The mimics among us — birds pirate songs for personal profit

From Roman classics to British tabloids, humans have long celebrated the curious and remarkable ability of birds to imitate the sounds of humans and other animals. A recent surge of research is revealing how and why birds use vocal mimicry to further their own interests, as we discuss in Biological Reviews. Anastasia Dalziell, Cornell UniversityContinue reading “The mimics among us — birds pirate songs for personal profit”

A fascinating history of warrior turtles: from ancient myths, warships and teenage mutants

Ask anyone the identity of the world’s most famed turtles, and the answer is likely to be those legendary heroes in a half-shell, the Teenage Mutant Ninjas. Since first appearing in comic book form in 1984, the pizza-eating, nunchuk-wielding characters have shown the world the tougher side of turtles. Louise Pryke, University of Sydney PartContinue reading “A fascinating history of warrior turtles: from ancient myths, warships and teenage mutants”

Bonobo mothers meddle in their sons’ sex lives – making them three times more likely to father children

New research shows that for bonobos, sex really is often a family affair. What’s more, rather than being an embarrassing hindrance, motherly presence greatly benefits bonobo sons during the deed. Ben Garrod, University of East Anglia Along with chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes), bonobos (Pan paniscus) are our closest living relatives. Restricted to a 500,000 km² thickly-forestedContinue reading “Bonobo mothers meddle in their sons’ sex lives – making them three times more likely to father children”

Do chimpanzees and orangutans really have midlife crises?

Knowing that chimpanzees and orangutans have personalities, feel emotions and are “almost human” comes as no surprise to most people. However, linking the term “midlife crisis” to chimpanzees and orangutans seems to be somewhat shocking and controversial as we’ve seen from the flurry of interest produced by a paper published this week. Carla Litchfield, UniversityContinue reading “Do chimpanzees and orangutans really have midlife crises?”

Bonobos can inspire us to make our democracies more peaceful

Bonobos, sometimes called the “forgotten ape” due to their recent discovery and small numbers, titillate the democrat’s imagination. Before the 1970s, certain primatologists thought bonobos were strange chimpanzees because females govern in this primate society. Frans de Waal, the primatologist and popular writer, has done much to explain the fascinating lives of these “peace-loving apes”Continue reading “Bonobos can inspire us to make our democracies more peaceful”

Contagious yawns show social ties in humans and bonobos

Penny Orbell, The Conversation Most of us have experienced the overwhelming urge to yawn in response to another person yawning – but we’re not the only species to do this. Research published in PeerJ today shows bonobos – our closest evolutionary cousins – also experience “yawn contagion”, and, as in humans, the effect is influencedContinue reading “Contagious yawns show social ties in humans and bonobos”

How forest elephants move depends on water, humans, and also their personality

African forest elephants roam the dense rainforests of West and Central Africa where they subsist largely on a diet of fruit. They shape forests by dispersing fruit and seeds, browsing, and creating an extensive trail network. John Poulsen, Duke University and Christopher Beirne, University of British Columbia But because it’s difficult to track animals inContinue reading “How forest elephants move depends on water, humans, and also their personality”

The Amazonian Royal Flycatcher: A flurry of feathers

September 3rd is Amazon Rainforest Day and The Nature Nook/Palm Oil Detective would like to celebrate. The Amazonian Royal Flycatcher is a member of a family of birds called the tyrant flycatchers, which occur throughout North and South America. This is the biggest family of birds in the world, with more than 400 species. AsContinue reading “The Amazonian Royal Flycatcher: A flurry of feathers”

Meet Chimbu, the blue-eyed, bear-eared tree kangaroo

Tree kangaroos are so unusual that when Europeans first encountered them in Australia in 1872, they were sceptical. Who would believe a kangaroo could climb a tree? The Goodfellow’s tree kangaroo is a threatened species found in forests in the Central Cordillera mountain ranges of Papua New Guinea, from sea level to high in theContinue reading “Meet Chimbu, the blue-eyed, bear-eared tree kangaroo”

Laughs, cries and deception: birds’ emotional lives are just as complicated as ours

Gisela Kaplan, University of New England Birds can certainly get very angry – and the owner of a galah or corella would be well advised not to get near this bird when the head feathers are raised — but birds can be joyful and playful, can get depressed and, as studies have shown, a neglectfulContinue reading “Laughs, cries and deception: birds’ emotional lives are just as complicated as ours”

For primates, having a mother helps them learn social skills

Carla Litchfield, University of South Australia Wild bonobos, like all Great Apes, spend long childhoods with their mothers, learning the skills they need to function as socially and emotionally stable members of their community. But orphaned bonobos at sanctuaries don’t have that kind of upbringing. Can they still learn the skills they need to getContinue reading “For primates, having a mother helps them learn social skills”

The why, what and where of the world’s black leopards

Sam Williams, Durham University A black leopard was recently spotted in Kenya’s Laikipia area by San Diego Zoo scientist, Nicholas Pilfold. Sam Williams, a conservation ecologist focused on African carnivores, asked Nicholas about the elusive cats. Where are black leopards found in Africa? There have been a number of reports of black leopard in Africa,Continue reading “The why, what and where of the world’s black leopards”

One-fifth of reptiles heading towards extinction

Almost one-fifth of the world’s reptiles are currently threatened with extinction. A recent study assessed 1500 species for extinction risks. From the 19% found to be in danger, 12% were classified as Critically Endangered, 41% as Endangered and 47% Vulnerable. Three of the species listed as being Critically Endangered are believed to be possibly extinct.Continue reading “One-fifth of reptiles heading towards extinction”

What’s my name? How wild parrots identify their young

Sunanda Creagh, The Conversation Wild parrots name their chicks by teaching them an individual sound to identify them, researchers have found. Humans and dolphins create unique sounds by which individuals are identified and there was some evidence to suggest captive parrots created ‘contact calls’ – special calls used to identify family and friends. But untilContinue reading “What’s my name? How wild parrots identify their young”

We don’t know how many mountain gorillas live in the wild. Here’s why

Katerina Guschanski, Uppsala University How important are the mountain gorillas of Uganda’s Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park to global populations? A new census – carried out by the Greater Virunga Transboundary Collaboration (a coalition of governments, non-profits and conservationists) in 2018 – shows that the population of mountain gorillas in Uganda’s Bwindi Impenetrable Forest NationalContinue reading “We don’t know how many mountain gorillas live in the wild. Here’s why”

Nature’s hidden wealth is conservation’s missed opportunity

Australia has one of the worst extinction records in the modern world. Since European settlement, a third of the country’s native mammals have disappeared. How can we stem the losses? A recent article in Nature highlighted that most federal and state biodiversity conservation policy fails to recognise biodiversity as a major source of industrial products.Continue reading “Nature’s hidden wealth is conservation’s missed opportunity”

Monkey minds: what we can learn from primate personality

Carla Litchfield, University of South Australia Every human is different. Some are outgoing, while others are reserved and shy. Some are focused and diligent, while others are haphazard and unfussed. Some people are curious, others avoid novelty and enjoy their rut. This is reflected in our personality, which is typically measured across five factors, knownContinue reading “Monkey minds: what we can learn from primate personality”

Rainbow Cliffs: Why Parrots in the Amazon Eat Clay

Our world holds a whole host of glorious natural spectacles, from great starling murmurations to the ethereal display of coral reef spawning. But to me, none is more thrilling than catching a glimpse of a majestic macaw. Screeching their way through the Amazon rainforest, leaving scattered fruit, broken branches, and a considerable quantity of parrotContinue reading “Rainbow Cliffs: Why Parrots in the Amazon Eat Clay”

What is a ‘mass extinction’ and are we in one now?

Frédérik Saltré, Flinders University and Corey J. A. Bradshaw, Flinders University For more than 3.5 billion years, living organisms have thrived, multiplied and diversified to occupy every ecosystem on Earth. The flip side to this explosion of new species is that species extinctions have also always been part of the evolutionary life cycle. But theseContinue reading “What is a ‘mass extinction’ and are we in one now?”

Inside the colourful world of animal vision

As humans, we live in a colourful world, but differences in visual systems means that not all animals see the world in the same way. Unlike other aspects of an object such as size or mass, colour is not an inherent property of an object but a result of the sensory system of the viewer.Continue reading “Inside the colourful world of animal vision”