Did you know that just a few nibbles on Easter lilies can kill your cat? Turns out most people don't know...and the flower industry isn't doing anything to promote awareness. Read more in this article I wrote for the Dodo!

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I get songs stuck in my head...a lot. I examined the science behind it over at the Berkeley Science Review

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Climate change changing frogs

Warming trends are changing these male Puerto Rican coqui frogs - like its effects on other animals, they are getting smaller, and their calls are getting squeakier. The summary article did not comment on how this might impact their ability to attract mates, but the manuscript suggests that changes in male frogs' calls without corresponding changes in the females' frequency-dependent detection system could have dire effects.

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A little shameless self-promotion

My research examining how fox squirrels assess food and how these behaviors are influenced by factors such as season, food type and competition was recently published in PLOS|ONE, and thanks to open access, you can read it here; or you can read the abridged version at PLOS|ONE's blog, EveryONE.

Regardless, I encourage you to check out our video of these squirrel assessment behaviors:

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As usual, I've got plenty on my mind about felines...

This week, I wrote a piece for the Dodo on the cat cafe trend...

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And I talked with the Dodo about Grumpy Cat and her travel schedule...

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Variable schedules of reinforcement are powerful, and keep us crushing candy

I can't decide if I love or hate Candy Crush, but I am definitely hooked. Here's why: intermittent and unexpected rewards lead to a bigger dopamine rush (when the reward center of your brain is activated). It also doesn't hurt that the images are of candy. Read more here.

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at the Dodo

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Squirrels cause power problems...

sanjoseA Bay Area squirrel caused a power outage which ultimately disrupted Caltrain service for commuters and cause phone problems for 42 local schools. Sources say the squirrel did not survive.

 

 

 

A squirrel also caused a power outage in Anderson, Indiana.

...and fire

A squirrel nested in a North Carolina attic, but then set its nest on fire after chewing on electrical cords. The second story of the home was damaged, but no humans were injured.

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Anthropomorphism impedes our understanding of animal behavior

anthroThis fascinating study had 4 and 5 year old children read one of two versions of a story about animals - one with anthropomorphism, and one that used factual language. Results suggested that children who read the story where animals were depicted with human-like traits were more likely to assign human psychological, but not physical, traits to animals later.  The Thoughtful Animal at Scientific American tells us more about it here.

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I recently purchased Meowspace (for more about my Meowspace chronicles, see my past blog posts here and here) – a device that allows me to feed my cats separately, but requires the Meowspace user to learn to get in and out of a box using a microchip-controlled cat flap. Whether I trained my cat or she figured it out herself is a good question.

Even though at times I felt like she was never going to succeed at Meowspacing, it took the Nibbler less than three weeks to learn to use the cat flap. As soon as she figured it out, I lured her in, and set up a videocamera to see exactly what she was doing to get out. At first I was watching her to see what she would do once she was in the box. Turns out she was doing the same thing to me – watching me to see if I was going to help her get out.

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