As well as predicting World Cup scores…it seems octopuses are also brilliant mimics.
The Indonesian mimic octopus can disguise itself as a variety of different dangerous fish and sea snakes to ward off predators. This behaviour, making itself more prominent instead of blending into the background is so unusual scientists have been studying them to find out why.
Archive for August, 2010
The Frozen Zoo, part of San Diego Zoo’s conservation project, has samples of over 8.400 rare animals in the hope that one day scientists will be able to create endangered or even extinct animals from them…and that day might just have come.
Scientists have managed to use these skin cells to create special cells called induced pluripotent stem (IPS) cells. These stem cells are the basis for all other types of cell so theoretically it’s now possible to create egg and sperm cells to eventually create an embryo. They had a breakthrough earlier this year as stem cells from a drill monkey were used to create brain cells. So Jurassic Park might not remain fiction for much longer…
New studies show that leafy tobacco plants have developed an ingenious ‘SOS’ signal that attracts predator insects to eat the plant’s attackers. The chemical released attracts Geocoris insects which rescue the plant from caterpillar larvae and eggs…and get a free meal too.
A recent study has shown these beautiful Gouldian finches can select sperm from the most genetically suitable partner to breed.
There are different varieties of the species, including black-headed and red-headed, and interbreeding produces chicks that are much more likely to die before adulthood. Scientists are still baffled by how the female can ‘select’ the genes of a specific mate, although it’s known that they can store sperm in their reproductive tract for up to 13 days!
This long-tailed macaque monkey has adopted an abandoned kitten in a forest in Bali. The protective monkey was seen grooming the kitten, which happily nuzzled into the adult monkey.
Apart from humans, macaques are the most widespread primates with 22 species.
Dormice can cross the busy bypass in Pontypridd in safety thanks to specially-made dormouse bridges. Dormice prefer to travel in trees so these mesh tubes suspended in trees tall polls will ensure their population’s safety.
A rhesus monkey in Puerto Rico has been seen trying out a completely new way to crack open coconuts. The monkey, called Pinocchio by the scientists studying him, rolls the nut down to the docks, throws it up into the air and watches it smash onto the concrete. Out of the entire population of rhesus monkeys on the island, only this one has invented a way to crack open these valuable coconuts. Scientists hope to study if and how this technique is learnt by the others in the group.
Scientists are concerned polar bears left stranded on land from melting ice are resorting to eating the eggs of barnacle geese instead.
Unfortunately, as these are much smaller prey for the bears, they’ve been spotted eating more than 1000 eggs at one sitting. For the last 60 years, conservation efforts have increased the geese population from 300 in 1948 to nearly 30,000 in 2008, and there are concerns this will have a major impact on their colony.
There’s still time to enter the Natural History Museum’s Young Darwin competition for aspiring wildlife reporters! Sadly I am a little (ahem) too old to enter, but if you know someone under 14 who’s passionate about the environment get them to send in their entries now!