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”

How deforestation helps deadly viruses jump from animals to humans

Amy Y. Vittor, University of Florida; Gabriel Zorello Laporta, Faculdade de Medicina do ABC, and Maria Anice Mureb Sallum, Universidade de São Paulo The coronavirus pandemic, suspected of originating in bats and pangolins, has brought the risk of viruses that jump from wildlife to humans into stark focus. These leaps often happen at the edgesContinue reading “How deforestation helps deadly viruses jump from animals to humans”

Almost 90% of the world’s animal species will lose some habitat to agriculture by 2050

David Williams, University of Leeds and Michael Clark, University of Oxford Scientists know that biodiversity is declining across much of the world although less universally and dramatically than we feared. We also know that things are likely to get worse in the future, with a combination of habitat loss, climate change and overexploitation set toContinue reading “Almost 90% of the world’s animal species will lose some habitat to agriculture by 2050”

Deforestation can raise local temperatures by up to 4.5℃ – and heat untouched areas 6km away

Sally Thompson, The University of Western Australia; Débora Corrêa, The University of Western Australia; John Duncan, The University of Western Australia, and Octavia Crompton, Duke University Forests directly cool the planet, like natural evaporative air conditioners. So what happens when you cut them down? In tropical countries such as Indonesia, Brazil and the Congo, rapidContinue reading “Deforestation can raise local temperatures by up to 4.5℃ – and heat untouched areas 6km away”

Organized crime is a top driver of global deforestation – along with beef, soy, palm oil and wood products

Jennifer Devine, Texas State University Every year the world loses an estimated 25 million acres (10 million hectares) of forest, an area larger than the state of Indiana. Nearly all of it is in the tropics. Tropical forests store enormous quantities of carbon and are home to at least two-thirds of the world’s living species,Continue reading “Organized crime is a top driver of global deforestation – along with beef, soy, palm oil and wood products”

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”

In the Atlantic Forest, the lowland tapir is at risk of extinction

Lowland tapir populations in the Atlantic Forest in South America are at risk of almost complete disappearance, scientists have estimated. Weighing up to 250 kg, the animal can adapt to most habitats in South America—but its populations continue to decline across its range. Today, its survival is seriously threatened: it can be found in justContinue reading “In the Atlantic Forest, the lowland tapir is at risk of extinction”

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”

Species Extinction: just how bad is it and why should we care?

Euan Ritchie, Deakin University “Dad, the world is missing amazing animals. I wish extinction wasn’t forever”. Despite my wife and I working as biologists, our five-year-old son came to make this statement independently. Euan Ritchie, Deakin University He is highlighting what I and many others consider to be society’s biggest challenge, and arguably failure: theContinue reading “Species Extinction: just how bad is it and why should we care?”

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”

Africa’s rainforests are different. Why it matters that they’re protected

Martin Sullivan, University of Leeds; Oliver Phillips, University of Leeds, and Simon Lewis, UCL Around 2 million km² of Africa is covered by tropical rainforests. They are second only in extent to those in Amazonia, which cover around 6 million km². Rainforests are home to vast numbers of species. For example, the world’s tropical rainforestsContinue reading “Africa’s rainforests are different. Why it matters that they’re protected”

Demand for meat is driving deforestation in Brazil – changing the soy industry could stop it

Angela Guerrero, Stockholm University and Malika Virah-Sawmy, Humboldt University of Berlin Soy may have a pretty innocuous reputation thanks to its association with vegan food and meat alternatives. But don’t be fooled – crops of this pale legume are behind much of Brazil’s epidemic of deforestation. Since 2000, Brazil has doubled its total area ofContinue reading “Demand for meat is driving deforestation in Brazil – changing the soy industry could stop it”

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”

Climate Explained: what would happen if we cut down the Amazon rainforest?

Sebastian Leuzinger, Auckland University of Technology What would happen if we cut down the entire Amazon rainforest? Could it be replaced by an equal amount of reforestation elsewhere? Removing the entire Amazon rainforest would have myriad consequences, with the most obvious ones possibly not the worst. Most people will first think of the carbon currentlyContinue reading “Climate Explained: what would happen if we cut down the Amazon rainforest?”

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”