Dolphin Plays With iPad — In The Name Of Science

People are still scrambling to get their hands on this year’s must-have gadget, the i Pad, but one lucky dolphin in Mexico is already a step ahead. Merlin, the 2-year-old bottlenose who resides at Dolphin Discovery’s swim facility in Puerto Aventuras, became the first of his kind to get face time – literally! – with Apple’s latest release.The dolphin has been learning to communicate and identify objects through visual cues on the iPad as part of a project led by dolphin research scientist Jack Kassewitz. Friendly and full of spirit, Merlin was the perfect pupil to test the device because “he’s fairly dominant … But he’s really playful. He likes to play,” says Kassewitz.

The Miami-based scientist, who’s studied language acquisition in dolphins for more than a decade, has worked with Merlin the past two years — ever since the dolphin planted himself in front of Kassewitz and his camera, vocalizing for more than 25 minutes. But until the iPad, Kassewitz was troubled that he could not understand what the dolphin was trying to say.

Now, by touching the screen with his rostrum (or beak), Merlin can get his point across. For one task, Merlin is charged with identifying the yellow duck within a set of pictures including a ball, flowerpot and hula-hoop. “He got proficient with that very quickly,” Kassewitz says.
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Study Gives Scientists A Sense Of How Animals Bond

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Scientists have pinpointed how a key hormone helps animals to recognise others by their smell.Researchers at the University of Edinburgh have shown that the hormone vasopressin helps the brain differentiate between familiar and new scents.The study, published in the journal Nature, suggests that when the hormone fails to function, animals are unable to recognise other individuals from their scent.

The ability to recognise others by smell is crucial in helping animals to establish strong bonds with other animals.The research, funded by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC), may offer clues about the way people make emotional connections with others through smell and deepen our understanding of the role scent plays in memory.Many scientists think a failure in this recognition system in humans may prevent them from forming deep emotional bonds with others.
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Bones, Not Bamboo, Sate Wild Panda's Appetite

Hunger drove a wild panda to break into a Chinese farmer’s pig pen and eat their food, which was meat and bone, rather than bamboo.State-run China Central Television said the giant panda had apparently descended from the mountains in a region of southwest China’s Sichuan province and was spotted in a field before the animal was found inside the pig pen, chewing on bones and spitting out the meat.

After eating its fill, the panda quietly left.Although classified as carnivores, the giant pandas’ diet is mainly bamboo, but it also eats other foods including honey, eggs, fish, oranges and bananas when available.Scientists believe there are around 1,600 giant pandas living in the wild in China, mostly in the mountains of the southwest.

The endangered species are considered a national icon and its existence is threatened by logging, agriculture and China’s increasing human population.


(source)

Bones, Not Bamboo, Sate Wild Panda's Appetite

Hunger drove a wild panda to break into a Chinese farmer’s pig pen and eat their food, which was meat and bone, rather than bamboo.State-run China Central Television said the giant panda had apparently descended from the mountains in a region of southwest China’s Sichuan province and was spotted in a field before the animal was found inside the pig pen, chewing on bones and spitting out the meat.

After eating its fill, the panda quietly left.Although classified as carnivores, the giant pandas’ diet is mainly bamboo, but it also eats other foods including honey, eggs, fish, oranges and bananas when available.Scientists believe there are around 1,600 giant pandas living in the wild in China, mostly in the mountains of the southwest.

The endangered species are considered a national icon and its existence is threatened by logging, agriculture and China’s increasing human population.


(source)

Bees Prefer Nectar With Caffeine And Nicotine

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Many people feel they need a cigarette and a cup of coffee to start the day and now it turns out bees are no different. The honey-making insects prefer nectar with small amounts of nicotine and caffeine over plain nectar, researchers revealed. Flower nectar is primarily comprised of sugars, which provides energy for the potential pollinators. But the floral nectar of some plant species also includes small quantities of substances known to be toxic, such as caffeine and nicotine.The scientists from the University of Haifa examined whether the substances were intended to ‘entice’ bees or whether they were byproducts with no particular role.
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Crikey Steveirwini! Snail Honour For Late Aussie Star

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An Australian scientist has paid an unusual tribute to late conservation star Steve Irwin by naming a rare species of snail “crikey steveirwini”.Queensland Museum scientist John Stanisic said khaki colours on the stripy tree snail reminded him of the trademark shirt and shorts worn by Irwin, who died in a freak stingray incident in 2006.

“This is an extremely rare species of snail,” Stanisic said Friday, describing it as “a colourful snail, with swirling bands of creamy yellow, orange-brown and chocolate giving the shell an overall khaki appearance”.

“It was the khaki colour that immediately drew the connection to the late Crocodile Hunter,” he said.Stanisic said crikey steveirwini’s name and precarious habitat would also draw attention to the effects of climate change.”So far it has only been found in three locations, all on the summits of high mountains in far north Queensland and at altitudes above 1,000 metres (3,280 feet), which is quite unusual for Australian land snails,” he said.

“These mountainous habitats will be among the first to feel the effects of climate change and Steve Irwin’s tree snail could become a focal species for monitoring this change.”‘Crocodile Hunter’ Irwin, known for his “Crikey!” catchphrase, has already had a wildlife reserve, a road, a turtle and an anti-whaling ship named after him.Meanwhile Sunday (November 15) has been nominated as “Steve Irwin Day” by Australia Zoo in Queensland, which he built with his father, Bob.

(source)

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