Posts filed under ‘birds’

An End to Animal Testing May Be In Sight

Very promising news just came across my desk. University of California at Berkeley researchers have just announced the invention of a new biochip that may signal the beginning of the end of animal testing for chemicals and cosmetics.

The chip is a suspension of more than a thousand human cell cultures in a three-dimensional gel on a standard microscope slide. Each cell culture is capable of assessing the toxicity of a different chemical, according to the researchers. Organ cells, such as from the lungs and heart, may also be added, so that the chip could test for any part of the body, potentially, and not just the skin. That suggests future drugs, shampoos, and all sorts of other products may qualify for biochip testing instead of trials on animals, which still take place.

Over the years I’ve heard both sides of the animal testing argument. Some chemists argue that “natural” chemicals are just as dangerous as man-made ones, so untested natural products pose risks too. Animal researchers also point to human benefits from their work, and often explain that they must follow rigid guidelines when they conduct their chemical trials. There is no question in my mind, however, that animals feel pain and stress in ways that are akin to human suffering. More and more studies are providing proof, such as by demonstrating that chemicals associated with stress in humans show up in non-human animals too. The biochip could put an end to the entire debate.

A tremendous added bonus is that, in future, you would be able to donate your own cells (presumably through a blood test or minimally invasive procedure) for a biochip of your own. That way you’d know exactly which types of medicines or products to avoid, or to use. You would be your own guinea pig, and be none the worse for wear.

In the meantime, for a list of companies that do not conduct animal testing, please click on the appropriate link below to download a list!!!

Companies That Do/That Don’t Test on Animals

Companies That Don’t Test on Animals (PDF Format | Word Format)

Companies That Do Test on Animals (PDF Format | Word Format)

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December 28, 2007 at 1:32 am 1 comment

Clever Animals How and Why

Homing PigeonHoming Pigeons

Homing pigeons owe their name to the ability to return home from distant, unfamiliar release points — in some cases, even if they’ve been transported, anaesthetised and deprived of all information about the journey. They were used to carry messages in both ancient Greece and China, and by the 16th century were being used in formal postal services. In 1860, Paul Reuter employed a fleet of 45 to deliver news and stock prices between Brussels and Aachen. Only in 2002 did India’s police force retire its pigeon messenger service, when it was made redundant by e-mail. Homing pigeons have proved especially useful during times of war. One bird, “Cher Ami”, was awarded the French Croix de Guerre for his heroic service during the First World War in delivering 12 important messages, despite sustaining a bullet wound. Equally amazing, but for different reasons, is the unfortunate bird that set off from Pembrokeshire in June 1953. It returned, dead, in a box postmarked “Brazil”, 11 years later.

DolphinDolphins

Viewers of Flipper do not need to be told that dolphins are cleverer than most inhabitants of the sea. Whether he was upholding the law, or embarking on a daring sea rescue, the iconic TV hero’s brainpower never failed to amaze. Even without television trickery, dolphins are smart. The latest evidence of intelligence came this week, when researchers published the results of a study in the Brazilian Amazon which showed male members of pods carrying “gifts” in the form of sticks, or, most endearingly, makeshift bouquets made from seaweed, to attract mates. DNA tests revealed that the males who carried the most gifts proved the most successful fathers. Research in Australia showed bottlenose dolphins use bits of marine sponge to protect their noses while they probe the seabed. Scientists say the behaviour is evidence that they show signs of culture learned from their forebears, rather than passed down in genes.

Honey BeeBees

While they may not yet have developed the power of speech, as exhibited in the upcoming Jerry Seinfeld film, Bee Movie, and are all too easily snared by beer traps in summer, bees are unexpectedly clever insects. As early as 330BC, Aristotle described the remarkable “waggle dance” bees use to communicate with members of the hive. It was originally thought the dance was designed simply to attract attention, but in 1947, Karl von Frisch, who was later awarded a Nobel Prize for his work, deduced that the apparently random runs and turns of the dance, which bees perform in groups, correlates directly to the position of the sun in relation to the location of food. If a bee runs from the six to 12 o’clock positions, it means food is in the direction of the sun. The number of waggles dictates how far away the food lies.

smart dogDogs

Most dog owners will claim their pooch is the smartest in the park. But retrieving sticks or barking at postmen, while impressive when compared with the skills of, say, a jellyfish, is hardly rocket science. However, new research suggests mutts are capable of much more: in an experiment at the University of Vienna, two border collies, an Australian shepherd and a mongrel were presented with images on a touch screen. The pairs of photos offered the choice of a landscape or a dog. When the dogs used their nose to push against the dog image, they got a treat. If they plumped for the landscape, they were forced to wait a few seconds before the next round. The training stage complete, the dogs were shown landscape and dog photos, and continued to correctly pick out the dogs. In the final phase, the dogs were shown an unfamiliar dog superimposed on a landscape they had seen in training. Even then, the animals were able to pick out the dog. Scientists say the results show that dogs can use abstract concept, a skill which had been attributed only to birds and primates.

leatherback turtleLeatherback turtle

The 65 million-year-old leatherback turtle has witnessed the fall of the dinosaurs and the rise of humanity. But the giant sea creature is most extraordinary for its ability to travel huge distances, from the cold waters in which it feeds to the tropical and subtropical beaches where it hatches its eggs. Female turtles originally tagged in French Guiana off the coast of South America have been recaptured on the other side of the ocean in Morocco and Spain. In 2006, the so-called “Dingle turtle” made headlines after being tagged off the west coast of Ireland and embarking on an astonishing 5,000-mile journey to the Cape Verde islands, off West Africa. Leatherbacks are found from Alaska to New Zealand.

ham the chimpChimps

Everyone knows man’s closest living relative is the sharpest tool in the animal box. After all, what other animal can brew up a cup of PG Tips while wearing a bowler hat? This week, however, the publication Current Biology has shed new light on the brain power of chimpanzees, revealing them to have photographic memories far superior to our own. Until now, it was not thought chimps could match humans in mental tests. But researchers in Kyoto discovered that chimps could recall a sequence of numbers displayed to them (for a fraction of a second), outperforming students who took the same test. The research suggests that short-term memory may have been more important to earlier humans, possibly because of our modern reliance on language-based memory skills.

humpback whaleHumpback whales

Whale song, which is associated in particular with the humpback, is something of a mystery to scientists. Male humpbacks sing mainly during the mating season, but it is not known whether the song is used to attract females or to ward off other males. The song itself is complex. At any one moment, all the males in a population sing the same song. Over time the song slowly evolves into something new, with all the whales making exactly the same changes to their pattern of singing. Studies suggest that, once a population of whales has moved on from a particular pattern, it will never again return. Other whales such as the sperm and beluga also make songs but none are as complex as that of the humpback.

elephantElephants

The old adage that elephants never forget was proved to have a basis in scientific fact in 2001, when research showed that matriarchs, who lead the herd, have an uncanny ability to remember faces. This enables them to know when alert their brood to menacing interlopers. Now, scientists at the University of St Andrews have shown that pachyderms are even smarter than that: a study of 36 family groups in Kenya suggests that elephants can build a mental map of where herd members are by combining their memory with a keen sense of smell. Researchers lay urine samples from wild elephants in the path of a herd. When the leader encountered the scent, it reacted with surprise because its memory told it the animal was walking behind, and could not have been able to lay its scent ahead.

artic ternThe Arctic tern

Even more prone to wander than the leatherback turtle, the Arctic tern takes the longest regular migration of any known animal, from its Arctic breeding grounds to the Antarctic and back again every year. On this journey of about 22,000 miles, the seabird enjoys two summers and more daylight than any other creature on the planet. One chick demonstrated its flying ability by setting out from Labrador, Canada, in July 1928 to arrive in South Africa four months later. Another unfledged chick tagged on the Farne Islands, off the coast of Northumberland, in 1982 flew 14,000 miles to Melbourne, Australia, in just three months. Over its life, the Arctic tern will travel about 500,000 miles.
Ants

They might be famous for their brawn — ants can carry up to 20 times their body weight, the equivalent of a woman strapping a hippo to her back — but ants are not renowned for brains. When it comes to delegation, however, they’re smart. Males cannot claim much credit for this — they spend their days wandering around accepting food until they mate, when they promptly die — but worker ants, who are generally sterile females, are clever. They perform tasks such as foraging, defending, preparing food, construction and attending to the queen. The most dangerous task is foraging, so older, more expendable ants are given the job, while the younger ones wait on the queen.

crowsNew Caledonian Crows

The ability to fashion tools has always been held as uniquely primate, distinguishing us from (apparently) less intelligent creatures. But humans and apes are not alone in having tool-making skills. Crows amazed the science community in October when footage — recorded using tiny “crow-cams” on the tails of New Caledonian crows — showed the birds creating advanced implements. One crow was observed whittling twigs and leaves with its beak to fashion grabbers designed to retrieve grubs from the ground. The New Caledonian crows are the only known non-primate to create and use new tools.

orangutanOrang-utan

Chimps might be able to outwit Japanese university students in a test of photographic memory, and are traditionally considered to be second only to humans in the intelligence stakes, but research published earlier this year suggested that orang-utans were the smartest swingers in the ape world. Scientists from Harvard University studied orang-utans in Borneo and found them capable of tasks that chimps could only dream of, such as using leaves to make waterproof hats and roofs. They also gathered evidence that the orange-haired apes have developed a culture in which adults teach the young how to make tools. Viewers of David Attenborough’s documentaries will remember the astonishing film of an orang-utan climbing into a canoe and using a paddle.

excerpt from:
Animals Do the Cleverest Things
By Steve Connor, Independent UK
Posted on December 8, 2007, Printed on December 9, 2007
http://www.alternet.org/story/69933/

December 9, 2007 at 9:40 pm 27 comments

Wild Parrots in the Snow!


On Sunday night, New York City had its first snowfall of the winter season, so naturally I ventured forth to see if I could obtain some images of wild parrots in the snow. I had reasonable luck, as these photos attest.

Enjoy this strange urban marvel: bright green and grey parrots, in the middle of New York City, frolicking in the December snow! Who needs to go to Bermuda or Cancun when there is such exotic wildlife right here?

(click on any image to see an enlargement)


Jump for joy! There’s a scattering of Petco gourmet-style Finch Seed on the ground, which is especially welcome today, because the wild parrots’ usual foraging ground is under an impenetrable coat of snow.


Mourning doves and sparrows are often found in the company of New York’s wild parrots. Some people unfortunately think that the quaker parakeets harass other birds, but I’ve never seen it happen. The quakers seem to get along with every bird in New York, except for crows, falcons, and hawks, which they do not like at all.


The quaker parakeets and mourning doves are enjoying this seed, but aren’t dependent on it. The quakers do very well eating acorns, which are often found around the base of trees, where the snow doesn’t build up heavily.

Quaker parakeets in the snow
On a later, sunnier day in December. the quakers are found frolicking in the snow.

Monk parakeets in the snow
Even though their foraging field is covered by the white stuff, these birds aren’t going hungry today, however. See those tiny sprigs of grass sticking up through the snow? They’re delicious and nutritious!

I will be going out to see these remarkable wild parrots on each weekend through the winter and will share any good pix I take with you all. There’s something really amazing about seeing these birds — so far from home and without any written instructions — making a go of it in New York.

Some might call the quaker parakeets’ remarkable success story in our hemisphere as an example of a highly evolved, highly adaptive creature created by the Darwinian lathe of natural selection. Others will surely view them as an example of really intelligent “Intelligent Design.”

Either way, they’re tough, vociferous little characters who have, in my view, earned the honorific title, “American Parrot.”

October 8, 2007 at 12:27 am Leave a comment

Clever crows are caught on camera

Rebecca Morelle
Science reporter, BBC News


New Caledonian crow (Jolyon Troscianko)

Cameras were attached to the crows’ tail feathers

Miniature cameras have given scientists a rare glimpse into how New Caledonian crows behave in the wild.

The birds are renowned for their sophisticated tool-using ability, but until now, observing them in their natural habitat has proven difficult.

But specially designed “crow-cams” fitted to the birds’ tails have shed light on the creatures, recording some tool-use never seen before.

The research is reported in the journal Science.

New Caledonian crows (Corvus moneduloides) are found on the South Pacific island of New Caledonia.

They can use their bills to whittle twigs and leaves into bug-grabbing implements; some believe their tool-use is so advanced that it rivals that of some primates.

Why not just stick a camera to a crow, hitch a ride with it, and get a crow’s eye view of what is going on?

Christian Rutz

But while these clever crows have been extensively studied in captivity, looking at their natural behaviour in the wild is tricky.

Christian Rutz, lead author of the paper from the Department of Zoology at the University of Oxford, UK, said: “These birds are notoriously difficult to study in the wild.

“They are very sensitive to human disturbance and the terrain in New Caledonia is very mountainous and forested, so it is difficult to follow the birds.”

So the team came up with another approach.

“Why not just stick a camera to a crow, hitch a ride with it, and get a crow’s-eye view of what is going on?” Dr Rutz said.

New tools

Recent advances in mobile phone technology enabled the researchers to construct a camera that was small enough to attach to a crow’s tail without impairing its movements.

They attached the 14g (0.5oz) units – which also contained a radio tag to transmit location coordinates – to the tail feathers of 18 New Caledonian crows.

Video camera (L. Bluff)

The video camera weighs only 14g

The footage, broadcasted to the researchers’ custom-built receivers, provided the team with a unique insight into the crows’ behaviour – including some that had never been seen before.

Dr Rutz told the BBC News website: “Before, we thought the crows targeted their tool use at fallen dead trees where they probe for grubs; but now we have observed them using tools on the ground – and that has never been seen before.

“We also filmed them doing this using a new type of tool, which was very surprising. We found them using grass stems – and that is interesting because these stems have very different physical properties from the sticks and leaves that we knew they use.

“They are using the grass stems on the forest floor, probing the leaf litter, possibly fishing for ants.”

Big juicy grubs

The team is using its video footage to investigate why New Caledonian crows might have evolved their tool-using abilities. This species of crow is the only non-primate animal known to create and use new tools.

Dr Rutz said: “What were the ecological circumstances on this one particular island in the South Pacific that could have fostered the evolution of this behaviour?”

This technology could really change the way we study wild birds

Christian Rutz

One idea, he said, was that the behaviour may have evolved in response to food shortages.

“When we compared situations when the crows did and didn’t use tools, we found two pieces of supporting evidence for this,” Dr Rutz said.

“Firstly, the prey encounter rate was surprisingly small: for one hour of ground foraging a crow would only pick up eight tiny morsels of food – a blackbird in a garden would be taking up that many items a minute. That shows maybe foraging without tools is indeed challenging in this habitat.

“Secondly, when you compare the size of the food items they get with and without tools – when they don’t use tools, the food items are very, very small indeed compared with the food items they extract with the tools. This again suggests maybe they need to use tools to gain access to this rich hidden food resource.”

The team says its video tracking technique could be used to study other wild birds that are shy or live in inaccessible habitats.

Dr Rutz added: “This technology could really change the way we study wild birds.”

October 4, 2007 at 6:47 pm Leave a comment

Seagull becomes crisp shoplifter

theif!!


A sea gull has turned shoplifter by wandering into a shop and helping itself to crisps.

The bird walks into the RS McColl newsagents in Aberdeen when the door is open and makes off with cheese Doritos. The seagull, nicknamed Sam, has now become so popular that locals have started paying for his crisps. Shop assistant Sriaram Nagarajan said: “Everyone is amazed by the seagull. For some reason he only takes that one particular kind of crisps.” The bird first swooped in Aberdeen’s Castlegate earlier this month and made off with the 55p crisps, and is now a regular. Once outside, the crisps are ripped open and the seagull is joined by other birds.

‘Fine art’

Mr Nagarajan said: “He’s got it down to a fine art. He waits until there are no customers around and I’m standing behind the till, then he raids the place. “At first I didn’t believe a seagull was capable of stealing crisps. But I saw it with my own eyes and I was surprised. He’s very good at it.

Seagull in action

The seagull takes the crisps outside and eats th

“He’s becoming a bit of a celebrity. Seagulls are usually not that popular but Sam is a star because he’s so funny.”
A spokesman for RSPB Scotland said: “I’ve never heard of anything like this before.
“Perhaps it tried some crisps in a shiny packet in the street, and was just opportunistic one day at the shop when it saw what was inside.
“As everyone knows, gulls can be very quick and fearless, and clearly this one is no exception.”

He added: “We’d discourage people from feeding gulls though, as gulls in towns generate lots of complaints every year, and the availability of food is the only reason they live in urban settings.”

July 27, 2007 at 7:04 pm Leave a comment


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