Monday, December 11, 2006

A Week On The Wild Side, December 10th, 2006

Some things I've noticed in the past week.

The Year's Best Video Nasties
Ever seen an anaconda swallow the world's largest rodent, the south American capybara, or a giant octopus lock tentacles with a shark? Ever witnessed a puffer fish outwit an otter or a black mamba snacking on a squirrel? Didn't think so. Well, feast your eyes on National Geographic's top ten video clips of 2006. Just the thing now that Planet Earth has come to an end on the BBC.

Frosty The Ice Frog
The Australian Sunday Telegraph has been having great fun reporting on how a small frog that had been accidentally turned to ice in a freezer was successfully defrosted, at least for a while. This isn't quite the surprising news it seems. In fact, some types of frog - in common with other species - deliberately place themselves in a state of frozen, suspended animation so as to survive the Winter each year.
The common wood frog, for instance, is able to withstand the Arctic Winter by turning itself into an ice cube. The frog allows two thirds of its body water to freeze, thereby stopping its heart, brain and breathing functions and slowing its metabolism to a crawl. As long as its body temperature doesn’t drop below about 20° Fahrenheit (–6° C) its body will survive on the glucose in its system until the Spring thaw.
Similarly, some breeds of American alligators can survive the winter by freezing their snouts in ice, leaving their nostrils to breath for months on end.

Why Kitty Gets So Forgetful
Scientists at Edinburgh University may have explained why cats get so scatty in their old age. The rather disturbing truth is reported on the New Scientist's excellent daily blog.

All Together Now, Aaaaaaaah
Can't resist cute film footage of pandas? Then here's an early Christmas present, courtesy of Atlanta Zoo and the Associated Press.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

City birds rap, rural ones sing country.

Birds, it seems, have different musical styles that vary according to whether they live in the town or the country. While rural birds like to sing traditional melodies, their urban relatives prefer more modern, rap-style rhythms.
A major study, carried out by a Dutch university and reported here, recorded the singing of great tits in ten major European cities, including London, Paris, Amsterdam and Prague. They then compared their musical efforts with tits living in forests.
While the country birds sang slower, more melodic and “traditional” songs, the study found that urban birds sent out calls that were shorter and faster and were also sung at a higher pitch. The city birds experimented with calls of between one and five notes, while those in forests stuck to the more normal combinations of two, three and four note tunes, the research found.
The authors have concluded the city birds are having to adapt to compete with background noise of the city in order to attract mates.
"Our data show that the adjustment of individual great tits to local noise conditions is not a local phenomenon but occurs throughout Europe and probably in all noisy urban areas,” say the authors of the paper, published in the journal Current Biology.
"Urban birds often experience very noisy conditions while singing, which may influence the efficacy of their acoustic signals. Male birds typically sing to defend a territory and to attract mates.If their song is not heard by the targeted audience they have to physically fight off intruders, and attracting females may be difficult."

Friday, December 01, 2006

A Week On The Wild Side, December 2nd, 2006

Spice Girls

Female wasps fight dirty. When they are losing a confrontation with another wasp, they shoot a substance similar to pepper spray from their heads. They fire the red hot chemical in their opponent’s face then run away a new study reported in National Geographic news revealed this week.

Which bit of the word killer didn’t you understand?

There is a reason why they call them killer whales, as a San Diego zoo keeper was reminded this week. The Times reports the unfortunate incident here.

This Christmas, Why Not Eat A Goat Fetus

Tired of fthe traditional turkey for Christmas? Then why not try this unusual Indian delicacy, served on special, family occasions - roast goat fetus. Why do I suddenly fancy a meat free Christmas dinner this year?