A new study suggests that the ominous background music often heard in shark documentaries correlates with viewers' fearful and negative opinions of sharks. (For the source of this musical cliche, see the 1975 trailer for Jaws above.) From the Scripps Institution of Oceanography researchers paper in the scientific journal PLOS One:
Using three experiments, we show that participants rated sharks more negatively and less positively after viewing a 60-second video clip of swimming sharks set to ominous background music, compared to participants who watched the same video clip set to uplifting background music, or silence. This finding was not an artifact of soundtrack alone because attitudes toward sharks did not differ among participants assigned to audio-only control treatments. This is the first study to demonstrate empirically that the connotative attributes of background music accompanying shark footage affect viewers’ attitudes toward sharks. Given that nature documentaries are often regarded as objective and authoritative sources of information, it is critical that documentary filmmakers and viewers are aware of how the soundtrack can affect the interpretation of the educational content.
1. Cute. Read the rest
There they are, fluffy floofblobs. “Cat legs appear to function like airplane landing gears as the stow safely away in the floof,” observes one commenter.
I'm loving it: On Saturday, a fellow strolled into a McDonald's in Falköping, Sweden carrying a dead badger under his arm. The staff asked him to leave, which he reportedly did, but then began whipping the badger around the parking lot, hitting cars with it before tossing it onto the roof of one vehicle.
“We were waiting for the food at the drive-in when we saw him swinging a dead badger,” a witness said. (Then he threw the badger and it) landed on the roof of the car and there are scraps of meat and scratches there now.”
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
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”.
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.
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.
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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.
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.