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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  • October 31, 2013
  • 01:30 PM

The Mimic Octopus: Master of Disguise

by Miss Behavior in The Scorpion and the Frog

The disguises of the mimic octopus: (a) shows a mimic octopus looking out of its burrow; (b) is a foraging mimic octopus with coloration to blend with the sand; (c) shows a mimic octopus as a sole fish and (d) is an actual sole fish; (e) shows a mimic octopus as a lion-fish and (f) is an actual lion-fish; and (g) shows a mimic octopus as a banded sea-snake and (h) is an actual banded sea-snake. Images from the Norman, 2001 article in Proc. R. Soc. Lond. B.Different animal species have evolv........ 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 »

  • September 25, 2013
  • 10:52 AM

Just Another Day (A Guest Post)

by Miss Behavior in The Scorpion and the Frog

By Cassie Apostolou The zooplankton picture on the left was provided by the EPA at Wikimedia Commons. The human picture on the right was provided by Cassie Apostolou.Check out the two pictures above. It doesn’t look like those two animals share a lot in common, right? Obviously the two organisms don’t look alike and the zooplankton (the odd looking microorganism creature in the left picture) lives in water and us humans typically like to stay dry on land. But if you dig a little deeper than ........ Read more »

Haney, J.F. (1988) Diel Patterns of Zooplankton Behavior. Bulletin of Marine Science, 43(3), 583-603. info:/

  • September 18, 2013
  • 10:01 AM

Hiding in Plain Sight

by Miss Behavior in The Scorpion and the Frog

The fish on the far left is a juvenile cleaner wrasse in the act of cleaning another fish. The two fish in the middle and on the right are both bluestriped fangblennies, one in its cleaner wrasse-mimicking coloration (middle) and the other not (right). Figure from the Cheney, 2013 article in Behavioral Ecology.Sometimes the best place to hide is right under everybody's nose. If you look like you are innocuous and you belong there, every so often you can get away with trouble. The blu........ Read more »

  • September 4, 2013
  • 01:49 PM

Who Said What? (A Guest Post)

by Miss Behavior in The Scorpion and the Frog

By Porscha CarriveauAs an aviculturist-turned-scientist, to me, it is common sense to tell people that birds are heard more often than seen. People study bird songs or calls for a variety of reasons. The reason I study bird songs is to identify the songs that my African grey parrot has learned to mimic. His repertoire includes the vocalizations of several birds’ songs such as robins, cardinals, cat birds, and chickadees. He also mimics humans. When leaving home in the morning, the last thing t........ Read more »

Ohms, V., Beckers, G., Ten Cate, C., & Suthers, R. (2012) Vocal Tract Articulation Revisited: The Case of the Monk Parakeet. The Journal of Experimental Biology, 85-92. DOI: 10.1242/jeb.064717  

  • August 28, 2013
  • 09:04 PM

Some City Birds Are Changing Their Tune

by Miss Behavior in The Scorpion and the Frog

European starlings are one of the many bird species changing their songs in urban environments. Image by 4028mdk09 at Wikimedia Commons.The human world population has climbed to over 7.1 billion people and for the first time ever, more than half of us live in an urban area. Urban areas are spreading and more animals are either getting pushed out or are becoming urbanized in the process. Birds are among the many species we are used to seeing and hearing in our cities, but how exactly a........ Read more »

  • August 7, 2013
  • 07:35 AM

What Comes First: The Signal or the Response?

by Miss Behavior in The Scorpion and the Frog

Jewel wasps show us how new communication systems may have come to be. Photo by M.E. Clark at Wikimedia Commons.Finding and attracting a mate is tricky business for most species. It can be quite helpful then to have a species-specific signal that is sent and received by members of your own species, but not perceived as well by predators. Chemical signals (those we perceive through smell and taste) are among the most diverse and specific signals produced in the animal kingdom, so they make good c........ Read more »

Niehuis, O., Buellesbach, J., Gibson, J.D., Pothmann, D., Hanner, C., Mutti, N.S., Judson, A.K., Gadau, J., Ruther, J., & Schmitt, T. (2013) Behavioural and genetic analyses of Nasonia shed light on the evolution of sex pheromones. Nature, 345-348. DOI: 10.1038/nature11838  

  • July 24, 2013
  • 12:08 PM

Welcome Home to Wood Tick Acres!

by Miss Behavior in The Scorpion and the Frog

Early last spring I was offered a new job and embarked on a search for a new home. We found a beautiful property: wooded acreage with a trout stream and spring-fed pond, all in a reasonable commuting distance. The potential of this forest sanctuary glistened even under feet of spring snow. When we returned in the rains of early summer to collect our keys and move in, we found that the thaw had revealed our forest sanctuary to be a mosquito-infested swampy wetland, complete with this welcome sign........ Read more »

  • July 17, 2013
  • 05:42 PM

The Laws of Attraction: Mangrove Killifish Style

by Miss Behavior in The Scorpion and the Frog

A mangrove killifish. Photo by D. Scott Taylor at Wikimedia.In the game of love, we typically think of males as being the showy courting sex and females being the coy choosy sex. But what if your species doesn't have the simple division of males and females? Most populations of animal species (and most notably our own) are roughly half male and half female, so this is the standard we tend to accept as "normal". In this common system, males generally invest less in each potential offspring than ........ Read more »

Ellison, A., Jones, J., Inchley, C., & Consuegra, S. (2013) Choosy males could help explain androdioecy in a selfing fish. The American Naturalist, 181(6), 855-862. DOI: 10.1086/670304  

  • July 3, 2013
  • 12:39 PM

The Genetics of Drinking Like a Fish

by Miss Behavior in The Scorpion and the Frog

 Image by J. Dncsn at Wikimedia Commons Among people, drug and alcohol addictions are the most prevalent preventable cause of death in the Western world. But not everyone that tries an addictive substance like alcohol, cigarettes, and addictive drugs becomes addicted to the point that it has a devastating effect on their life and health. People that do struggle with addiction commonly have less control over their impulsive behavior than those that do not, and it is likely that our genes play ........ Read more »

  • June 26, 2013
  • 11:22 AM

Do Animals Have Personalities?

by Miss Behavior in The Scorpion and the Frog

Leaders and followers. What makes personality? Photo by Thang Nguyen at Wikimedia Commons.The heart of science lies in existential questions such as "Who am I?" and "Where did I come from?" Yet somehow, these are the very questions that scientists tend to shy away from. It's as if we're afraid that by unraveling the mysteries of our world and ourselves, we'll be left with nothing but a handful of yarn. But many of us see the quest for personal understanding differently - as a journey to gain app........ Read more »

Réale, D., Reader, S., Sol, D., McDougall, P., & Dingemanse, N. (2007) Integrating animal temperament within ecology and evolution. Biological Reviews, 82(2), 291-318. DOI: 10.1111/j.1469-185X.2007.00010.x  

Huntingford, F.A. (1976) The Relationship between anti-predator behavior and aggression among conspecifics in the three-spined stickleback, Gasterosteus aculeatus. Animal Behaviour, 245-260. info:/

  • June 19, 2013
  • 02:58 PM

Thanks Dad!

by Miss Behavior in The Scorpion and the Frog

Daddy's girl. Photo from’s take a moment to appreciate just how special dads are. Across the animal kingdom, fathers caring for their young is the exception, not the rule. Paternal care is most often seen in species in which males can be pretty sure that they are indeed the father (for example, in species that fertilize eggs outside of the mothers’ bodies or in socially monogamous species). Mammals rarely act fatherly - Only 10% of mammalian species show pate........ Read more »

  • June 5, 2013
  • 10:09 AM

Cicadian Rhythms: Why Does The 17-Year Cicada Emerge Like Clockwork?

by Miss Behavior in The Scorpion and the Frog

Does your back yard look like this? This swarm of periodical cicadas was photographed by Greg Hume at Wikimedia. The 2013 Swarmageddon is here! After years of their absence, cicadas are overrunning parks, forests and communities all across the central-eastern United States. Periodical cicadas (from the genus Magicicada) are known for their synchronized emergence at 13- and 17-year intervals. Simply the fact that they can live this long is extraordinary: periodical cicadas have the longest life s........ Read more »

  • May 29, 2013
  • 01:43 PM

What Has No Legs And The Most Amazing Feet Ever?

by Miss Behavior in The Scorpion and the Frog

This starfish photo is by Mike Murphy at Wikimedia.We often think of echinoderms, like starfish, sand dollars, and sea urchins, as static ocean decorations. But if you watch them for long enough (or on fast-forward if you lack the patience) you will find that they have exciting motile lives. They hunt, they flee predators, and they mate. But how do they get around without any legs to stand on? Their secret is tube feet. If you look at the underbelly of these critters, you will see lots ........ Read more »

Lesser, M., Carleton, K., Bottger, S., Barry, T., & Walker, C. (2011) Sea urchin tube feet are photosensory organs that express a rhabdomeric-like opsin and PAX6. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 278(1723), 3371-3379. DOI: 10.1098/rspb.2011.0336  

Santos, R. (2005) Adhesion of echinoderm tube feet to rough surfaces. Journal of Experimental Biology, 208(13), 2555-2567. DOI: 10.1242/jeb.01683  

  • May 15, 2013
  • 09:46 AM

Male Black Widows Sniff Out Femme Fatales

by Miss Behavior in The Scorpion and the Frog

I am thrilled to announce that this month I am joining a new top-notch science blogging team at Scitable, Nature Education’s award-winning science education website! (But don’t worry, friends. I will continue to post here about animal physiology and behavior every Wednesday). Next week, Scitable will be launching eleven new blogs covering topics like neuroscience, genetics, oceanography, physics and more. I will be co-authoring an evolution blog called Accumulating Glitches together with Se........ Read more »

  • May 8, 2013
  • 09:50 AM

Thanks Mom!

by Miss Behavior in The Scorpion and the Frog

Like Mother, like baby! Photo from give us so much more than we ever give them credit for. Biologically speaking, we all have a mom and a dad (unless you’re a flatworm or some other species that can reproduce without sex) that provide us with one of each chromosome type (our chromosomes contain our genes, commonly thought of as our “biological blueprints”). So it makes sense that we tend to think of ourselves as being half-our-mom and half-our-dad. But not so! Al........ Read more »

BERNARDO, J. (1996) Maternal Effects in Animal Ecology. Integrative and Comparative Biology, 36(2), 83-105. DOI: 10.1093/icb/36.2.83  

Wolf, J., & Wade, M.J. (2009) What are maternal effects (and what are they not)?. Phil. Trans. R. Soc. B, 1107-1115. info:/

  • May 1, 2013
  • 09:27 AM

The Craptastic Conversations of the Black Rhinoceros

by Miss Behavior in The Scorpion and the Frog

What are you saying with your smells? Image by communicate in all kinds of ways: with vocalizations, body language, vibrations, and even odors. In fact, compared to most species, we are pathetic in our abilities to communicate with body odor. With just a whiff of eau de crotch, many animals can decipher that individual’s species, sex, age, health status, reproductive status, emotional state, and dietary history. Some species can go so far as to make out that indiv........ Read more »

  • April 10, 2013
  • 09:40 AM

Not Quite Like a Rolling Stone

by Miss Behavior in The Scorpion and the Frog

Dung beetles are competitive little critters. And who can blame them? When a fresh pile of poo is at stake, wouldn’t we all be a bit competitive? …Okay, maybe not. But animal dung is actually chock-full of nutrients, which makes it a precious resource to the animals that can make use of them. The approximately 6,000 species of dung beetles and their babies are among the animals that make excellent use of those resources.Mmmm... A poo-pile worth fighting for! Image by Duwwel at Wikimedia.But........ Read more »

Dacke M, Byrne M, Smolka J, Warrant E, & Baird E. (2013) Dung beetles ignore landmarks for straight-line orientation. Journal of comparative physiology. A, Neuroethology, sensory, neural, and behavioral physiology, 199(1), 17-23. PMID: 23076443  

  • April 3, 2013
  • 10:53 AM

Risky Business: Ape Style

by Miss Behavior in The Scorpion and the Frog

The decisions of this chimpanzee living in the Tchimpounga Chimpanzee Sanctuary are affected by his social situation. Photo by Alex Rosati.If you have a choice between a prize that is awesome half the time and totally lame the other half of the time or a mediocre prize that is a sure-thing, which would you choose? Your choice probably depends on your personality somewhat. It may also depend on your needs and your mood. And it can depend on social contexts, like if you’re competing with someone........ Read more »

  • March 6, 2013
  • 11:20 AM

Hey Hey! We’re The Monkeys!

by Miss Behavior in The Scorpion and the Frog

 A tamarin rock star (photographed by Ltshears at Wikimedia)Our moods change when we hear music, but not all music affects us the same way. Slow, soft, higher-pitched, melodic songs soothe us; upbeat classical music makes us more alert and active; and fast, harsh, lower-pitched, dissonant music can rev us up and stress us out. Why would certain sounds affect us in specific emotional ways? One possibility is because of an overlap between how we perceive music and how we perceive human voic........ Read more »

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