Posts Tagged ‘animals’

A new superhero is born – Squidman

Posted on November 28th 2011 in Blog with Comments Off on A new superhero is born – Squidman

Not many animals could legitimately claim to have a super power. But two little sea creatures, living deep in the dark blue ocean, have an ability many of us have fantasised about possessing – they can turn invisible at will. The heroes of this story are two cephalopods – an octopus called Japetella heathi and a cuttlefish called Onychoteuthis banksii – henceforth known as the supersquid. You can see their near-magical talents in the video below: Why should the supersquid need such an awesome power? Sarah Zylinski from Duke University, North Carolina tested the two squid in conditions replicating their…

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Silk stockings get lady spiders in the mood

Posted on November 4th 2011 in Blog with 2 comments

  Animal behaviours can sometimes jump out at you by their similarity to the kinds of things humans do. Most recently, I came across this video of golden orb-web spiders. Dominating the picture is a large speckled black and white female, confidently waiting for her next unsuspecting meal to arrive. What might not be so obvious is the weedy orange male, running scurrilously on her back. Not exactly a very human-like behaviour, I hear you say. Well, I answer back, you don’t know what he’s doing there. What he is doing, is wrapping her body in the finest silks his…

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A shot of snake blood makes the heart grow

Posted on October 27th 2011 in News with Comments Off on A shot of snake blood makes the heart grow

This article was written for New Scientist. You can read the full piece here.

The dance of the starlings

Posted on August 8th 2011 in Features with 6 comments

This amazing video by Mark Rigler demonstrates the beautiful complexity that exists throughout the natural world. Like a Bach fugue, patterns emerge and fade, interweave, and are exquisitely modified to form an endless variety of beautiful structures. The end result seems too complicated, too ordered, too apparently designed to have appeared by chance. But, like the fugue which is built from just one or two simple musical patterns, the dance of the starlings is choreographed from only a few simple rules, which scientists are now only just beginning to decode. Across the animal kingdom, large numbers of similar individuals will…

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Run Lassie – no not over there! Damn you Lassie!

Posted on July 31st 2011 in Blog with 5 comments

Scientists can be utter bastards some of the time. Not content with letting us unwashed masses revel in our ignorance, they systematically poke and prod the world around us, looking for answers to questions best left unanswered. The latest casualty of this scientific tirade – my childhood. Specifically, the destruction of my faith in man’s best friend, embodied in the iconic form of Lassie. For decades, Lassie was a symbol for all that was good in the world: unconditional friendship, teamwork, altruism in the face of danger, She was a canine beacon of light in a cynical, selfish world. Lassie…

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Titanic Antics

Posted on May 21st 2011 in Blog with Comments Off on Titanic Antics

Last year, I had the good fortune of going on a white water rafting trip. Shivering uncontrollably from the combination of the cold and the dangerousness, it was, all things considered, an amazing adventure. One factor, which at the time, I was very grateful for was the raft – a study construction of rubber and glass fibre. Without it, well, I would just look stupid.  It turns out, however, that not everybody needs a raft to go rafting. Ants, in their near-infinite behavioural plasticity, have evolved a way of escaping floods by constructing a raft from their own bodies. Although…

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Nurturing nature

Posted on March 12th 2011 in Blog with Comments Off on Nurturing nature

Animal behaviour is a subject that has always fascinated me. At first glance, the actions of animals seems so familiar, obvious to the point of not being noteworthy. They eat when they are hungry, they run when danger is present, and they get down to it when, you know, they want to. What I find really interesting is the debate that so often crops up as to whether these behaviours are instinctual, built into the genetic makeup of the animal, or learnt through experience and upbringing. In other words, is it nature or nurture? I’d like to answer by saying…

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