Tag archives for Animal Behavior
You may have seen a dog accompanying a passenger on your local bus, but some wild animals have been spotted hitching a ride on public transportation! In 2002, a coyote climbed aboard a Portland, Oregon, light rail train and snuggled into a seat. Wildlife specialists removed the coyote before the train started moving. Cats, pigeons, and even rhesus monkeys have been spotted on buses and light rail trains!
You may have heard that roosters crow when the sun comes up, but scientists at Nagoya University in Japan have discovered that roosters don’t even need to see the sun to know when to crow! Their internal clocks let them know when the new day is beginning. The scientists first exposed the roosters to two weeks of 12 hours of light and 12 hours of dim light. The roosters would begin crowing two hours before the light conditions began. In a second experiment, the roosters were kept under dim light for 24 hours a day for two weeks. The roosters began crowing at around the same time every day when they thought it was dawn.
Kristen Navara, a hormone specialist in poultry at the University of Georgia in Athens, had noticed that sunlight didn’t appear before the roosters began crowing. “We have definitely noticed in our own roosters that they begin to crow before dawn and have wondered why that was, but just never thought to test whether it was a circadian rhythm driven by an internal clock rather than an external cue.”
How good are Adelie penguins at fishing? Amazingly good, according to new footage taken with cameras mounted to the backs of 14 penguins. The penguins never missed their prey on their recorded dives. The Japanese researchers who worked on the study found that the penguins could catch two krill per second, and could catch as many as 14 fish every 20 seconds.
Did you know that male mice sing? According to scientists, male mice sing for many reasons, including for courtship and to show aggression. A new study reports that males change the notes in their songs to more closely match the songs of other males. Scientists record the songs and slow down the recordings to listen to them, because they are too high-pitched for humans to hear.
Photograph from Juniors Bildarchiv GmbH/Alamy
During the winter months, many animals seem to disappear as temperatures drop and the days grow shorter. Some of them migrate, but others hibernate. Hibernation is a state in which animals fall into a deep sleep-like state. The marmot hibernates for up to eight months every year! But it’s not just mammals that hibernate. Reptiles such as snakes and turtles also hibernate. While the box turtle hibernates, its heart beats once every five to ten minutes, and it doesn’t have to breathe–instead, it takes in oxygen through its skin. When warmer spring temperatures arrive, hibernating animals wake up and go out in search of food to fill their empty stomachs.
Photograph by Lorna Mildice, My Shot
Scientists have been taking a closer look at the “dance” that dung beetles perform on top of their dung balls. So why do the beetles dance? They’re using the sun to figure out which direction to travel. As the beetle moves on top of the dung ball, it is checking the position of the sun to help it navigate.
Photograph by Chris Johns, National Geographic
A new study says Polistes fuscatus paper wasps are able to remember other wasps! “Studies show that when you look at a face, your brain treats it in a totally different way than it does other images,” says Michael Sheehan, a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor and the study’s co-author. “It’s just the way the brain processes the image of a face, and it turns out that these paper wasps do the same thing.”
Why might recognizing other wasps be helpful? It might help keep the peace between the wasps. “Being able to recognize each other helps them understand who’s already beaten who, who has higher ranking in the hierarchy, and this helps to keep the peace. When they aren’t able to recognize each other, [as] we’ve shown before, there was more aggression,” says Sheehan.
Diagram courtesy Science/AAAS
Some snails surf across the ocean! Instead of using a surfboard, they hang upside down on rafts made with the snail’s mucus. There are fewer than ten species of these snails gliding across the oceans. Scientists have discovered that these snails are descendants of bottom-dwelling snails called wentletraps that use mucus to make egg masses.
Celia Churchill, a Ph.D. student a the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, described the bubble rafts as having a consistency similar to bubble wrap. “You can pop it if you get a fresh one,” she said.
Photograph courtesy Denis Riek
When you speed up video of emperor penguins huddling together in Antarctica, you see them do the wave! The penguins snuggle up together to keep warm and as new penguins join the group they take small steps, creating the wave effect. Researchers say that this helps the penguins get equal chance at time in the middle of the huddle.
Watch a video of penguins doing the wave!
The great snipe is able to complete a flight from Sweden to sub-Saharan Africa in as little as two days (without any rest breaks)! Why? Scientists think it might be because these shorebirds are chubby. “They almost double their body weight before the flight,” said study leader Raymond Klaasen, a biologist at Lund University in Sweden. “And all this fat will be burned during the flight, and they will arrive lean and exhausted in Africa.” Other birds fly faster than the great snipe, but for shorter distances.
Although the snipe holds the current record for the fastest transcontinental migration, it may not hold the record for very long. There are probably faster birds out there. “Generally we know rather little about the performances of different species, as many have not yet been tracked,” said Klaasen.
Photograph by Klaus Nigge, National Geographic
A huge number of whales can be found near New York City, scientists say. To get an idea of what was happening under the surface, scientists placed underwater sound recorders off the coast of Long Island and in New York Harbor, and they picked up a surprising number of whale sounds! The recorders picked up the songs of six different kinds of whales: the fin whale, blue whale, humpback whale, minke whale, sei whale, and the North Atlantic right whale. The whales came as close as 10 miles of New York City.
Some of the whales were migrating to breeding grounds, but others stay around the coast all year round. Scientists are unable to tell exactly how many whales appear on the recordings because of the limitations of the technology.
Think you know your blue whale facts? Quiz Your Noodle and find out!
Photograph by Flip Nicklin, National Geographic
The common wasp is an invasive species in New Zealand. These wasps compete for food with an ant species called Prolasius advenus, which is a native species. Scientists performing an experiment with the insects noticed the wasps doing something unique: picking up ants crawling on food, flying a short distance away, and then dropping the ants. The scientists noticed that while the two species competed for a food source, the ants could be aggressive towards the much larger wasps, trying to bite them or spraying them with formic acid. The researchers think that the wasps might drop the ants, rather than killing them, to touch as little of the formic acid as possible.
Photograph by Julien Grangier, Victoria University of Wellington
You probably already know that bears hibernate through the winter. They find a cozy den to curl up in, and sleep the cold months away–all without waking up to eat (or even go to the bathroom). Scientists always thought that when the bears slowed their metabolisms so they could sleep for so long without eating, their body temperatures would drop dramatically. A new study says that this isn’t the case.
Alaskan black bears do lower their body temperatures while hibernating, but only by about 9 to 11 degrees Fahrenheit (5 or 6 degrees Celsius). Other body processes slow down as well. The bears’ heart rates dropped from about 55 beats per minute to about 9 beats per minute! How well would humans do with heart rates like slumbering bears? “If we had that kind of longer interval within our heartbeats, we would probably faint,” said study co-author Øivind Tøien, a zoophysiologist at the University of Alaska, Fairbanks.
Photograph from All Canada Photos/Alamy
At England’s Cocester Zoo, the mandrills have been seen covering their eyes. Why? Scientists aren’t exactly sure, but one idea is that covering the eyes means that a mandrill wants to be left alone. A new study says that this behavior has been observed in the Colcester Zoo mandrills for at least ten years, and probably started with one mandrill. All of the other mandrills copied the behavior, and now all of the zoo’s mandrills cover their eyes.
This is especially interesting to scientists because humans didn’t teach this behavior to the mandrills. Study authors say that the mandrills’ behavior could be considered cultural, because of natural way the gesture developed.
Read more about the study on National Geographic News Watch.
Play Monkey Bars Gymnastics on National Geographic Kids.
Photograph courtesy Mark Laidre, University of California, Berkeley
All babies love to play and young chimpanzees are no exception. Researchers in Kibale National Park in Uganda have noticed something: young female chimps will play with sticks like they are dolls! “The stick serves no immediate function, they just carry it–sometimes for a few minutes, other times for hours,” says an e-mail by study leader Richard Wrangham, a biological anthropologist at Harvard University. “Carriers regularly take sticks into the nests they rest in during the day, something that isn’t done with other objects. Individuals are [also] known to play with their sticks while in their nests.”
Similar behavior has noticed with animals in zoos, too. Captive female monkeys have been noticed to prefer doll toys, while the males play with trucks.
Read more about baby chimps and their toys on National Geographic News
Get the facts on chimps in the Creature Feature.
Photograph by Michael Poliza, National Geographic/Getty Images
Fantastic Mr. Fox is a new stop-motion animated movie based on Roald Dahl’s classic book for kids of the same title. The movie’s full of fun and animal “facts,” but are all these facts for real?
According to Fantastic Mr. Fox, beagles love blueberries. Is that true? Nope, according to Lisa Peterson of the American Kennel Club. “Most dogs don’t like fruit at all.” So what do beagles like to eat when they’re not eating dog food provided by their owners? “Poop for sure, the fresher the better–usually someone else’s, but quite often their own. And I have one [beagle] that digs up grub worms and eats them. They also like any paper products, and if they don’t eat them, they will tear them up,” adds Janelle Holmes, a Texas-based beagle breeder.
Which other Fantistic Mr. Fox facts don’t hold water? Find out (and watch the movie trailer) on NGM Blog Central.
Chimpanzees are more like humans than researchers previously thought. In a new study performed in Japan, chimps helped other chimps get juice by passing them objects such as straws (to drink the juice) or sticks (to reach straws they couldn’t reach). Researchers noticed that related chimps were more likely to help each other.
The chimps were trained to use sticks or straws to get juice, but they were not trained to pass things to each other.
Find out more about the research on National Geographic News.
Get the facts on chimpanzees in this Creature Feature.
Watch a video of a chimp solving a computer puzzle on News Bites.
This story isn’t about thieves smuggling whales, but whales who are thieves! New footage catches sperm whales in the act of snatching fish from fishing lines. Scientists got the incredible shots from underwater cameras attached to fishing equipment. These smart whales were able to shake the fish from the line without injuring themselves. Watch a video of the fish heist below.
Learn more about the thieving whales on National Geographic News.
See pictures of different kinds of whales on National Geographic Kids.
How much do you know about blue whales? Quiz Your Noodle and find out.
Did you know that orangutans can imitate sounds and even whistle? Researchers have seen them imitate human activities like sweeping and even washing clothes, but now scientists have found that they can pick up sounds from other species.
Bonnie, an orangutan who lives at the National Zoo in Washington, D.C., has been whistling for about 20 years. She was never trained to whistle, indicating that some animals can learn and mimic sounds that other species make without being directly taught.
Photograph courtesy Smithsonian National Zoological Park
If you own a dog, you probably know how smart they can be, but a new study suggests that dogs can feel envy. In the study, dogs were asked to perform tricks in front of another dog that they knew, such as a playmate or a pet from the same house. The other dog would then be asked to perform the same trick. One dog would then receive a reward while the other did not.
“If both of them didn’t get a reward, they continued working more or less,” said lead author Friederike Range of the University of Vienna, Austria. “But if one of them didn’t get food, the one that didn’t get food just said, No.”
For more on this study visit National Geographic News.