It’s controlled chaos, and only the octopus itself completely knows how it pulls all this off.

Animals, Biology, News

Blind rats ‘sense’ their location after a geomagnetic compass was strapped to their brains

An illustration of a rat wearing the geomagnetic device (credit: Norimoto and Ikegaya)

Blind rats learned to navigate mazes just as well as those that could see, after scientists strapped a simple geomagnetic compass – the kind that’s found in your smartphone – fitted with electrodes directly onto their brains. Though they’re not naturally equipped to sense magnetic fields, the rats’ brains demonstrated tremendous plasticity and effectively incorporated a new sense! We can only presume this is possible in the case of humans as well, so the team from Japan which made the study believes blind people could incorporate a similar device – minus the brain hack. There are other alternatives after all, like say an iPhone app that acoustically alerts the blind person which way to turn or a sensor directly fitted into a walking cane.

Animals, Biology, News

City ants LOVE junk food

ants-love-Junk-Food

If you ever dropped food on the pavement, don’t feel too bad. It’ll get scrapped bit by bit by the ever resourceful ants, so you’re actually doing a favor to these swarms of critters. But have you ever wondered why ants can eat ice cream, hot dogs or just about every kind of junk food we unwittingly throw at them? Some researchers looked at this question and found that some particular ant species have seemingly adapted to consume junk food.

Animals, Biology, News

Awesome tiny birds cross the Atlantic in one go without stopping

The blackpoll warbler (Setophaga striata) in fall plumage. Image: Wikimedia Commons

More than half a century in question, scientists now confirm that the tiny blackpoll warbler flies nonstop over the North Atlantic Ocean each autumn from New England to South America. The trip takes three days, during which the bird foregoes any rest, sleep or meal. It also absorbs its own intestines.