A study published in the journal Animal Behavior found that crows can recognize their fellow dead crows and learn to avoid the dangerous circumstances associated with death. The BBC described the study, which involved a "masked individual playing bad cop, arriving on the scene holding up a dead crow." [more inside]
"A remarkable international effort to map out the avian tree of life has revealed how birds evolved after the mass extinction that wiped out the dinosaurs into more than 10,000 species alive today. More than 200 scientists in 20 countries joined forces to create the evolutionary tree, which reveals how birds gained their colourful feathers, lost their teeth, and learned to sing songs." Via iO9.
Invertebrate numbers nearly halve as human population doubles. The decline of birds might have something to do with this recent news that half the insects (and spiders, crustaceans, slugs, worms) are gone.
Koryos, who previously explained how cats got domesticated using tumblr, now explains why homosexual pair-bonding can be a successful reproductive stratagem. Also, Coot Parenting Tips, Queen Cowbird Of The Brood Parasites , There's No Such Thing As An Alpha Wolf, and Can Animals Have Pets?
From 1851 to 1858, Henry David Thoreau noted a number of natural occurrences in detail, including the first flowering dates for over 500 species of wildflowers in Concord. Additionally, Alfred Hosmer, a botanist in the same area, had recorded the flowering dates of over 600 species of wild plants in 1878 and from 1888 to 1902. With that data, Richard Primack, a biology professor at Boston University, and fellow researcher Abraham Miller-Rushing spent years aligning old plant names with current names to study the change flowering patterns from the recorded past to present. Their phenological study concluded that plants in Concord, on average, are now flowering 10 days earlier than they were in Thoreau's time (full article for the journal BioScience). [more inside]
"My subject is a barren one – the world of nature, or in other words life; and that subject in its least elevated department, and employing either rustic terms or foreign, nay barbarian words that actually have to be introduced with an apology. Moreover, the path is not a beaten highway of authorship, nor one in which the mind is eager to range: there is not one of us who has made the same venture, nor yet one Roman who has tackled single-handed all departments of the subject."Naturalis Historia was written by Pliny the Elder between 77 and 79 CE and was meant to serve as a kind of proto-encyclopedia discussing all of the ancient knowledge available to him, covered in enough depth and breadth to make it by a reasonable margin the largest work to survive to the modern day from the Roman era. The work includes discussions on astronomy, meteorology, geography, mineralogy, zoology and botany organized along Aristotelian divisions of nature but also includes essays on human inventions and institutions. It is dedicated to the Emperor Titus in its epistle to the Emperor Vespasian, a close friend of Pliny who relied on his extensive knowledge, and its unusually careful citations of sources as well as its index makes it a precursor to modern scholarly works. It was Pliny's last work, as well as sadly his sole surviving one, and was published not long before his death attempting to save a friend from the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius that destroyed Pompeii and Herculaneum, famously recounted by Pliny's eponymous nephew Pliny the Younger.
Here is a reasonable translation that is freely available to download from archive.org for your edification.[more inside]
Why are owls so wise? Perhaps it's because they're utter badasses.
Ferocity is essential for a bird whose frigid, spotty range extends across northeastern China, the Russian Far East and up toward the Arctic Circle, one that breeds and nests in the dead of winter, perched atop a giant cottonwood or elm tree, out in the open, in temperatures 30 degrees below zero Fahrenheit. Dr. Slaght’s colleague Sergei Surmach videotaped a female sitting on her nest during a blizzard. “All you could see at the end was her tail jutting out,” Dr. Slaght said.The New York Times Science section gives an update on some current owl research. [more inside]
Nature constantly engineers new and creative solutions to all sorts of problems—turning our stereotypes about sex upside-down along the way.
A new round of genetic tests has confirmed it: The 'big lizards' of our childhood fantasies were more likely 'big birds.' In fact, they probably even had feathers, and looked more like this than this. Mind blowing, I know, but I guess this demonstrates that, despite what some may think, science really doesn't have a problem admitting that it got something wrong when new evidence comes to light.
Birds that rap and cows with accents. The big picture is urban adaptation, which is pretty cool. (...and the egg wins.)
Owls are rad. Sometimes they look kind of metallic and scary, sometimes wise, sometimes puzzled, and sometimes like skulls, (Index); sometimes they sound like dogs or pigs, sometimes they sound like a little train, sometimes they sound alarmed, (Index of MP3s); sometimes you come across an extensive gallery of Central and North American owls with pictures, ranges, video, and even a description of the '04-'05 Northern Owl Invasion; sometimes it's a dynamic range map of Owls of the Western Hemisphere; sometimes it's the OwlCam homepage with downloadable owl movies, sometimes it's a series of articles on all things owl; sometimes at BiologyBase it's a printable owl sighting lifelist, sometimes it's Ruru, the morepork, New Zealand's native owl at NZBirds. Or, w0t! w0t!, it's attracting barn owls and building nest boxes at World Owl Trust. Previous MeFi birding FPP.
Nectivorous!!! Those that eat nectar: hummingbirds, honeyeaters, miners, honeycreepers, spinebills, wattlebirds, friarbirds, lorikeets, warblers, some parrots, and of course some bats!!! Many plants are adapted to such creatures!
"Lost World" found in Indonesian Papua (with audio)
Seabirds Skull Gallery An amateur birder in Holland is fascinated by the internal structure of various seabirds. [via Incoming Signals]
Nice Tits! The Royal Tit-Watching Society of Britain. (Shockingly safe for work)
Crows better than chimps at making tools? British scientists were reportedly "astonished" when a captive crow named Betty "spontaneously bent a straight piece of wire and used it to retrieve a snack." But another scientist says crows have been seen making two kinds of hook tools in the wild, although he's not sure we should say they have "insight." It's clear that there are lots of different kinds of animal intelligences, so why are humans so surprised when dolphins recognize themselves in mirrors, chimps demonstrate culture and lions engage in social problem-solving? What explains the reluctance to admit that animal "consciousness" exists?