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Are wild animals reared by humans less fearful?

15. May, 2011
European Starling (Sturnus vulgaris)

Image by Larry Meade via Flickr

So apparently, there’s an EU directive on its way that will (among other things) prevent us from using wild animals for experiments. The reason for this is that there is evidence that wild animals suffer more from the stress than do captive bred animals. I suppose this makes sense, as a hand reared bird, for instance or a laboratory mouse are much less afraid of humans than their wild counterparts, so all handling will certainly be less stressful for them (especially if you use low stress handling methods). However, the following article questions the difference in stress caused by other things than handling.

Feenders G, Klaus K, Bateson M (2011) Fear and Exploration in European Starlings (Sturnus vulgaris): A Comparison of Hand-Reared and Wild-Caught Birds. PLoS ONE 6(4): e19074. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0019074

Now this lot published a study (On PLoS ONE too) that showed that Read more…


The Whale Sharks are Coming!

9. May, 2011
"cropped and adjusted version of IMG 1023...

Image via Wikipedia

So, do you know whale sharks? They’re massive sharks right out of a horror movie like Jaws… except they eat plankton. I think they’re amazing. You’d think the only reason that they’re called whale sharks is their massive size, but considering what they eat, it’s obvious they also have other things in common with whales (baleen whales, anyway).

de la Parra Venegas R, Hueter R, González Cano J, Tyminski J, Gregorio Remolina J, et al. (2011) An Unprecedented Aggregation of Whale Sharks, Rhincodon typus, in Mexican Coastal Waters of the Caribbean Sea. PLoS ONE 6(4): e18994. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0018994

Although whale sharks are generally solitary animals, you can sometimes find groups of them in areas with high concentration of zooplankton. These groups usually consist of dozens of whale sharks. However, it turns out there are some places where loads of them will gather, and the Gulf of Mexico (more precisely the waters around Read more…

Ducks have a (for me) surprisingly complicated anti-predator response

2. May, 2011
Tufted Duck

Image via Wikipedia

This will be a quick one as I’ve been rather busy this weekend. There will possibly be a longer one about starlings later in the week or on Sunday.

Zimmer C, Boos M, Bertrand F, Robin J-P, Petit O (2011) Behavioural Adjustment in Response to Increased Predation Risk: A Study in Three Duck Species. PLoS ONE 6(4): e18977. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0018977

Zimmer et al. wanted to find out if adaptations in behavioural budgets as a response to predation were really as simple as “eat less and be more vigilant” so they scared three different species of ducks with a radio controlled car. These were captive ducks reared at farms and they always had food available in their enclosures, which makes the study slightly limited in applicability to the wild. However, so long as this is kept in mind, there is definitely Read more…

Zebra Finches don’t respond to the calls of their own chicks

25. April, 2011
Zebra Finch

Image by marj k via Flickr

One would think that it was helpful for birds to recognise their own offspring. Accidentally raising someone else’s would be a waste of energy and wouldn’t ensure the survival of their own genes. So what’s up with the zebra finches? (citation below)

Reers H, Jacot A, Forstmeier W (2011) Do Zebra Finch Parents Fail to Recognise Their Own Offspring? PLoS ONE 6(4): e18466. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0018466

Reers et al. had noticed that their zebra finches tended to feed not just their own young but others as well. They thought this was quite odd as voice recognition is quite well developed in zebra finches. So they decided to find out what was up.

They recorded the call of fledgling finches and played it back to their parents Read more…

ASAB Here I come!

19. April, 2011

I’m going to give a talk at the ASAB Easter meeting in a week’s time (ASAB is “The Association for the Study of Animal Behaviour”). I’m quite excited and nervous even though I know it’s not like a big international conference or anything. I just haven’t really done this before outside of a class room.

I managed to create a rather poor poster for the Post Grad Symposium here at Leeds, so I hope I’ll do better on the talk. I mean… Surely I can’t make a complete mess of it, can I?

Either way, I’m really looking forward to ASAB, because it looks like a really nice line up of speakers talking about animal behaviour in various different ways. Also, my friend Carly is bringing a poster on her really exciting cheetah project. Should be some good times ahead 🙂

Octopuses recognise their neighbours!

17. April, 2011
Octopus vulgaris

Image via Wikipedia

The following article is about octopuses. I love them because they’re such extraordinary thinkers. Their nervous system is so different to that of us vertebrates, yet they sometimes display extraordinary intelligence considering their molluscan heritage. Yes I know, how speciesist (or even orderist or whatever) of me.

Tricarico E, Borrelli L, Gherardi F, Fiorito G (2011) I Know My Neighbour: Individual Recognition in Octopus vulgaris. PLoS ONE 6(4): e18710. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0018710

Now their article sets out by explaining why we care whether octopuses recognise their neighbours. They explain that recognising your neighbour is an important prerequisite in developing social behaviour such as dominance hierarchies. That makes sense.

They then go on to explain that not all animals recognise each other in the same way. Some have a full type of recognition like we humans have, where they recognise other animals as individuals where others may only be able to class them into familiars and strangers or dominant or subordinate and so on. However, as they rightly point out, there may be a continuum, so maybe it’s not helpful to talk in such terms.

The authors then go ahead to point out how wonderful octopuses are. They really lay it on thick. Now I want to stop studying sticklebacks and investigate octopus behaviour instead. Oh well. Apparently, despite this the social behaviour of octopuses isn’t well documented, and this is why they set out to investigate individual recognition in octopuses. I think this is a great thing to do and I can’t believe no one has done Read more…