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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New Species Of Dinosaur Found In Eastern Utah Rock

Dinosaur Discovery

Fossils of a previously undiscovered species of dinosaur have been found in slabs of Utah sandstone that were so hard that explosives had to be used to free some of the remains, scientists said Tuesday. The bones found at Dinosaur National Monument belonged to a type of sauropod — long-necked plant-eaters that were said to be the largest animal ever to roam land.

The discovery included two complete skulls from other types of sauropods — an extremely rare find, scientists said.The fossils offer fresh insight into lives of dinosaurs some 105 million years ago, including the evolution of sauropod teeth, which reveal eating habits and other information, said Dan Chure, a paleontologist at the monument that straddles the Utah-Colorado border.

“You can hardly overstate the significance of these fossils,” he said.Of the 120 or so known species of sauropods, complete skulls have been found for just eight. That’s mostly because their skulls were made of thin, fragile bones bound by soft tissue that were easily destroyed after death.
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First Spider Known To Science That Feeds Mainly On Plant Food

spider @food

There are approximately 40,000 species of spiders in the world, all of which have been thought to be strict predators that feed on insects or other animals. Now, scientists have found that a small Central American jumping spider has a uniquely different diet: the species Bagheera kiplingi feeds predominantly on plant food.

The research, led by Christopher Meehan of Villanova University and Eric Olson of Brandeis University, has revealed the extraordinary ecology and behavior in Bagheera kiplingi, which lives throughout much of Central America and southern Mexico. There, the spider inhabits several species of acacia shrubs involved in a co-evolutionary mutualism with certain ants that has long been a staple of ecology textbooks: the ants fiercely guard the plants against most would-be herbivores, while the acacias provide both housing for the ants via swollen, hollow spines and food in the form of nectar (excreted from glands at the base of each leaf) and specialized leaf tips known as Beltian bodies. The Bagheera spiders are “cheaters” in the ant-acacia system, stealing and eating both nectar and—most remarkably—Beltian bodies without helping to defend the plant. The spiders get the job done through active avoidance of patrolling acacia-ants, relying on excellent eyesight, agility, and cognitive skills.

How do the spiders get around the ants that are supposed to be guarding the acacias and gobbling up the Beltian bodies themselves?
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