Tag Archives: animal cognition

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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cbguitar

Is musicality something unique to humans? It’s a question scientists have been asking for years, but I thought I’d dig a little deeper after seeing a recent video of a cat playing with a theramin (an eerie-sounding, electronic instrument).

I think the first thing to recognize is that musicality in humans is a broad spectrum – some of us love to listen to music, some of us love to create music, some of us love to dance and sing, and (strangely to me) some people could care less about any of it. Some people have perfect pitch,and others are tone deaf. Any time we try to determine if animals can do something we human animals can do, it’s important to think about how we define that ability.

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Safe to say, this feline behavior consultant’s least favorite thing is dealing with my own cats’ behavior problems. My cats are supposed to be perfect! And in general, they are; except when it comes to food.

I’ve got two cats. One we’ll call the Vacuum, and one we’ll call the Nibbler. The Vacuum may have food security issues, or she might just really love to eat. The Nibbler, on the other hand, prefers to graze small amounts throughout the day.

Conveniently, the Vacuum is a little on the chunky side, and not the most agile of cats. The Nibbler is more active and so we fed her for many years on top of the refrigerator. This situation worked just fine, until it didn’t anymore. As the Nibbler has entered her senior years, she made it clear that jumping up on the fridge was more work than she was willing to do.

We moved her food to a lower shelf, and all was well and good for a few months, until the Vacuum realized that there was extra food…possibly within her reach. Suddenly the Nibbler’s food was disappearing at a rapid pace, and not because the Nibbler was eating it.

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I was fortunate enough to get to interview my former lab mate, dog expert and all around awesome person, Amy Cook. She received her PhD from UC Berkeley studying dog cognition and the relationship between dogs and their humans. You can read my profile of her and her research here, at the Berkeley Science Review.

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Helping in rats is learned, not hard-wired

Nice write up of a study that found that albino rats would help struggling rats (by freeing them from a cell they were trapped in) of a different strain, but only if they'd been socialized with them; they will free rats of the same strain, regardless if they are a familiar or a stranger.

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The amazing staying power of squirrel nests

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Ever wondered what happens in a squirrel nest? I think about it a lot! I'd like to know if there are beer cans and chocolate bars in there, and I'd love to take a peek and squee at some baby squirrels. But I also think about squirrels in their dreys at the top of barren trees, whenever the wind gets crazy here. Are squirrels getting blown out of trees? Turns out NO - those nests are built to last! Malcolm Campbell digs deep and tells us all about it here!

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Every Friday, some of my favorite news stories of the previous week!

Making dog farts less stinky

It felt like waiting an eternity, but Julie Hecht of Dog Spies has returned with Dog Farts Part 2! This time around, hard evidence on reducing stinkiness of dog farts. You know they say you study your own pathology...

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