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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  • August 8, 2012
  • 02:57 PM
  • 1,129 views

Baby, You Light Up My World Like Nobody Else: A Guest Post

by Miss Behavior in The Scorpion and the Frog

One Direction was inspired by the brightly shining love of the bioluminescent ostracod. Photo by Fiona McKinlay at Wikimedia.by Rachel WangYou might not have guessed that the song lyrics of the band One Direction could apply to the courtship of bioluminescent marine animals, but the female ostracod crustacean (relatives of crabs and shrimp) might want to sing her heart out when she finds a bright guy to light up her world.  This month's cover of the Journal of Experimental Biology feature........ Read more »

  • August 1, 2012
  • 02:56 PM
  • 1,743 views

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 »

  • July 25, 2012
  • 03:30 PM
  • 1,566 views

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  

  • July 11, 2012
  • 09:47 AM
  • 1,176 views

Don’t Challenge a Fruit-Eating Bat to a Drinking Contest

by Miss Behavior in The Scorpion and the Frog

Did you think humans invented inebriation? Guess again!Frugivores (animals that eat fruit) and nectarivores (animals that eat nectar) are limited to food sources that last a relatively short time before they ripen, then ferment, then completely rot. So you would think that a fruit-eating animal would be much more successful at feeding itself if it could eat foods in various stages of fermentation, right? Not only would the ability to eat fermented fruits increase food abundance, but alcohol also........ Read more »

  • June 27, 2012
  • 03:35 PM
  • 1,063 views

Steroids Won't Help If You're a Loser

by Miss Behavior in The Scorpion and the Frog

The more we study physiology and behavior across groups of animals, the more we find we have in common in the types of behaviors we express and the biological machinery of how our bodies influence what behaviors are expressed and when. But similarity does not mean the same. Sometimes seemingly small physiological differences can have big behavioral consequences. A snuggly California mouse pair. Photo from the Marler lab.A lone wire-walking white-footed mouse. Photo by the National Park Service.T........ Read more »

  • June 20, 2012
  • 07:51 PM
  • 1,122 views

The Age of Aquariums: Amazing Animal Watching Vacations Part 3

by Miss Behavior in The Scorpion and the Frog

Oceans are the largest ecosystems on the planet. They produce half of the oxygen we breathe and contain 97% of the world’s water. Oceans provide a sixth of the animal protein in human diets and are the most promising source of new medicines to fight cancer and other diseases. On top of all that, they absorb about a third of the carbon dioxide emissions we produce, which helps reduce the rate of climate change. In a nutshell, we need them. Pacific bluefin tuna return to the aquarium in the n........ Read more »

Burrows MT, Schoeman DS, Buckley LB, Moore P, Poloczanska ES, Brander KM, Brown C, Bruno JF, Duarte CM, Halpern BS.... (2011) The pace of shifting climate in marine and terrestrial ecosystems. Science (New York, N.Y.), 334(6056), 652-5. PMID: 22053045  

  • June 13, 2012
  • 01:52 PM
  • 1,402 views

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 »

  • June 6, 2012
  • 11:38 AM
  • 1,546 views

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 »

  • May 23, 2012
  • 02:09 PM
  • 1,891 views

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 »

  • May 16, 2012
  • 12:33 PM
  • 1,338 views

Does Social Status Change Brains?

by Miss Behavior in The Scorpion and the Frog

Photo by The Grappling Source Inc. at Wikimedia CommonsBeing subordinated is stressful. The process of one individual lowering the social rank of another often involves physical aggression, aggressive displays, and exclusion. In addition to the obvious possible costs of being subordinated (like getting beat up), subordinated individuals often undergo physiological changes to their hormonal systems and brains. Sounds pretty scary, doesn’t it? But what if some of those changes are beneficial in ........ Read more »

  • May 9, 2012
  • 01:38 PM
  • 1,001 views

Using Science to Train your Pets, Family Members and Friends

by Miss Behavior in The Scorpion and the Frog

If we can train dogs to jump through hoops offire,can't we also train our roommates to do thedishes? Photo by Keith Moseley at Wikimedia.Living in a social world is difficult. Each individual in the group has his or her own needs, wants and goals and they rarely match what YOU need and want. Wouldn’t it be great if everyone just did what YOU wanted them to do? Imagine a world where your pets sit peacefully at your feet (that is, when they’re not fetching you a cold dri........ Read more »

  • May 2, 2012
  • 12:53 PM
  • 1,559 views

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 »

  • April 25, 2012
  • 11:54 AM
  • 1,450 views

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  

  • April 18, 2012
  • 10:55 AM
  • 1,602 views

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 »

  • April 11, 2012
  • 02:01 PM
  • 1,724 views

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 4, 2012
  • 10:28 AM
  • 2,319 views

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 »

  • March 28, 2012
  • 10:33 AM
  • 1,220 views

Sex, Lies and Spider Silk

by Miss Behavior in The Scorpion and the Frog

Are you trying to get the girl, but you’re too cheap to get her a nice gift? You could take a page out of the nursery web spider’s Guide to Love and Sex. WARNING: Do not date this nursery web spider. He's a jerk. Photo from Wikimedia Commons by Mathias Krumbholz.When a male of this species has his eye on a female, he will usually offer her a nuptial gift, which is typically a tasty prey insect nicely giftwrapped in spider silk. While the female is unwrapping her meal, the male has an o........ Read more »

  • March 14, 2012
  • 12:38 PM
  • 1,403 views

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  

  • March 7, 2012
  • 12:10 PM
  • 1,281 views

Interrupting Insects

by Miss Behavior in The Scorpion and the Frog

What do you think of when I say “communicate”? Most likely, you are imagining people communicating by an auditory mode (talking and listening, making expressive sounds) or by a visual mode (observing body language, reading and writing). As a species, humans inherently rely heavily on our hearing and vision to perceive the world around us and so it makes sense that we communicate with one another using these modalities. But animal species are incredibly diverse in their means of perceiving th........ Read more »

  • February 29, 2012
  • 09:55 AM
  • 1,734 views

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  

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