Mysterious mammal caught on film

jerrooba.jpg

First footage of a long-eared jerboa
An “extraordinary” desert creature has been caught on camera for what scientists believe is the first time.

The long-eared jerboa, a tiny nocturnal mammal that is dwarfed by its enormous ears, can be found in deserts in Mongolia and China.

Zoological Society of London (ZSL) scientist Jonathan Baillie said the footage was helping researchers to learn more about the mysterious animal.

The species is classified as endangered on the IUCN Red list.

  These creatures hop just like a kangaroo; it is amazing to watch
Dr Jonathan Baillie, ZSL

The unusual animals were filmed in the Gobi desert during an expedition led by Dr Baillie.

Until now, the creatures had proven extremely difficult to study, thanks to their minuscule size, nocturnal nature and the harsh desert environment that they inhabit.

Big ears

Dr Baillie told BBC News that he was “ecstatic” to have tracked down the jerboas.

“These creatures hop just like a kangaroo; it is amazing to watch. Little hairs on their feet, almost like snow shoes, allow them to jump along the sand,” he explained.

 
Burrowing in the sand

“And in terms of mammals, they have one of the biggest ear-to-body ratios out there.”

The footage revealed that the creatures spent daylight hours in underground tunnels beneath the sand, and that their diet was mostly made up of insects.

“The long-eared jerboa is a bit like the Mickey Mouse of the desert, cute and comic in equal measure,” Dr Baillie said.

By setting pitfall traps, the researchers were also able to look at the rodents close-up and to begin to estimate their population.

Dr Baillie added that although there was still much to learn about the rare rodent, it was already believed to be under threat from habitat disturbance.

“We travelled to the Gobi to find out about the animal’s status and learn more about it so we can develop a thorough long-term action plan.”

Desert bounties

The expedition formed part of ZSL’s Edge programme, which focuses its efforts on conservation plans for animals that are both endangered and evolutionary distinctive.

The long-eared jerboa is one of 10 species that the programme is looking at this year.

 
Hopping about

“These amazing, remarkable creatures are on the verge of extinction and we know almost nothing about them,” warned Dr Baillie.

He added that it was important not to overlook desert habitats in conservation.

“Everyone thinks the desert is a totally desolate area, void of biodiversity, and often when conservation planning is done, deserts are overlooked.

“But there are some remarkable species in the desert, so we really need to start paying attention to this environment.”

An Edge scientist has now been appointed to further study the species.

Story from BBC NEWS:
http://news.bbc.co.uk/go/pr/fr/-/2/hi/science/nature/7130484.stm

Published: 2007/12/10 00:36:40 GMT

December 10, 2007 at 8:47 pm Leave a 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

Greek parrot in parking fine row

By Malcolm Brabant
BBC News, Patras


Coco and his parking spot

Coco’s parking spot

A legal battle is under way in the western Greek city of Patras over a parrot that is facing a $650 (£320; 444 euros) parking ticket.

The local council says his perch is illegally parked and is obstructing drivers because it partially blocks a metered parking space.

Coco the parrot’s owner, Lambros Michalopoulos, says the bird will die if it has to move back inside.

Neither side is backing down so now the dispute is going to the courts.

‘Sociable creature’

With his multi-coloured Amazonian plumage and extrovert personality, Coco has, for 18 years, been something of a mascot in this busy port city, with narrow streets and precious few parking places.

His small perch occupies part of a metered zone and under the zero tolerance rules, the local police have ordered Mr Michalopoulos to pay a heavy fine.

The pet shop owner says he has ignored the authorities because if Coco goes back inside the store permanently the macaw will die because he is a sociable creature who enjoys being with people.

Patras’s Deputy Mayor Spiros Demartinos is embarrassed that Coco’s plight is attracting international attention.

He would prefer to talk about the city’s ambitious plans to use parking revenue for funding bicycle lanes and pedestrian zones.

“Is it bureaucratic to be concerned about the parrot’s safety?” he asks.

“The parrot’s security is of paramount concern to the council.”

Both sides are refusing to back down and so the dispute is heading to the palace of justice.

Coco’s owner is hoping that the case will be laughed out of court.

December 9, 2007 at 9:13 pm Leave a comment

Chimps Beat Students in Memory Test

By MALCOLM RITTER, AP Science WriterMon Dec 3, 9:57 AM ET

Never mind that TV show that asks if you’re smarter than a fifth-grader. Is your memory better than a young chimp’s?

Maybe not.

Japanese researchers pitted young chimps against human adults in two tests of short-term memory, and overall, the chimps won.

That challenges the belief of many people, including many scientists, that “humans are superior to chimpanzees in all cognitive functions,” said researcher Tetsuro Matsuzawa of Kyoto University.

“No one can imagine that chimpanzees — young chimpanzees at the age of 5 — have a better performance in a memory task than humans,” he said in a statement.

Matsuzawa, a pioneer in studying the mental abilities of chimps, said even he was surprised. He and colleague Sana Inoue report the results in Tuesday’s issue of the journal Current Biology.

One memory test included three 5-year-old chimps who’d been taught the order of Arabic numerals 1 through 9, and a dozen human volunteers.

They saw nine numbers displayed on a computer screen. When they touched the first number, the other eight turned into white squares. The test was to touch all these squares in the order of the numbers that used to be there.

Results showed that the chimps, while no more accurate than the people, could do this faster.

One chimp, Ayumu, did the best. Researchers included him and nine college students in a second test.

This time, five numbers flashed on the screen only briefly before they were replaced by white squares. The challenge, again, was to touch these squares in the proper sequence.

When the numbers were displayed for about seven-tenths of a second, Ayumu and the college students were both able to do this correctly about 80 percent of the time.

But when the numbers were displayed for just four-tenths or two-tenths of a second, the chimp was the champ. The briefer of those times is too short to allow a look around the screen, and in those tests Ayumu still scored about 80 percent, while humans plunged to 40 percent.

That indicates Ayumu was better at taking in the whole pattern of numbers at a glance, the researchers wrote.

“It’s amazing what this chimpanzee is able to do,” said Elizabeth Lonsdorf, director of the Lester E. Fisher Center for the Study and Conservation of Apes at the Lincoln Park Zoo in Chicago. The center studies the mental abilities of apes, but Lonsdorf didn’t participate in the new study.

She admired Ayumu’s performance when the numbers flashed only briefly on the screen.

“I just watched the video of that and I can tell you right now, there’s no way I can do it,” she said. “It’s unbelievable. I can’t even get the first two (squares).”

What’s going on here? Even with six months of training, three students failed to catch up to the three young chimps, Matsuzawa said in an e-mail.

He thinks two factors gave his chimps the edge. For one thing, he believes human ancestors gave up much of this skill over evolutionary time to make room in the brain for gaining language abilities.

The other factor is the youth of Ayumu and his peers. The memory for images that’s needed for the tests resembles a skill found in children, but which dissipates with age. In fact, the young chimps performed better than older chimps in the new study. (Ayuma’s mom did even worse than the college students).

So the next logical step, Lonsdorf said, is to fix up Ayumu with some real competition on these tests: little kids.

Chinpanzee

December 4, 2007 at 7:45 am 1 comment

Cat tells owner to jump and how high

Cat’s daily routine baffles owner

Sgt Podge is collected by car every day

Sgt Podge is collected between 0800 and 0815 GMT every day


Podge’s daily ride

A cat is baffling his owner by wandering off at night before expecting to be collected by car every morning at exactly the same time and place. Sgt Podge, a Norwegian Forest Cat, disappears from his owner’s home in Talbot Woods, Bournemouth, every night.

The next morning, the 12-year-old cat can always be found in exactly the same place, on a pavement about one and a half miles (2.4km) away.

His owner, Liz Bullard, takes her son to school before collecting Sgt Podge.

She said the routine began earlier this year, when Sgt Podge disappeared one day.

Ms Bullard rang the RSPCA and began telephoning her neighbours to see if anyone had seen him.

An elderly woman who lived about one and a half miles away called back to say she had found a cat matching Sgt Podge’s description.

Ms Bullard collected him but within days he vanished again. She rang the elderly woman to find Sgt Podge was back outside her home.

Sgt Podge is collected by his owner

Owner Liz Bullard thinks Sgt Podge crosses a golf course every night

She said a routine has now become established, where each morning she takes her son to school before driving to collect Sgt Podge from the pavement between 0800 and 0815 GMT.

It is thought Sgt Podge walks across Meyrick Park Golf Course every night to reach his destination.

Ms Bullard said: “If it’s raining he may be in the bush but he comes running if I clap my hands.”

All she has to do is open the car passenger door from the inside for Sgt Podge to jump in.

Wandering the streets

Ms Bullard also makes the trip at weekends and during school holidays – when her son is having a lie in.

She does not know why, after 12 years, Sgt Podge has begun the routine but explained that another woman who lived nearby used to feed him sardines, and that he may be on the look-out for more treats.

“As long as you know where they are you don’t mind as a cat owner,” Ms Bullard said.

“I know where to collect him – as long as he’s not wandering the streets.”

Back at home, Sgt Podge has breakfast before going to sleep by a warm radiator.

November 16, 2007 at 1:53 am 1 comment

dont use dog flea medicine on cats…please

 

 

Sometimes there is a reason why there are to seemingly identical products for 2 different animals or people, men, women, cats, dogs and fish..

Cats ‘killed by flea treatment’

A black and white cat

The chemical is toxic to cats

Hundreds of cats may have died because their owners mistakenly treated them with anti-flea products intended for dogs, a study suggests. The Veterinary Poisons Information Service found that one in 10 cats referred to it had died after being exposed to permethrin.

The chemical is used in flea treatments for dogs but is very toxic to cats, said Alex Campbell of VPIS.

VPIS wants clearer warnings to be displayed on canine treatments.

Mr Campbell said the substance was present in many products, but in very low concentrations.

If accidentally applied to cats they can show “severe clinical signs” and need two or three days of intensive veterinary treatment if they are to survive.

Convulsions

“You’d find it in ant powders and a few things like that, but in those sort of products it’s in very low concentrations, so it doesn’t usually cause problems in either cats or dogs,” he told BBC Radio 5Live.

“However, it is occasionally used in spot-on flea treatments for dogs and if you accidentally apply these to cats, or you’ve treated your dog and your cat comes into contact with the dog, and actually manages to groom some of it off or whatever, then potentially the cat can get severe clinical signs.

“This substance is very toxic to cats.”

In a study of 286 cases in which canine spot-on permethrin preparations had been used on cats found that 97% showed signs of poisoning.

Around 90% displayed symptoms of twitching and convulsions, with one in 10 dying or having to be put down.

However, Mr Campbell said poisoning may be more widespread as not all vets report every case, nor do they all use the VPIS, which is part of Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust.

November 13, 2007 at 2:27 am 1 comment

Crayfish run for their lives


A group of crayfish spared themselves from being eaten by escaping from a restaurant.

A crayfish /PA pics

Police in the German city of Stuttgart were called in when the crayfish escaped from an Asian restaurant.

The escape attempt was noticed by a pedestrian who spotted the crayfish scuttling down the street and notified authorities.

Apparently the crayfish had squeezed through gaps in the grating at the top of the tanks and escaped out the front door reports news.com.au.

October 24, 2007 at 11:05 pm Leave a comment

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