Bird Bones May Be Hollow, but They Are Also Heavy

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Bird bones have evolved special features to make them stiffer and stronger than mammal bones, including high bone density, fusion of some bones and altered shape.

For centuries biologists have known that bird bones are hollow, and even elementary school children know that bird skeletons are lightweight to offset the high energy cost of flying. Nevertheless, many people are surprised to learn that bird skeletons do not actually weigh any less than the skeletons of similarly sized mammals. In other words, the skeleton of a two-ounce songbird weighs just as much as the skeleton of a two-ounce rodent.

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Could Smell Play a Role in the Origin of New Bird Species?

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An IU Bloomington researcher collects preen oil from a junco’s uropygial gland into a small glass tube.

Two recently diverged populations of a southern California songbird produce unique odors, suggesting smell could contribute to the reproductive isolation that accompanies the origin of new bird species. The Indiana University Bloomington study of organic compounds present in the preen oils of Dark-eyed Juncos is described in this month’s Behavioral Ecology.

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Amazing Photo of Asian Weaver Ant Wins 1st Prize

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Overall winner – Asian Weaver ant, upside down on a smooth surface, and carrying a weight in its jaws

An incredible image of a tiny ant carrying 100 times its own body weight, while hanging upside down from a glass-like surface, has won first prize in a national science photo competition.  The amazing picture was snapped by scientists at Cambridge University by a team in the department of zoology investigating the extraordinary sticky feet of ants and other insects. (Pics)

 

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Migrating Insects Fly in the Fast Lane

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A new study sheds light on the flight behaviours that enable insects to undertake long-distance migrations, and highlights the remarkable abilities of these insect migrants.

A study published in Science, by researchers at Rothamsted Research (an institute of the BBSRC), the Met Office, the Natural Resources Institute, and the Universities of Exeter, Greenwich and York, sheds new light on the flight behaviours that enable insects to undertake long-distance migrations, and highlights the remarkable abilities of these insect migrants.

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Dinosaur Extinction Grounded Ancient Birds, New Research Finds

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Emus. New research suggests that ancestors of the African ostrich, Australasian emu plus cassowary, South American rheas and New Zealand moa became flightless independently, in close association with the extinction of the dinosaurs about 65 million years ago.

An abundance of food and lack of predators following the extinction of dinosaurs saw previously flighted birds fatten up and become flightless, according to new research from The Australian National University.

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Deadly Scorpion Provides Safe Pesticide

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Scorpions deliver a powerful, paralyzing venom — a complex cocktail of poisonous peptides

Scorpions deliver a powerful, paralyzing venom — a complex cocktail of poisonous peptides — that immobilize animal prey on the spot. Some of the toxins in this cocktail damage only insects, which is why a Tel Aviv University researcher is harnessing them to create a safe and ecologically sound pesticide.

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Coconut-Carrying Octopus Surprises Scientists

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An octopus shows how it can carry a coconut shell under its
body while using its eight arms as stilts.

Scientists once thought of tool use as a defining feature of humans. That’s until examples of tool use came in from other primates, along with birds and an array of other mammals. Now, a report in the December 14th issue of Current Biology, a Cell Press publication, adds an octopus to the growing list of tool users. (Video)

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New Drake Equation To Quantify Habitability?

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An image showing microbes living in sandstone in Antarctica.

Researchers from the Open University are laying the groundwork for a new equation that could mathematically quantify a habitat’s potential for hosting life, in a similar way to how the Drake equation estimates the number of intelligent extraterrestrial civilizations in the Milky Way. Continue reading… “New Drake Equation To Quantify Habitability?”

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Mystery Of Bat With Extraordinary Nose Solved

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bats use their nose to create a highly focused sonar beam.

A research paper co-written by a Virginia Tech faculty member explains a 60-year mystery behind a rare bat’s nose that is unusually large for its species.

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Battle Of The Sexes Benefits Offspring, Says Research In Birds

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as zebra finches fine-tune their songs, the brain initially stores improvements in one brain pathway before transferring this learned information to the motor pathway for long-term storage

Learning complex skills like playing an instrument requires a sequence of movements that can take years to master. Last year, MIT neuroscientists reported that by studying the chirps of tiny songbirds, they were able to identify how two distinct brain circuits contribute to this type of trial-and-error learning in different stages of life.

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‘Neurologger’ Reads Bird Brains In Flight

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A flock of homing pigeon flying

Using a “neurologger” specially designed to record the brain activity of pigeons in flight, researchers reporting online on June 25th in Current Biology, a Cell Press publication, have gained new insight into what goes through the birds’ minds as they fly over familiar terrain.

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