Michael Bublé performed a private concert of Christmas songs for a trio of gorillas

The lucky apes — Ganyeka, Yakini and Motaba — currently live at the Werribee Open Range Zoo in Melbourne, Australia. According to PRI, one of the zookeepers discovered that the silverback gorillas responded quite positively to Bublé's dulcet tones:

When we play Michael Bublé's CDs, the boys will instantly start pleasure grumbling and sit nice and calm and relaxed. Our theory is it’s the beautiful low tones that he sings with kind of mimics their pleasure grumble. And they’ve even been shown to hum little food songs when they eat, and we think [Bublé] must really resonate with that sound.

So as long as Bublé was in Australia anyway, they got him to stop by the zoo and surprise the silverbacks with a little private croon.

Canadian singer delights his gorilla superfans with Christmas songs [María Elena Romero / PRI]

Image via NeedPix (Public Domain) and Eva Rinaldi / Flickr (CC 2.) Read the rest

Some wasps have evolved to recognize and remember faces

A team of researchers at Cornell University recently published a new paper titled "Evolutionary dynamics of recent selection on cognitive abilities." But that's a mouthful that kind of buries the lede, which is the fact that Northern paper wasps are apparently much smarter than we had previously realized. From the abstract (emphasis added):

Cognitive abilities can vary dramatically among species. […] Here, we investigate recent selection related to cognition in the paper wasp Polistes fuscatus—a wasp that has uniquely evolved visual individual recognition abilities. We generate high quality de novo genome assemblies and population genomic resources for multiple species of paper wasps and use a population genomic framework to interrogate the probable mode and tempo of cognitive evolution. Recent, strong, hard selective sweeps in P. fuscatus contain loci annotated with functions in long-term memory formation, mushroom body development, and visual processing, traits which have recently evolved in association with individual recognition. […] These data provide unprecedented insight into some of the processes by which cognition evolves.

On the surface, this might sound terrifying. But according to the researchers, these wasps have only thus far evolved to recognize each other, rather than That Human Kid Who Keeps Coming Back And Messing With Their Nest. As Michael Sheehan, professor of neurobiology and behavior at Cornell, and senior author on the paper, told Phys.org, "The really surprising conclusion here is that the most intense selection pressures in the recent history of these wasps has not been dealing with climate, catching food or parasites but getting better at dealing with each other. Read the rest