Watch: Camera Trapping Mammals of the Canopy at Tambopata Peru

Posted 25 November 2015 by GrrlScientist

SUMMARY: A treetop camera trap in Tambopata Peru reveals the secret lives of the regions' mammals -- and it also finds some species that are new to the region! I know it's not "Caturday" yet (although every day feels like Saturday when you're unemployed and bored to tears), but I had to share this lovely video with you anyway. This fascinating video is comprised of clips of the wildlife that live in the treetops in the rainforest at Tambopata, Peru.... Read more

Why do Songbirds Sing in the Autumn?

Posted 1 November 2015 by GrrlScientist

Song is used by passerines (songbirds) to attract mates and to maintain breeding territories in the spring and early summer. Yet weirdly, many songbirds also sing in the autumn. If these birds aren't breeding in the autumn, then why are they singing? There are at least three physiological mechanisms that apparently underlie autumnal singing in temperate-zone passerines. These physiological mechanisms could also underlie out-of-season singing in tropical and subtropical passerines that are kept and bred by American aviculturists, but we... Read more

Birdsong: It’s More Than Just Music to Your Ears

Posted 1 November 2015 by GrrlScientist

The early morning sky blushed pink as it was greeted with songs produced by a flirtatious ensemble of starlings on the power lines overhead. A robin's cheery carol and the intricate whistle of a wren drifted lightly through this concert. As in ages past, the dawn chorus had begun. "Birdsong serves the two main functions of advertising a territory and attracting females" says Eliot Brenowitz, a professor of both Psychology and Zoology who studies birdsong at the University of Washington.... Read more

Catching Dinner on the Fly … The Night is Alive With the Sound of Echoes

Posted 1 November 2015 by GrrlScientist

The evening was peaceful as the sun settled below the horizon. Suddenly, the orange and red sky was dotted with flying blue-grey silhouettes zigzagging above Lake Union. Bats! Some bats dipped low over the water's surface to drink in a manner similar to swallows, while others followed erratic courses above, consuming mosquitoes and other insects in flight. How do bats find and capture insects in darkness? All insect-eating bats produce sounds — either with open mouths or through an elaborate... Read more

Take a Peek at Nature’s Website: Spiders Spin Steely Silken Splendor

Posted 1 November 2015 by GrrlScientist

On foggy mornings, Charlotte's web was truly a thing of beauty. This morning each thin strand was decorated with dozens of tiny beads of water. The web glistened in the light and made a pattern of loveliness and mystery, like a delicate veil. -- E. B. White, Charlotte's Web . Perhaps the highest achievement of spiders is the orb-web. Orb-weaving spiders (Family: Araneidae) are remarkable artists fabricating intricate webs from the finest silks. Late autumn and early spring is when... Read more

Journal Club: Schemochromes: The physics of structural plumage colours

Posted 2 October 2015 by GrrlScientist

SUMMARY: Blue plumage colouring is NOT the result of pigments, as other feather colours are, but rather, it is created by tiny structures that reflect blue light, creating the illusion of blue feather colour Most avian plumage colours are the result of different types of pigments that are deposited into feathers while they are regrowing after moult. However, pigments alone do not produce all avian feather colours. Blues, such as those seen in hyacinthine macaws, Anodorhynchus hyacinthinus, and white, such... Read more

Journal Club: Life history trade-offs: why tropical songbirds have fewer chicks

Posted 27 August 2015 by GrrlScientist

SUMMARY: Tropical songbirds produce fewer, high-quality nestlings per breeding effort than do songbirds that breed in temperate zones, according to a study published today. This study reports that tropical songbirds’ nestlings grow longer wings, and faster, which means they spend less time in the nest where they are vulnerable to predators !t has been a long-standing ornithological mystery as to why tropical songbirds have smaller clutches of eggs and raise fewer chicks per breeding effort than do temperate songbirds. But... Read more

Journal Club: White sky at night not a city bird’s delight

Posted 26 August 2015 by GrrlScientist

SUMMARY: Free-living songbirds show increased stress hormone levels when nesting under white street lights. But different light spectra may have different physiological effects as this study finds, suggesting that using street lights with specific colour spectra may mitigate effects of light pollution on wildlife A study published today in the journal Biology Letters reports that free-living urban songbirds have increased levels of the stress hormone, corticosterone, in their bloodstream when they nest under street lights. Higher corticosterone concentrations raises the... Read more

Journal Club: Velvet ants share warning signals with their neighbours

Posted 17 August 2015 by GrrlScientist

SUMMARY: North American velvet ants are one of the world’s largest complexes of mimics. Although these beautiful insects produce an intensely painful venom, neighbouring species still mimic each other’s many warning signals, a trait that effectively protects them all from predators A team of American scientists report they’ve discovered of one of the world’s largest complexes of mimics, New World velvet ants. These brilliantly-coloured insects produce an intensely painful venom, yet neighbouring species still resemble each other so closely that... Read more

Journal Club: Taking flight: Cape parrot identified as new species

Posted 12 August 2015 by GrrlScientist

SUMMARY: The endangered cape parrot really is a distinct species, according to a newly-published molecular study -- a finding that could impact conservation decisions and strategies in South Africa for decades to come The taxonomy of the Cape parrot, Poicephalus robustus robustus, has long been controversial, particularly amongst conservation biologists and policymakers. But today, a team of South African scientists published a study that agrees with previously published morphological, ecological, and behavioural assessments indicating that this taxon should be elevated... Read more