The Scorpion and the Frog

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Rats giggle when they’re tickled and flatworms fence with their penises. Who knew? Explore the science behind animal behavior and see where we fit in this quirky world.

Miss Behavior
102 posts

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  • April 4, 2012
  • 10:28 AM

Animal Mass Suicide and the Lemming Conspiracy

by Miss Behavior in The Scorpion and the Frog

Ticked off Norway lemming doesn't like gossip!Photo from Wikimedia Commons by Frode Inge Helland We all know the story: Every few years, millions of lemmings, driven by a deep-seated urge, run and leap off a cliff only to be dashed on the rocks below and eventually drowned in the raging sea. Stupid lemmings. It’s a story with staying power: short, not-so-sweet, and to the rocky point. But it is a LIE. And who, you may ask, would tell us such a horrendous fabrication? Walt Disney! Well, ........ Read more »

  • September 19, 2012
  • 12:22 PM

Why Reptiles Won't Wear Fur

by Miss Behavior in The Scorpion and the Frog

Have you ever seen a furry lizard? A fuzzy snake? A wooly turtle? Me neither. That's because a reptile in a permanent fur coat would whither like Superman with a pocket full of kryptonite. But why? Other animals are so content in their soft, luxurious layers... Why can't reptiles be?"I wouldn't be caught dead in that fur coat you're wearing". Photo by Naypong at Animals exchange heat with their environments in four major ways: conduction, convection, radiation and evaporat........ Read more »

Autumn K, Liang YA, Hsieh ST, Zesch W, Chan WP, Kenny TW, Fearing R, & Full RJ. (2000) Adhesive force of a single gecko foot-hair. Nature, 405(6787), 681-5. PMID: 10864324  

  • May 23, 2012
  • 02:09 PM

Snakes Deceive to Get a Little Snuggle

by Miss Behavior in The Scorpion and the Frog

A lone red-sided garter snake. Photo by Tracy Langkilde.The red-sided garter snake is a small snake species with the largest and most northern distribution of all reptiles in North America. These northern ranges can get quite cold for any animal, let alone a reptile. Like most reptiles, they are ectotherms, meaning they regulate their body temperature largely by exchanging heat with their environment. If an animal gets almost all of its body heat from a cold environment, its body is also going t........ Read more »

  • August 22, 2012
  • 10:27 AM

A Sixth Sense

by Miss Behavior in The Scorpion and the Frog

Birds have long been known for their incredible navigational abilities. More than 4000 years ago, ancient Egyptians used carrier pigeons, the domesticated descendants of wild rock doves, to carry urgent messages to distant lands. They proved to be cheaper, faster and more efficient than human messengers and their use spread throughout the Mediterranean, central and northern Europe, and then throughout the world. Yet it wasn’t until the mid-1800s that scientists began to ask how they do it. To ........ Read more »

  • August 1, 2012
  • 02:56 PM

Uncontrollable Love: A Guest Post

by Miss Behavior in The Scorpion and the Frog

By Yunhan ZhaoImage from Freedigitalphotos.netWhat is love? Under Shakespeare’s leather pen, love is the tragedy of Romeo and Juliet. In the poet’s eyes, love is the courage of Paris to elope with Helen and stand against the world. In Pretty Woman love doesn’t care about social status or wealth. When people fall in love the whole world feels brighter and more vibrant. Orpheus and Eurydice, Jane Eyre and Rochester, Darcy and Elizabeth…thousands of romantic stories, poems and songs illustr........ Read more »

  • February 29, 2012
  • 09:55 AM

Playing “Good Cop, Bad Cop” with Octopuses

by Miss Behavior in The Scorpion and the Frog

Have you ever seen an octopus in an aquarium, or maybe even in the ocean, and thought, “I know you!”? No? Well, they might think that when they see you!We’ve known for some time that many domestic animals, like dogs, can tell us people apart. It turns out that a lot of animal species can recognize individual people. But how do we humans know that? It’s not like you can walk right up to an animal and say “Hey! Remember me?” ...Well, I guess you could do that, but how would you interpr........ Read more »

Anderson RC, Mather JA, Monette MQ, & Zimsen SR. (2010) Octopuses (Enteroctopus dofleini) recognize individual humans. Journal of applied animal welfare science : JAAWS, 13(3), 261-72. PMID: 20563906  

  • April 11, 2012
  • 02:01 PM

The Social Punishment of Samantha Brick

by Miss Behavior in The Scorpion and the Frog

An interesting thing happened this week in the world of collective human behavior. But before we go into that, let me ask you two questions: Have you heard of Samantha Brick? On a scale of 1 to 10, how attractive do you think she is? Samantha Brick, a journalist, wrote an article for the Daily Mail called “'There are downsides to looking this pretty': Why women hate me for being beautiful”. Naturally, the response to hearing a story like this is, “Well, what does she look like?” Luckily ........ Read more »

  • April 18, 2012
  • 10:55 AM

It Doesn’t Always Pay to Kill Your Siblings

by Miss Behavior in The Scorpion and the Frog

A mother reed warbler feeding her "adoptive" murderous cuckoo chick. Does she really think this is her child? Photo by Per Harald Olsen on Wikimedia Commons.A woman, driven to not raise her own child, leaves her baby in another woman’s nursery, killing another baby that is there and replacing it with her own. As soon as the transplanted baby is strong enough, it slowly, methodically kills all the other children in the nursery, hording all of the adoptive mother’s attention for itself. With t........ Read more »

  • July 25, 2012
  • 03:30 PM

Red-Eyed Rump Shaker

by Miss Behavior in The Scorpion and the Frog

A photo of a red-eyed treefrog taken by Carey James Balboa at Wikimedia.At night, male red-eyed treefrogs gather on saplings over Central American forest ponds to show off their stuff for the ladies, producing self-advertising “chack” calls. Despite the fact that they gather in groups, they defend their calling territories from flirtatious male competition. Females assess the available males and usually mate with a single male, who mounts her and clings on for dear life in a behavior called........ Read more »

Caldwell MS, Johnston GR, McDaniel JG, & Warkentin KM. (2010) Vibrational signaling in the agonistic interactions of red-eyed treefrogs. Current biology : CB, 20(11), 1012-7. PMID: 20493702  

  • May 2, 2012
  • 12:53 PM

Why This Horde of Idiots is No Genius

by Miss Behavior in The Scorpion and the Frog

At first look (in Part 1 of this post), swarm theory seems to predict that the larger the social group, the better the resulting group decisions and behaviors. Then, with over 300 million of us in the U.S., shouldn’t we only be making brilliant decisions? And with over 7 billion worldwide, shouldn’t we have already prevented all international conflicts, cancer, and environmental destruction? And why the heck is Snooki still everywhere we look?! A riot in Vancouver, Canada after the Vancouve........ Read more »

  • June 6, 2012
  • 11:38 AM

Decisions, Decisions

by Miss Behavior in The Scorpion and the Frog

It doesn't take much to notice how different animalscan be... But look closer and you'll see how similarthey are too. Figure from O'Connell and Hofmann2011 Frontiers in Neuroendocrinology paper.Animals live in social environments that repeatedly present both challenges (like an aggressive neighbor) and opportunities (like a flirtatious neighbor). Although animals can usually respond to such challenges and opportunities in a number of different ways, t........ Read more »

  • April 25, 2012
  • 11:54 AM

Can a Horde of Idiots be a Genius?

by Miss Behavior in The Scorpion and the Frog

Let’s face it: The typical individual is not that bright. Just check out these human specimens: Yet somehow, if you get enough numbskulls together, the group can make some pretty intelligent decisions. We’ve seen this in a wide variety of organisms facing a number of different challenges.In a brilliant series of studies, Jean-Louis Deneubourg, a professor at the Free University of Brussels, and his colleagues tested the abilities of Argentine ants (a common dark-brown ant ........ Read more »

Couzin, I. (2009) Collective cognition in animal groups. Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 13(1), 36-43. DOI: 10.1016/j.tics.2008.10.002  

Goss, S., Aron, S., Deneubourg, J., & Pasteels, J. (1989) Self-organized shortcuts in the Argentine ant. Naturwissenschaften, 76(12), 579-581. DOI: 10.1007/BF00462870  

Dussutour, A., Nicolis, S., Deneubourg, J., & Fourcassié, V. (2006) Collective decisions in ants when foraging under crowded conditions. Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology, 61(1), 17-30. DOI: 10.1007/s00265-006-0233-x  

  • February 22, 2012
  • 12:56 PM

The "Love Hormone" of 2012

by Miss Behavior in The Scorpion and the Frog

Hello and welcome to the Love Hormone Pageant ResultsShow!  You have cast your votes, theresults are in, and the “Love Hormone” of 2012 is… (dramatic pause)… Dopamine!Dopamine is arguably the most exciting of love hormones.A neurotransmitter produced in the brain, dopamine plays a key role in manymotivated behaviors (and love, especiallyfalling in love, involves a lot ofmotivated behavior). It does this mostly through the mesolimbic reward system,which largely consists of dopamine-p........ Read more »

  • October 9, 2013
  • 10:43 AM

Honeybees Can Avoid Deadlock When Making Group Decisions, So Why Can't We?

by Miss Behavior in The Scorpion and the Frog

This honeybee swarm has precious little time to make a democratic decision as to where they will move to. A decision deadlock could have fatal consequences. Image by Nino Barbieri at Wikimedia Commons.In case you've been living in a cave lately, the U.S. Government has been shut down since October 1st. Not because of a terrorist attack or a bank system meltdown or a natural disaster, but because Congress cannot agree on a spending bill to determine our government's funding plan for the next year........ Read more »

  • January 30, 2013
  • 01:55 PM

Origins of The Scorpion and The Frog and the Social Brain

by Miss Behavior in The Scorpion and the Frog

Starting a weekly journalistic-type blog is a daunting task, especially for someone who is holding down other jobs (as most bloggers do). But I can't be happier that I started down this path in order to share with you all these wonderfully quirky stories of animal behavior and physiology. This week, I am happy to announce that The Scorpion and the Frog turns 1! It has been a remarkable first year: We've covered topics from whale dialects, to birds that kill their "siblings", to steroids and domi........ Read more »

  • October 24, 2012
  • 11:32 AM

The Smell of Fear

by Miss Behavior in The Scorpion and the Frog

Several animals, many of them insects, crustaceans and fish, can smell when their fellow peers are scared. A kind of superpower for superwimps, this is an especially useful ability for prey species. An animal that can smell that its neighbor is scared is more likely to be able to avoid predators it hasn’t detected yet. Who can smell when you're scared? Photo provided by“What does fear smell like?” you ask. Pee, of course. I mean, that has to be the answer, right? It........ Read more »

Brown, G.E., Jackson, C.D., Malka, P.H., Jacques, É., & Couturier, M-A.,. (2012) Disturbance cues in freshwater prey fishes: Does urea function as an ‘early warning cue’ in juvenile convict cichlids and rainbow trout?. Current Zoology, 58(2), 250-259. info:/

  • November 7, 2012
  • 10:10 AM

Political Animals

by Miss Behavior in The Scorpion and the Frog

Now that we are finally on the other side of one of the longest, most expensive political campaign seasons of United States history, we find ourselves with a new mixed-bag of leaders. Our nation’s decision-makers include career politicians and new freshman politicians; they include lawyers, military members, doctors, businessmen, farmers, ministers, educators, scientists, pilots, and entertainers; they include Protestants, Catholics, Jews, Quakers, Mormons, Buddhists and Muslims; they include ........ Read more »

  • March 14, 2012
  • 12:38 PM

Social butterflies or wallflowers? Two brain regions and a peptide

by Miss Behavior in The Scorpion and the Frog

Zebra finches are really social little birds. When conditions are not right for breeding (usually when there’s not enough rain), they hang out in flocks of hundreds. And in the intimate mood the rain brings, groups break up into more manageable sizes of 10-20 birds, which still seems like a lot to me. Although, if you’re the type to have a “quiet night in” with just a dozen or so of your closest friends, you may be able to relate to the gregarious zebra finch. This is a zebra finch ........ Read more »

Kelly, A., Kingsbury, M., Hoffbuhr, K., Schrock, S., Waxman, B., Kabelik, D., Thompson, R., & Goodson, J. (2011) Vasotocin neurons and septal V1a-like receptors potently modulate songbird flocking and responses to novelty. Hormones and Behavior, 60(1), 12-21. DOI: 10.1016/j.yhbeh.2011.01.012  

  • June 13, 2012
  • 01:52 PM

The Age of Aquariums: Amazing Animal Watching Vacations Part 2

by Miss Behavior in The Scorpion and the Frog

Below the ocean’s surface is a world more mysterious than the dark side of the moon and with more animal diversity than the Amazon rainforest. Over 70% of our planet is covered in ocean, yet fully 95% of our oceans remain completely unexplored. But we do know that the habitats animals adapt to are more vast than the open ocean (In fact, many more animals are by the coasts than out in the open ocean). There are shallow sunlit coastal waters and deep dark ocean trenches, coral reefs, estuaries, ........ Read more »

  • January 2, 2013
  • 11:18 AM

When The Going Gets Tough, The Tough Become Babies

by Miss Behavior in The Scorpion and the Frog

We celebrate the New Year as a time of rebirth, renewal, and do-overs. We join gyms, swear off our bad habits, and promise to be better people. This is especially true for those of us that have had a rough 2012… Our 2013-version-of-us has got to be better, right? But what if you could get a real do-over? What if you could be a kid again, grow up again, and become a brand new person? As far-fetched as it may sound, some animals do exactly that.Cnidarians (the “C” is silent) are a huge group........ Read more »

Piraino, S., De Vito, D., Schmich, J., Bouillon, J., & Boero, F. (2004) Reverse development in Cnidaria. Canadian Journal of Zoology, 82(11), 1748-1754. DOI: 10.1139/z04-174  

Miglietta, M., & Lessios, H. (2008) A silent invasion. Biological Invasions, 11(4), 825-834. DOI: 10.1007/s10530-008-9296-0  

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