Inspector Crow: birds investigate cause of death when they find a body

Photo: KAELI SWIFT

Do Crows hold funerals? Nah, not really, but they're up to something when one among the murder is murdered, and scientists are fascinated by their behavior around fallen comrades.

Calling to each other, gathering around, and paying special attention to a fallen comrade is common among the highly intelligent corvids, a group of birds that includes crows, jays, magpies, and ravens, says Kaeli Swift, a Ph.D student in environmental science at the University of Washington. (See "Are Crows Smarter Than Children?")

But it doesn't necessarily mean the birds are mourning for their lost buddy. Rather, they're likely trying to find out if there's a threat where the death occurred, so they can avoid it in the future.

One study involved using masks to see if crows would avoid humans who handled dead crows (and thereby implicated themselves in the investigation.) They did. On the other hand, if crows are smart enough to investigate murders, maybe they're smart enough to take one look at that mask and think: "OK, that is definitely a murderer." Read the rest

Animal-themed deck of cards

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Gregor Klingman's "Wild Kingdom" is a deck of art cards featuring hand-drawn snakes, wolves and other awesome creatures. Each suit is given a distinctive character—Hearts are "Courageous and Loyal" whereas Diamonds are "Clever and Wise"—and each face card has subtle variations. Read the rest

Why are scientists drawing eyes on cows' asses?

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In Botswana, conservation scientists from the University of New South Wales are painting eyes on the rear ends of cattle in an effort to deter lions from eating them. As the lions' protected habitats shrink, they move closer to human settlements. In Botswana, the lions attack the livestock that the subsistence farmers count on. That leads the farmers to kill the African lions, further endangering the species.

(UNSW conservation biologist Neil Jordan’s idea of painting eyes onto cattle rumps came about after two lionesses were killed near the village in Botswana where he was based. While watching a lion hunt an impala, he noticed something interesting: “Lions are ambush hunters, so they creep up on their prey, get close and jump on them unseen. But in this case, the impala noticed the lion. And when the lion realised it had been spotted, it gave up on the hunt,” he says.

In nature, being ‘seen’ can deter predation. For example, patterns resembling eyes on butterfly wings are known to deter birds. In India, woodcutters in the forest have long worn masks on the back of their heads to ward-off man-eating tigers.

Jordan’s idea was to “hijack this mechanism” of psychological trickery. Last year, he collaborated with the BPCT and a local farmer to trial the innovative strategy, which he’s dubbed “iCow”.

"Eye-opening conservation strategy could save African lions" (UNSW) Read the rest

Watch a monkey's revenge on guy who gave it the finger

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The monkeys of Shimla, India are not to be trifled with by other primates.

(via r/funny)

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How and Why God Made Various Animals

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Welp, this explains a lot. A collected series of Twitter musings on why and exactly how the magical great bearded old dude in the sky (and his indentured angelic maker minions) created various critters.

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Do Not Take Selfies With Lake Moose

Photo: Solomon Ratt

Rangers in Saskatchewan have warned the public against attempting to take selfies with a moose that often swims in Wascana Lake.

Lake Moose appears to have wandered from its more remote usual habitat to take up residence near a suburban park frequented by humans. It hasn't done anything aggressive, and conservation experts want things to stay that way so they don't have to shoot it.

Facebook users began posting pictures of the moose swimming near Spruce Island, on the southwest side of the lake, around 10 a.m. Monday morning. Passersby stopped to watch the moose during its swim and some canoeists even got a close-up view as it approached the shore of Spruce Island.

Leko reported the moose still in the water as of late Monday afternoon. He said the moose will not be shot, unless it “goes into attack mode.” He said in the worst-case scenario the moose would be tranquilized and relocated to its natural habitat.

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See this amazing baby goat that walks on two legs (due to birth defect)

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This goat is the GOAT. (Vault 50)

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Shocking video of an electric eel leaping from its tank

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This intense slow-motion video, depicting an electric eel jumping from a tank to zap a faux alligator head, accompanies a new scientific paper by Vanderbilt University biologist Kenneth Catania. From Nature:

Catania first spotted the behaviour during earlier laboratory experiments with electric eels (Electrophorus electricus), when they would leap upwards to attack a metal-rimmed net as he was trying to fish them out of their tanks. He analysed it by presenting the eels with carbon rods and aluminium plates at which they struck; the video’s plastic alligator, with its flashing light-emitting diodes that are powered by the eel’s electrocution, is his dramatic demonstration of the effect...

The behaviour allows eels to directly shock their opponents, rather than having their voltage dissipated by water.

It is the first time that this has been recorded in a research paper, Catania says — although he argues that his discovery supports a widely disbelieved observation made more than 200 years ago by the Prussian explorer and naturalist Alexander von Humboldt. In a paper published in 1807, von Humboldt recounted that he had seen South American native fishermen herding horses into a pool of electric eels; the eels would discharge themselves against the horses and could be fished safely when they were exhausted.

According to Catania, there are other mysteries of the electric eels left to be solved, like how it can electrocute another creature without zapping itself in the process.

"Leaping eels electrify threats, supporting Humboldt’s account of a battle with horses" (PNAS)

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Genetic study suggests dogs emerged independently from two wolf populations

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The origin of dogs is a hot topic among biologists, who've fought over whether there's a single point of origin from wolves and when and where it (or they) happened. A new study suggests the answer is twice, independently, from populations of wolves in western Europe and in east Asia. But they interbred, so most modern dogs are descended from both western and eastern groups.

The geographic and temporal origins of dogs remain controversial. We generated genetic sequences from 59 ancient dogs and a complete (28x) genome of a late Neolithic dog (dated to ~4800 calendar years before the present) from Ireland. Our analyses revealed a deep split separating modern East Asian and Western Eurasian dogs. Surprisingly, the date of this divergence (~14,000 to 6400 years ago) occurs commensurate with, or several millennia after, the first appearance of dogs in Europe and East Asia. Additional analyses of ancient and modern mitochondrial DNA revealed a sharp discontinuity in haplotype frequencies in Europe. Combined, these results suggest that dogs may have been domesticated independently in Eastern and Western Eurasia from distinct wolf populations. East Eurasian dogs were then possibly transported to Europe with people, where they partially replaced European Paleolithic dogs.

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Watch sharks in a frenzied whale feast

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Impressive drone footage of more than 70 tiger sharks chowing on a whale near Shark Bay in Gascoyne, Western Australia. Eco Abrolhos Cruises posted the video to the company's Facebook page:

Passengers on our 14-day Geraldton to Broome and everywhere in between were treated to an unexpected phenomena while cruising inside Dirk Hartog Island. Something to show and tell the grandchildren.

(The Australian)

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This cat is freaked out by a snake in a toad's mouth

Wouldn't you be too? (via Dangerous Minds)

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Pause for Dog Meme, Please

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Sometimes the simplest things in online life are the most sublime

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Endangered species ads: animals being 3D printed

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A new ad campaign from the International Fund for Animal Welfare features rendered images of cross-sectioned endangered animals on the beds of 3D printers, being printed out, layer by layer. Read the rest

Alligator visits human home, tries to ring doorbell, flops over adorably

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Alligator sightings are pretty common in South Carolina's Lowcountry region around this time of year. But a genuine gentleman alligator whose momma raised him to ring the doorbell when he comes a-callin on a human neighbor--well, that's just downright precious.

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This wilderness helicopter pilot and his trusty dog co-pilot have the best life

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His name is Mister Bentley, and he's an English Bulldog, and yes these incredible photos of this dog flying in a helicopter over the most beautiful wilderness along Canada's western coast are real.

Bradley Friesen is a helicopter pilot based in Vancouver, Canada. His YouTube channel and Instagram feed are full of delightful images from the air, with this wonderful pup as his co-pilot. Who's a good doggie?

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What sound does this animal make? Google just got better at answering that.

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Do a Google search for 'animal noises.' You should see a field up at the top of your search results that shows images of various animals, and audio samples of a noise each of them makes.

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How do cats always land on their feet?

Those are some stunning acrobatics from an African Caracal. (BBC's "Life in the Air")

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