Tag Archives: dogs

How parrots' social lives prep them to mimic humans

Have you ever wondered why parrots tend to copy what their humans say? It has to do with their backgrounds as social birds, where they even have their own "names." Learn about Disco, an amazing parakeet, who knows over 100 phrases, and can even beat-box.

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Rats do better with a friend

Rats exploring a new environment do better with a buddy. Scientists measured rats second exploration of a novel space either alone or with another rat. Rats who had a buddy on that second trial were more exploratory, and the effect lasted through a third solo trial. Read more!

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Bees need a break after all that social time

Bees sleep more after hanging out with bees than they do after spending time alone - five hours more! It could be the flood of information they have to process after encounter so many of their colony members - the extra sleep may help with learning and memory. Read more here!

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Dogs + Humping: Match made in heaven

Leave it to two of my science-blogging faves, DogSpies and BuzzHootRoar to bring us the top reasons that dogs hump, complete with animated GIFs. We can all just go home now, science journalism is done.

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Stress makes birds friendlier

Feeding corticosterone (a stress hormone) to zebra finches had the opposite effect of what scientists expected - it made the birds MORE social, but those "friendships" were more fleeting than those exhibited by control birds, who spent more time with family and closer friends. Read more about the recently published study here.

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Once again, there is so much squirrel activity around the globe!

 Power outages

Squirrels shut off the power to over a thousand folks in Toledo, and left people with nine hours of no power in Luverne and Rutledge, Alabama. A squirrel was electrocuted and caused an “electrical smell” in Grand Haven, Minnesota, shutting off power at the local post office.

Finally, a squirrel in Rancho Cordova in California caused a fuse to blow that burst a gas line, causing not only a power outage but also a school cancellation. “The squirrel did not survive.”

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Baby fish babbling

"Babbling" is the first stage of language development in humans in which infants make sounds that are considered pre-linguistic and practice for future chatting. Babbling has been found in several other animal species (including bats, monkeys and parrots), and now maybe in fish? Turns out that baby snapper (larvae) make "knocking" sounds that adults also use, which function to keep fish together in their schools. Read more here.

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Why would deer respond to human infant cries?

Two deer species have been found responding to distress cries of other species, including seals and humans. Why? These sounds all share some common sound structures and patterns, but the deer only responded when the frequency of non-deer cries was similar to that of their own infants. Structure and pattern may be a universal way to detect "someone is in danger" - and it may be helpful to know there is danger in the area, even if those making the calls are a different species. Read more here.

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Do you look like your pet?

For some strange reason, we are really good at matching photos of strangers and their dogs. This finding has been demonstrated in a few studies, and a new study delved deeper - and it turns out that if you can't see the eyes of either the dog or the owner, it is ever so much harder to match the two...so whatever it is that makes people and their dogs seem like they belong together - it's in the eyes!

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 Do dogs feel jealousy?

Most scientists agree that non-human animals feel the "basic" emotions - fear, anger, happiness, surprise - or at least the animal-equivalents. Behavioral and neurological studies support that animals have, to some degree, similar emotional experiences as we do.

When it comes to more complex emotions, such as guilt, embarrassment, and sympathy, we have much less empirical support. These emotional states may require some form of theory of mind or a level of self-consciousness that we aren't sure that animals have.

The new dog-jealousy study has gotten a lot of hype and press, and now everyone thinks dogs can feel jealous. Other studies have shown that anthropomorphism may play a huge role in how we interpret the "guilty look" in dogs. I think it's a bit strange that the human researchers find the evidence more compelling than the animal cognition experts and it would have been nice if they had included a dog-cog expert on their team.

Dog owners petted a stuffed dog (or read a book or paid attention to a jack o'lantern), and the behavior of their pet dog was measured. Dogs were more likely to bark or push on the owner or investigate the object when it was a stuffed dog. I think what we can all agree on - dogs attempt to get their owner's attention when it is directed elsewhere - attention is of course a resource that is important to many pets. You can read the study here - yay open access!

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Why isn't composting the norm?

I am lucky to live somewhere where we can put all of our food scraps in a compost bin and not into landfill. I'm very excited to see that NYC is following suit! I think some psychological science can be added to get everyone on board!

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The Camo-Corner

Camouflage is an amazing thing. This satanic leaf gecko has perfectly evolved to match its habitat -  even when that habitat varies.

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haresBut what about when that habitat has completely changed? Scientists examine the outlook of the snowshoe hare, an animal that typically changes color as the weather changes to match the presence of snow in the winter...but what happens when there's no snow?