Category: fun with animals

NCBI ROFL: When the mafia does science.

By ncbi rofl | April 25, 2013 12:00 pm

Photo: flickr/A.Sparrow

What happens to a body buried in cement? How long does it take to decompose? In this study, the (Italian) scientists set out to answer these questions using (what else? ) piglet corpses. Don’t worry, the authors assure us that they died of “natural causes”…

Burial of piglet carcasses in cement: a study of macroscopic and microscopic alterations on an animal model.

“Scarce experimental data exist describing postmortem effects of burial in cement. The scanty literature presents several case reports, but no experimental study. To perform a pilot study, the following experimental system was designed: 4 piglet corpses, who died of natural causes, were encased in concrete. After 1, 2, 3, and 6 months, a block was opened, and autopsy and microscopic analyses were performed. Read More


NCBI ROFL: Visual cues given by humans are not sufficient for Asian Elephants (Elephas maximus) to find hidden food.

By ncbi rofl | April 24, 2013 12:00 pm

Photo: flickr/AZAdam

Researcher: “C’mon elephant, the peanuts are right there. I’m pointing right at them!”
Elephant: *blank stare*
Researcher: “The dogs, goats, and horses can find them.”
Elephant: *blank stare*
Researcher: *sigh* “Fine. Just use your trunk then.”

“Recent research suggests that domesticated species – due to artificial selection by humans for specific, preferred behavioral traits – are better than wild animals at responding to visual cues given by humans about the location of hidden food. Although this seems to be supported by studies on a range of domesticated (including dogs, goats and horses) and wild (including wolves and chimpanzees) animals, there is also evidence that exposure to humans positively influences the ability of both wild and domesticated animals to follow these same cues. Here, we test the performance of Asian elephants (Elephas maximus) on an object choice task that provides them with visual-only cues given by humans about the location of hidden food. Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: eat me, fun with animals, NCBI ROFL

NCBI ROFL: Phase 1: Build an army of remote-controlled turtles. Phase 2: ? Phase 3: Take over the world!

By ncbi rofl | April 22, 2013 12:00 pm

Photo: flickr/Ollie Crafoord

Do you have tasks that need doing but can’t afford to buy a robot? Look no further! Remote-controlled turtles can do your bidding, from… um … swimming in shallow waters? to … uh … walking really slowly on the land? Look, the point is that these scientists figured out how to make turtles do what they want simply by attaching a movable blinder to the turtle’s shell. This apparatus allows the scientists to control the turtles’ movements by activating their instinct to avoid obstacles (see it in action in the movie clip below). Turtle army!

Remote Guidance of Untrained Turtles by Controlling Voluntary Instinct Behavior

“Recently, several studies have been carried out on the direct control of behavior in insects and other lower animals in order to apply these behaviors to the performance of specialized tasks in an attempt to find more efficient means of carrying out these tasks than artificial intelligence agents. While most of the current methods cause involuntary behavior in animals by electronically stimulating the corresponding brain area or muscle, we show that, in turtles, it is also possible to control certain types of behavior, such as movement trajectory, by evoking an appropriate voluntary instinctive behavior. Read More


NCBI ROFL: Cunnilingus increases duration of copulation in the Indian flying fox.

By ncbi rofl | April 19, 2013 11:00 am

This isn’t the first time we’ve highlighted a report of a bat species that engages in oral sex. However, this time it’s the females that get the extra attention. First fellatio, and now cunnilingus: who knew bat sex would be so hot? Be sure to the check out the perhaps-NSFW video from the paper’s supplementary information:

Cunnilingus Apparently Increases Duration of Copulation in the Indian Flying Fox, Pteropus giganteus.

“We observed a total of 57 incidences of copulation in a colony of the Indian flying fox, Pteropus giganteus, over 13 months under natural conditions. The colony consisted of about 420 individuals, roosting in a Ficus religiosa tree. Copulations occurred between 07.00 h and 09.30 h from July to January, with more occurring in October and November. Initially males groomed their penis before approaching a nearby female. Females typically moved away and males followed. When the female stopped moving, the male started licking her vagina (cunnilingus). Read More

NCBI ROFL: How long does roadkill linger on the pavement?

By ncbi rofl | April 9, 2013 12:00 pm

I know you’ve thought about it: will that roadkill still be there for dinner on the way home from work? Well, the data’s in, and… it depends. If you’re looking at small animals, you’d better pick that up now. Bigger animals can wait until you’re done with the filing.

How long do the dead survive on the road? Carcass persistence probability and implications for road-kill monitoring surveys.

“BACKGROUND: Road mortality is probably the best-known and visible impact of roads upon wildlife. Although several factors influence road-kill counts, carcass persistence time is considered the most important determinant underlying underestimates of road mortality. The present study aims to describe and model carcass persistence variability on the road for different taxonomic groups under different environmental conditions throughout the year Read More


NCBI ROFL: Laughing rats are optimistic.

By ncbi rofl | April 8, 2013 12:00 pm

Figure 3

Speaking of animal emotions, these researchers set out to test whether lab rats can be optimistic (despite their seemingly depressing circumstances). To make the rats happy, they tickled them, causing them to emit “rat laughter.” They then tested whether these pre-trained rats would interpret an ambiguous noise as signaling a reward or punishment. The result? The tickled rats were more optimistic about the meaning of the noise, suggesting that rats–and therefore mammals in general–can make judgements that are affected by their emotional states.Maybe there’s a lesson in this for grad students?

“Emotions can bias human decisions- for example depressed or anxious people tend to make pessimistic judgements while those in positive affective states are often more optimistic. Several studies have reported that affect contingent judgement biases can also be produced in animals. The animals, however, cannot self-report; therefore, the valence of their emotions, to date, could only be assumed. Here we present the results of an experiment where the affect-contingent judgement bias has been produced by objectively measured positive emotions. Read More


NCBI ROFL: Chimps in glasses…for science!

By ncbi rofl | April 4, 2013 12:00 pm

How do you know what your chimp is thinking about? Are they thinking about you, or the banana you’re holding? One way to get an idea of what’s going on in that fuzzy little head is by identifying the objects they are looking at. With specially-designed glasses. For science!

Head-Mounted Eye Tracking of a Chimpanzee under Naturalistic Conditions.

“This study offers a new method for examining the bodily, manual, and eye movements of a chimpanzee at the micro-level. A female chimpanzee wore a lightweight head-mounted eye tracker (60 Hz) on her head while engaging in daily interactions with the human experimenter. Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: fun with animals, NCBI ROFL, rated G

NCBI ROFL: Dung beetles use Uranus for orientation.

By ncbi rofl | April 2, 2013 12:00 pm

OK, fine. It’s actually the Milky Way (we couldn’t help ourselves). But really, either way, it’s pretty amazing that dung beetles use stars to pilot their way out of a pile of poop. And besides, any study that involves putting dung beetles in a planetarium is a winner in our books.

Dung beetles use the milky way for orientation.

“When the moon is absent from the night sky, stars remain as celestial visual cues. Nonetheless, only birds, seals, and humans are known to use stars for orientation. African ball-rolling dung beetles exploit the sun, the moon, and the celestial polarization pattern to move along straight paths, away from the intense competition at the dung pile. Read More

NCBI ROFL: Classifying dogs’ facial expressions from photographs.

By ncbi rofl | March 26, 2013 12:00 pm

If IHasAHotdog is any indication, dogs display a variety of facial expressions. However, surveys of LOLanimals aren’t necessarily scientific (though they can be), so these researchers took a more controlled approach by testing whether people can recognize different facial expressions on the same dog’s face. How did they get the dog to make different expressions? Read on for a few of their LOL-worthy methods…

Classifying dogs’ (Canis familiaris) facial expressions from photographs

“Humans accurately read other humans’ emotional facial expressions. Little research was found examining human ability to read dogs’ expressions. Cross-species research extended facial expression research to chimpanzees, and there is much research on dogs’ auditory signaling to humans. To explore humans’ ability to identify dogs’ facial displays, photographs of a dog’s face were taken under behaviorally defined conditions expected to elicit specific emotions. Read More


NCBI ROFL: Get ready for the fog water collection-off! Round 1: animal vs. plant!

By ncbi rofl | March 25, 2013 12:00 pm

For one manuscript only, plants and animals square off! In one corner, we have Onymacris unguicularis, the fog-basking beetle. In the other corner is Stipagrostris sabulicola, the dune bushman grass. Watch them fight to survive the extreme desert environment, where water’s scarce and fog is a hot commodity. Whose fog-collecting strategy will put them on top, and who will go home in shame?

Animal or plant: which is the better fog water collector?

“Occasional fog is a critical water source utilised by plants and animals in the Namib Desert. Fog basking beetles (Onymacris unguicularis, Tenebrionidae) and Namib dune bushman grass (Stipagrostris sabulicola, Poaceae) collect water directly from the fog. While the beetles position themselves optimally for fog water collection on dune ridges, the grass occurs predominantly at the dune base where less fog water is available. Differences in the fog-water collecting abilities in animals and plants have never been addressed. Read More


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