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  • May 11, 2017
  • 09:26 AM

Land snails on islands: fascinating diversity, worrying vulnerability

by Piter Boll in Earthling Nature

by Piter Kehoma Boll The class Gastropoda, which includes snails and slugs, is only beaten by the insects in number of species worldwide, having currently about 80 thousand described species. Among those, about 24 thousand live on land, where they are … Continue reading →... Read more »

  • April 27, 2017
  • 08:49 AM

Code Orange for the Bengal Tiger!

by Jente Ottenburghs in Evolutionary Stories

Genetic study highlights challenging conservation of the Bengal Tiger in India.... Read more »

  • April 21, 2017
  • 07:00 AM

Friday Fellow: Crystalline crestfoot

by Piter Boll in Earthling Nature

by Piter Kehoma Boll Even in the smallest pools or ponds of freshwater lost in a field, the diversity of lifeforms is amazing. Sadly, these environments are one of the most damaged of all ecosystems on earth and we probably … Continue reading →... Read more »

  • April 7, 2017
  • 07:00 AM

Friday Fellow: Amphibian chytrid fungus

by Piter Boll in Earthling Nature

by Piter Kehoma Boll Today I’m bringing you a species that is probably one of the most terrible ones to exist today, the amphibian chytrid fungus, Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis, also known simply as Bd. The amphibian chytrid fungus, as its name says, is … Continue reading →... Read more »

  • March 22, 2017
  • 12:55 PM

Pollination Mystery Unlocked by Stirling Bee Researchers

by beredim in Strange Animals

Bees latch on to similarly-sized nectarless flowers to unpick pollen - like keys fitting into locks, according to a new study by researchers at the University of Stirling.

The research shows the right size of bee is needed to properly pollinate a flower. The bee fits tightly with the flower's anthers, to vibrate and release the pollen sealed within.

"We found that a pollinator's size, ... Read more »

  • March 22, 2017
  • 05:38 AM

Break a leg!

by Jente Ottenburghs in Evolutionary Stories

What to do when your prey refuses to be swallowed? Eurasian Spoonbills (Platalea leucordia) in Hungary have a solution…... Read more »

  • March 20, 2017
  • 04:58 AM

Moroccan flic-flac spider (Cebrennus rechenbergi)

by beredim in Strange Animals

Meet the Moroccan flic-flac spider (Cebrennus rechenbergi), a truly unique spider that when provoked or threatened escapes by doubling its normal walking speed using forward or backward flips similar to acrobatic flic-flac movements used by gymnasts.

C. rechenbergi is a species of huntsman spider indigenous to Morocco and can be found in the sand dunes of the Erg Chebbi desert . The spider ... Read more »

Ralf Simon King. (2013) BiLBIQ: A Biologically Inspired Robot with Walking and Rolling Locomotion. Biosystems . info:/10.1007/978-3-642-34682-8

  • March 17, 2017
  • 07:00 AM

Friday Fellow: Pliable Brachionus

by Piter Boll in Earthling Nature

by Piter Kehoma Boll Charles Darwin had already noticed that small animals, such as those found in zooplankton, are widely distributed around the world, even those that are found in small ponds of freshwater. This seemed to go against the … Continue reading →... Read more »

  • March 9, 2017
  • 03:58 AM

This Is How Vision, Not Limbs, May Have Driven Fish onto Land

by beredim in Strange Animals

In a recent study, researchers provide a new theory for the reason we walk the Earth

A new provocative study suggests it was the power of the eyes and not the limbs that first led our ancient aquatic ancestors to make the momentous leap from water to land. According to it, crocodile-like animals first saw easy meals on land and consequently evolved limbs that enabled them to get there, ... Read more »

MacIver MA, Schmitz L, Mugan U, Murphey TD, & Mobley CD. (2017) Massive increase in visual range preceded the origin of terrestrial vertebrates. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. PMID: 28270619  

  • March 8, 2017
  • 10:30 AM

Dearly Departed Dogs

by CAPB in Companion Animal Psychology Blog

Do online pet obituaries reveal how we truly feel about our pets?Guest post by Jane Gething-Lewis (Hartpury College).“You were such a selfless and giving boy. Dad loves you with all his heart.”A heartfelt online tribute to a dearly departed loved one – but this loved one had four legs, a tail and was called Cosmo. Over the top? Not necessarily. Research suggests that many people feel the loss of a beloved pet as keenly as the loss of a child.The bond people have with each other has long been debated and discussed. Generations of psychologists have attempted to explain and quantify the mechanics of attachment (or lack of) between fellow humans. But is it possible that we form similar bonds with our animal companions? Recently, researchers have been interested in exploring whether human theories of bonding apply to our relationships with our pets. No easy task, when only half of the bonding equation can talk.Now researchers at the University of Edinburgh believe they have identified a useful source of information about the nature of the human-animal bond – online pet obituaries.“The digital environment is a really interesting place for people to talk about animals,” said Dr Jill MacKay, who led a study of tributes posted on pet memorial websites. “Society has an expectation that animals are not as important as humans, but the online space has no rules. I suspect that people write more freely and honestly online about what they’re really feeling.” Dr MacKay and her team looked at obituaries for dogs on two dedicated websites, investigating the kind of information available in these tributes. They also assessed whether that data might prove useful in future studies into the nature of the human-animal bond when it comes to attachment, grief and bereavement.Pulling a sickie? Or sick with grief...Taking time off work following the death of a pet is generally frowned upon, and yet losing a pet can seriously disrupt our lives. Some people lose sleep, lose their appetite and are unable to carry on with normal life for some time; the higher the level of bonding with their pet, the deeper the mourning. “Our study shows that people feel real grief when they lose their animals,” said Dr MacKay. Why do we feel so close to our pets?Here’s the science bit. The Attachment Theory of human bonding is a widely used psychological model, coined by psychologist John Bowlby in the 1950’s. It works on the principal that a strong emotional attachment to a primary caregiver (usually a parent) is essential for making us feel safe, secure and grounded. Put simply, we will form a deep bond with another person if one or more of four key elements are present in the relationship. Do you want to be near to someone you feel close to? That’s Proximity Maintenance. Do you seek out that person when you need comfort or are a bit scared? They are a Safe Haven. Do like to know that person is nearby when you’re chatting to others at a party? They are your Secure Base. Do you panic a little when you think that person has left the party without you? That’s called Separation Anxiety. Congratulations – you are attached. The degree and the style to which we bond with other people will differ from person to person, and will affect the way we cope with life’s ups and downs – including the way we feel grief.In her 2011 paper, Not Just a Dog, Dr Marilyn Kwong, a psychologist at the Simon Fraser University in Canada, looked at whether human attachment theory may explain why some people are so deeply affected by pet bereavement. The study built on existing research, which has established that intense bonds with our pets do exist; pets are often considered to be family members, and can fulfill emotional needs like love and companionship.Dr Kwong looked at grief experienced by 25 people with disabilities who had lost their Assistance Animal. Assistance animals included Guide Dogs and dogs specially trained to help with physical tasks. The team analysed the transcripts of open-ended phone interviews. They looked for – and found - evidence of three of the four attachment theory components: safe haven, secure base and separation anxiety. All participants reported feeling intense grief, even when the bereavement may have occurred many years previously. The team concluded that grief following the loss of a well-loved pet can be as strong as losing a human loved-one. “She was always there for me,” said one participant. Another even took her dog into the operating theatre because she couldn’t bear to be separated from him. Of course, all the dogs in Dr Kwong’s study were not purely pets; they had a working function as caregiver. Therefore separation from them would likely generate additional anxiety above and beyond ‘normal’ levels.Deciphering the deadPhone interviews and questionnaires can provide a robust set of results for formal studies, but they depend on the researchers’ personal interaction with the mourner, who may not feel able to be frank about their true feelings. Could online memorials offer a more unadulterated source of information?Dr Jill Mackay identified two websites, and Focusing on dogs, she selected 130 obituaries of up to 400 words in length. The researchers identified and agreed a number of key concepts present in the texts relating to attachment theory and relationship with the pet. They grouped these concepts under three categories: owner-pet relationship, pet’s actions, and owner’s feelings.Where it was possible to identify the gender of the writer, Dr MacKay found that the majority of female memorial authors (34.6%) considered themselves to be ‘mum’ to their dearly departed dog. Tributes were also found from male parental figures, ‘dad’ (7.7%), and from children (5.4%).Nearly half (49%) of the tribute writers referred to their dog as part of the family – “my baby”, “mummy’s darling”. The researchers identified this category as a potential predictor for the depth of grief experienced by the human owner. A little over half (51%) discussed the afterlife in relation to their pets, who were “in heaven”, or “over the rainbow bridge”. There was a strong association between the two concepts of afterlife and being part of the family, supporting attachment theory understanding that the loss of a pet can be akin for some to the loss of a child. If you’re feeling a little depressed by now – there was some light at the end of the (white, brightly lit) tunnel. 11% of the dog obituaries celebrated happy times, writing of their pet’s sense of humour and gratitude, ‘laughing’ at its own farts and ‘grateful’ for a play in the park.In contrast to Dr Kwong’s study of bereaved Assistant Dog owners, Dr McKay’s investigation does seem to have disinterred a rich source of natural information about the human-animal bond: genuine expressions of love and loss, expressed on a public forum, garnered from real-world texts and not under experimental conditions. However, scientists might see this as a problem. Little is known about the demographics of the tribute writer, making it difficult to breakdown the information as a potential predictor for people more likely to feel the deepest and most debilitating grief. Neither does this plundering-of-the-online-grave study relate directly to specific elements of the formal attachment theory model.RIP onlineThe internet has become the go-to place for information, support and emotional expression around grief and bereavement. Mainstream animal charities like Blue Cross, veterinary practices, rescue centres, and even universities like Glasgow offer bereavement advice, steering the mourner to create an online memorial to their pet.While Dr MacKay’s study focuses solely on dedicated pet obituary websites, she plans to broaden her investigations into the world of social media:  Facebook, Twitter and Instagram teem with emotion.“We looked at dedicated pet obituary websites rather than social media because of ethical issues,” explained Dr MacKay. “Pet obit sites are public, but facebook is personal.  There are layers of privacy settings. However,” she ad... Read more »

  • March 8, 2017
  • 02:16 AM

See the First Underwater Video of the Ultra-Rare True's Beaked Whale

by beredim in Strange Animals

The group feautred in this videp was formed by three adult or sub-adult whales. Social behavior of the True's Beaked Whale is still unknown but the group seemed to dive in a coordinated manner, as has been observed in other species of beaked whales. Credit: Roland Edler

True's beaked whales (Mesoplodon mirus) are such an elusive species that it's only now that we finally have the ... Read more »

Aguilar de Soto, N., Martín, V., Silva, M., Edler, R., Reyes, C., Carrillo, M., Schiavi, A., Morales, T., García-Ovide, B., Sanchez-Mora, A.... (2017) True’s beaked whale (Mesoplodon mirus) in Macaronesia. PeerJ. DOI: 10.7717/peerj.3059  

  • March 6, 2017
  • 04:39 AM

Bumblebees Learn To Score Goals For Food !

by beredim in Strange Animals

New study by researchers at Queen Mary University of London (QMUL) shows how bumblebees (Bombus terrestris) can be trained to score goals with a mini-ball, revealing unprecedented learning abilities:

Researchers train bumblebees to move a ball in order to access a sugar solution as a reward.

The study, published in the journal Science, suggests that species whose lifestyle demands advanced ... Read more »

  • February 22, 2017
  • 07:18 AM

Hydrolagus erithacus: New Species of Ghost Shark Discovered

by beredim in Strange Animals

Kristin Walovich holds the newly described species of ghost shark
Photo Credit: Kristin Walovich

Researchers recently announced the discovery of a new species of ghost shark, Hydrolagus erithacus. Ghost sharks - which aren’t actually sharks but instead their closest living relatives - are an extraordinarily rare sighting. Actually, it was just a few months ago, when a ghost shark was filmed... Read more »

  • February 21, 2017
  • 09:00 PM

Redrawing Ratite Relationships

by Jente Ottenburghs in Evolutionary Stories

Scientists have sequenced the DNA of two extinct birds: the moa and the elephantbird. Comparison with their living relatives led to some surprising findings.... Read more »

Maderspacher F. (2017) Evolution: Flight of the Ratites. Current biology : CB, 27(3). PMID: 28171755  

Yonezawa T, Segawa T, Mori H, Campos PF, Hongoh Y, Endo H, Akiyoshi A, Kohno N, Nishida S, Wu J.... (2017) Phylogenomics and Morphology of Extinct Paleognaths Reveal the Origin and Evolution of the Ratites. Current biology : CB, 27(1), 68-77. PMID: 27989673  

  • February 20, 2017
  • 02:24 AM

This Is Why Squids End up with Mismatched Eyes

by beredim in Strange Animals

Deep sea creatures come with all kinds of strange features that help them to survive their cold, dark habitat.. Some have eyes the size of a basketball, others come with appendages that blink and glow, deep-sea dwellers have developed some strange features and the "cockeyed" squid Histioteuthis heteropsis has one normal eye and one giant, bulging, yellow eye.

Histioteuthis heteropsis
One ... Read more »

  • February 17, 2017
  • 05:00 AM

Friday Fellow: Brown-gutted Mud Roundworm

by Piter Boll in Earthling Nature

by Piter Kehoma Boll If you have your face buried in the mud at the bottom of a European lake, you may end up finding some of those tiny little roundworms known as Monhystera stagnalis. As usual, there is no common … Continue reading →... Read more »

  • February 15, 2017
  • 08:08 AM

New Species of Polychaete Worm Discovered in Antarctica

by beredim in Strange Animals

Flabegraviera fujiae (left), the new species described in the
in the new study, and Flabegraviera mundata (right).
(Scale bar: 1cm)

A few days ago, a team of Japanese scientists from the Hokkaido University announced the discovery a new species of polychaete, a type of marine annelid worm.

The discovery took place 9-meters deep underwater near Japan's Syowa Station in Antarctica and provides... Read more »

  • February 14, 2017
  • 06:15 AM

Amphioctopus Marginatus: The Octopus That Pretends to Be a Coconut

by beredim in Strange Animals

Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Mollusca
Class: Cephalopoda
Order: Octopoda
Family: Octopodidae
Genus: Amphioctopus
Species: Amphioctopus  marginatus
Conservation Status: Not yet assessed
Common Name: Coconut octopus, Veined octopus

Meet Amphioctopus marginatus a medium-sized octopus found in the tropical waters of the western Pacific Ocean The species is best known as the "coconut octopus" ... Read more »

Finn JK, Tregenza T, Norman MD. (2009) Defensive tool use in a coconut-carrying octopus. . Curr. Biol, 19(23). info:/10.1016/j.cub.2009.10.052

  • February 3, 2017
  • 08:00 AM

American Alligator

by Jason Organ in Eatlemania!

The Eatles are munching on several juvenile American alligator skulls... Read more »

  • January 21, 2017
  • 09:54 PM

Don’t let the web bugs bite

by Piter Boll in Earthling Nature

by Piter Kehoma Boll If you think spiders are scary creatures, today you will learn that they are scared too. But what could scary a spider? Well, a web bug! We usually think of spider webs as an astonishing evolutionary … Continue reading →... Read more »

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