Squirrels cause power problems...
A squirrel also caused a power outage in Anderson, Indiana.
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.
Anthropomorphism impedes our understanding of animal behavior
This 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.
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.
Bees show scaffolded and social learning
Scientists had bees solve increasingly difficult "puzzle flowers" to get rewards. In a control group, they presented the hardest flower to the bee first, and the bee could not solve the problem. In a second study, naive bees watched experienced bees solve the puzzle, and then were able to solve it more quickly themselves. Read more here
There's been a lot of squirrel news recently. I'm here to update you.
Bag a squirrel, cause a school lockdown
A man hunting squirrels apparently caused a school lockdown in South Carolina when people reported seeing a man with a gun. He "bagged" two squirrels, no other injuries reported. More
Red Squirrel Rising
Red squirrels in the UK appear to be on the rise, even as gray squirrel populations increase. More
Crows can wait for bigger rewards
The marshmallow task is a classic psychological paradigm (often tested on children) - would you rather have one marshmallow now - or wait and receive two marshmallows later?
Researchers examined whether crows and ravens, known for their intelligence and patience, would rather eat a treat now, or wait a period of time and exchange the treat for a more preferred food item. Their patience depended on the value of the treat, but the clever corvids showed that they exhibit a good amount of self-control. The results have just been published in the journal Animal Behaviour and you can read a summary here.
When I started graduate school, I decided I wanted to study the cognition and behavior of wild animals in their own habitat. In my case, it's "wild" fox squirrels whose habitat happens to be a college campus.
I spend a lot of time outside with the squirrels. Sometimes it's a lot of time for very little data. Part of the reason it takes so long is that sometimes they decide they need a little siesta during an experimental session. And when this happens, there's really not much we can do...but wait. They are volunteers, after all.
If Karma Chameleon is stuck in your head, you're not alone
I've suffered from "earworms" for as long as I can remember. I ALWAYS have a song stuck in my head (it's not always an annoying one, but there are many popular ones, such as "Mountain Song" by Jane's Addiction, Bill Withers' "Lovely Day" and Peter Gabriel's "Big Time"), so I'm very excited to see that scientists are taking on this interesting problem as a focus for research in a new study published at PlosONE.
A recent study in PlosOne suggested that people who are treated for cat bites are more likely to suffer from depression. I tell you why I'm not yet convinced, over at the Berkeley Science Review...