Friday, 5 August 2016

Weird and Bizarre Benthic Siphonophores (Video)

E/V Nautilus recently released another very interesting video, this time featuring a bizarre but beautiful Siphonophores. Although a siphonophore appears to be a single organism, each specimen is actually a colony composed of highly specialised individual animals called zooids. Enjoy the video:

Friday, 3 June 2016

Dog Naps on Pool Raft with Teddy Bear (Video)

Sometimes you just want to take your favorite teddy bear into the pool and drift away from all your troubles and worries. Enjoy:

Wednesday, 1 June 2016

Scary Creatures That Shouldn't Exist But Do

Sometimes nature can be weird. Weird and scary. Today we're going to talk about some terrifying creatures that shouldn't exist, but do. Here they are.

Blanket Octopus
I'm not sure if you've ever come across an octopus in real life. But to suffice it say that they're already terrifying enough. All those long tentacles sticking out the back of them and the fact that they're nothing like anything you'd find on land. Oh, and not to mention the fact that during certain football tournaments they seem to have psychic powers.

The blanket octopus takes this to the next level. This critter, found in the tropical ocean comes with its very own cape. Males can grow to three metres in length. That's enough to blot out the sun.

Whip Spider
As before, we're starting with a creature that is already pretty terrifying: the spider. And like before, we're searching all it's brethren to find the type of spider that is the scariest.

The whip spider is essentially a scorpion without a tail. That should be reason enough to be concerned about it. But when you throw in the fact that they can grow to two feet wide, it's clear that this arachnid is no ordinary spider.

Whip Spider, Source:

Polar Bear
Polar bears are notoriously aggressive animals, but, by all rights they shouldn't exist. How can they can sustain their enormous bodies in the sub-zero temperatures of the Arctic? According to it has to do with all their various adaptations. They've got oily fur to keep them dry, and a thick layer of blubber to insulate their bodies. Despite the cold and the lack of food, polar bears are the largest land predator on Earth. 

Polar Bear, Source:

Megamouth Shark
You might know a couple of people who could easily be called "megamouths." But after you've seen a megamouth shark, they'll pale in comparison. Researchers only discovered the megamouth shark in 1976. The megamouth swims around in the ocean all day with its mouth permanently open. Fortunately for us, it's mainly interested in plankton and other small ocean critters. But it's terrifying nonetheless. 

MegaMouth Shark, Source:

Angler Fish
The angler looks like a genuinely ancient creature. It has bristling layers of teeth and lives only in the deep ocean. It also, rather scarily, has a glow-in-the-dark antenna dangling in front of its face. Thanks to this appendage, it's able to have the lights on while it devours its prey. 

Angel Fish, Source:

Butcher Birds
Butcher birds could very easily be the directors of your average horror movie. Rather than doing what most birds of prey do, butcher birds like to impale their meals on sharp objects. Often, they'll leave their prey dangling on a spike while they go off to enjoy themselves, only to later return to finish the meal. 

Butcher Bird,

Flying Snakes
Most people find snakes scary enough. Here is an animal that either poisons its prey or squeezes it to death. But at least we can be safe in the knowledge that snakes can't fly, can't we?

Unfortunately, no. Flying snakes climb trees and then fling themselves into the air if they want to make a quick landing. Just watch out that they don't land on your head.

Thursday, 28 April 2016

Dog Ownership: What You Should Know And Why It's So Great

Owning a pet dog can be an amazing experience for both an individual or a family. They can provide you with so many wonderful memories. Owning a dog shouldn’t be a decision that you come too quickly. It is a lifelong commitment. So making sure your home is acceptable, and you have the time it takes to take care of a dog properly is essential. I thought I would share with you some of the things you need to consider on dog ownership, with a few reasons on why having a dog is so great.

Image Source

A dog needs a lot of exercise
It’s a fairly obvious point to make. But your dog does need to have regular exercise. This can be done through daily walks or letting them run off some steam in an open space. A dog needs fresh air just as much as an adult needs it. It’s good for you. This could be something you do in the morning and at night, or get your whole family involved. It’s a great bonding activity for you and your pet.

You need to take care of your pet's health
Taking care of your pet’s health is vital to their well-being. Unfortunately, dogs are prone to things like worms and fleas. You need to research into what your dog will need and take advantage of brands like advantix for dogs. They will have all the information you need to keep your dog's health in check.

The loyalty from your dog is like no other feeling
It’s well advertised that a dog is a man's best friend. The saying is very true. The loyalty a dog show’s it’s master is like nothing else. You show them love and take care of them, and they show it back. It’s a great relationship to have. Dog do make wonderful pets. 

Image Source

Keep your dog in check with regular vet visits
Just as much as you have the responsibility of taking care of general health, it is also essential your dog visits the vet each year. This is to keep up with vaccinations and keep an eye on their weight gain.

Ensure your dog has the correct diet
Making sure your dog has the right food and diet is all part of good pet care. You don’t want to overfeed them causing them to increase their weight. Weight gain alone can be fatal to an animal's well-being. Most recommended food brands will have information about how much you should feed your dog. This is normally down to the size and breed.

Show your pet love and affection
Finally, don’t forget to show your pet love and affection. They will appreciate all those ear scratches and belly rubs. A dog thrives on the attention their owner gives them. Ignoring them can lead to bad behaviour. So make sure you keep your dog in check by making them feel just as much a part of your life.

I hope this helps you see how great owning a dog can be. It is just as simple as taking care of them, but the rewarding friendship you gain is priceless.

Saturday, 2 January 2016

Crows Fashion Special Hook Tools For Insect Hunting!

New Caledonian crow uses a ‘hooked stick tool’
to hunt for insect prey.
A few days ago, scientists reported how they have been given an extraordinary glimpse into how wild New Caledonian crows (Corvus moneduloides) make and use 'hooked stick tools' to hunt for insect prey.

Dr Jolyon Troscianko, from the University of Exeter, and Dr Christian Rutz, from the University of St Andrews, have captured first video recordings documenting how these medium sized, all black crows fashion these particularly "complex" tools in the wild.

The two scientists developed tiny video 'spy-cameras' which were attached to the crows, to observe their natural foraging behaviour.

They discovered two instances of hooked stick tool making on the footage they recorded, with one crow spending a minute making the tool, before using it to probe for food in tree crevices and even in leaf litter on the ground.

The findings appeared in the Royal Society's journal Biology Letters on Wednesday, December 23.

Dr Troscianko is a Postdoctoral Research Fellow in Exeter's Biosciences Department based at the Penryn Campus in Cornwall, who worked on the project while at the University of Birmingham.

"While fieldworkers had previously obtained brief glimpses of hooked stick tool manufacture, the only video footage to date came from baited feeding sites, where tool raw materials and probing tasks had been provided to crows by scientists. We were keen to get close-up video of birds making these tools under completely natural conditions. New Caledonian crows are notoriously difficult to observe, not just because of the challenging terrain of their tropical habitats, but also because they can be quite sensitive to disturbance. By documenting their fascinating behaviour with this new camera technology, we obtained valuable insights into the importance of tools in their daily search for food." said Dr Troscianko.

To obtain a 'crow's-eye view' of this elusive behaviour, the two researchers developed video cameras that are attached to the crows' tail feathers. The cameras are about the weight of a British 2-pound coin, and a tiny integrated radio beacon let the scientists recover the devices once they had safely detached after a few days. Dr Christian Rutz, Reader in the School of Biology in St Andrews, explains: "These cameras store video footage on a micro-SD card, using technology similar to that found in people's smart phones. This produced video recordings of stunning quality."

The team deployed 19 cameras on crows at their chosen dry forest study site, where in hundreds of hours of fieldwork, despite two brief glimpses with binoculars, they had never managed to film crows manufacturing hooked stick tools.

The scientists were excited to record two instances of this behaviour on footage recovered from ten birds in their latest study.

 "The behaviour is easy to miss -- the first time I watched the footage, I didn't see anything particularly interesting. Only when I went through it again frame-by-frame, I discovered this fascinating behaviour. Not once, but twice!" said Dr. Troscianko.

"In one scene, a crow drops its tool, and then recovers it from the ground shortly afterwards, suggesting they value their tools and don't simply discard them after a single use." According to Rutz, this observation agrees with recent aviary experiments conducted by his group: "Crows really hate losing their tools, and will use all sorts of tricks to keep them safe. We even observed them storing tools temporarily in tree holes, the same way a human would put a treasured pen into a pen holder."

Still images from footage obtained with miniature video cameras attached to wild new caledonian crows.

- Jolyon Troscianko, Christian Rutz. Activity profiles and hook-tool use of New Caledonian crows recorded by bird-borne video cameras. Biology Letters, 2015; 11 (12): 20150777 DOI: 10.1098/rsbl.2015.0777

Tuesday, 20 October 2015

Bees Love Caffeine!

Honey bee foraging at a feeder with caffeinated sucrose solution
Credit: Dr. Roger Schürch
For most people, the best start to the day is a nice fresh cup of coffee. Now, new research finds that honey bees find coffee -er, nectar- irresistible too!

We all love to start our day with a hot cup of coffee. Now, a new study appearcing in the Cell Press journal Current Biology on October 15 finds that honey bees find caffeinated nectar irresistible too.

In fact, it seems that honey bees may select caffeinated nectar over an uncaffeinated but otherwise equal-quality alternative. As a result, the researchers believe plants may be lacing their nectar with caffeine as a way to pass off cheaper goods.

"We describe a novel way in which some plants, through the action of a secondary compound like caffeine that is present in nectar, may be tricking the honey bee by securing loyal and faithful foraging and recruitment behaviors, perhaps without providing the best quality forage." said Margaret Couvillon of the University of Sussex.

"The effect of caffeine is akin to drugging, where the honey bees are tricked into valuing the forage as a higher quality than it really is. The duped pollinators forage and recruit accordingly." added Roger Schürch, of the University of Sussex and the University of Bern.

Couvillon, Schürch, and their colleagues were aware of earlier studies, which found that honey bees are better at learning and remembering particular scents when they are under the influence of caffeine. The findings suggested a role for reward pathways in the bees' brains.

"I could not help but wonder how caffeine would affect the natural behaviors as seen in the field." Couvillon said, noting that the nectar of many flowering plants contains caffeine in low concentrations.

To investigate, the researchers tested bees' responses to a sucrose solution with field-realistic doses of caffeine or without. They found that the caffeine caused honey bees to forage more and to direct their friends to the caffeinated forage more frequently with waggle dances. The caffeine quadrupled the recruitment dances of bees to those feeders in comparison to uncaffeinated controls.

Bees were more persistent about returning to sites where they'd previously found caffeinated nectar, even after the feeder had run dry. After sipping caffeine, bees were also less inclined to search for other resources, a behavior that could be useful when the well runs dry.

"We were surprised at how, across the board, we saw an effect of caffeine just about everywhere we looked in foraging and recruitment, and all in the direction to make the colony more faithful to the caffeinated source compared to an equal-quality, uncaffeinated source." said Schürch.

Based on their observations of the individual bees' behaviors, the researchers' model suggests that caffeinated nectar could reduce honey production in colonies if indeed plants reduce the sweetness of their nectar. The findings come as a reminder that the interests of plants and their pollinators don't always align.

The researchers say it would now be interesting to find out whether plants that lace their nectar with a secondary compound like caffeine also make nectar that's less sweet. And, they note, caffeine isn't the only secondary compound found in nectar.

"It would be interesting to determine the effects of other compounds. It may be that chemistry is a popular way in which plants can get the upper hand on their pollinators." saidCouvillon.

The authors are funded by the Nineveh Charitable Trust, the Natural Environment Research Council, the University of Sussex, Damascus University, and Rowse Honey Ltd. Additional research funding was provided by Waitrose Ltd. and Burt's Bees.

Goat sliding down again and again!

I think this is the happiest goat in the world: