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Living world news archive: October-December 2007

Indonesian giant rat
Giant rat and new possum found in Indonesia
(Dec 18, 2007)

Two new undocumented mammals – a pygmy possum and a giant rat – have been found in the jungles of a remote mountain range in Indonesia's Papua province, according to a conservation group. During an expedition to Papua's Foja Mountains in June, Conservation International and Indonesian scientists documented the two mammals – a Cercartetus pygmy possum, one of the world's smallest marsupials, and a Mallomys giant rat.

Read more. Source: New Scientist

How elephants keep tabs on family
(Dec 5, 2007)

Elephants keep track on up to 30 absent relatives by sniffing out their scent and building up a mental map of where they are, research suggests. Herd members use their good memory and keen sense of smell to keep in touch as they travel in large groups, according to a study of wild elephants in Kenya. The University of St Andrews studied 36 family groups of elephants living in Amboseli National Park.

Read more. Source: BBC

chimp counting test
'Extraordinary memory' of chimps
(Dec 3, 2007)

Chimpanzees have an extraordinary photographic memory that is far superior to ours, research suggests. Young chimps outperformed university students in memory tests devised by Japanese scientists. The research, published in Current Biology, suggests we may have under-estimated the intelligence of our closest living relatives.

Read more. Source: BBC

rhesus monkey
Monkeys reveal brain is hard-wired for counting
(Oct 30, 2007)

You may not want a monkey to balance your chequebook, but you still have to give them credit – new research supports the idea that not only can monkeys understand written numbers, but that individual brain cells may become dedicated to specific numbers. The small study of two rhesus monkeys reveals that cells in their brains respond selectively to specific number values – regardless of whether the amount is represented by dots on a screen or an Arabic numeral.

Read more. Source: New Scientist

eastern pygmy possum
Possum breaks record with year-long snooze
(Oct 15, 2007)

A possum has set an enviable record for doing absolutely nothing. After stuffing itself full of food in a laboratory, one curled up and hibernated for a record 367 days. Some mammals, such as ground squirrels, hibernate for up to six months through winter, while a western jumping mouse (Zapus princeps) once hibernated for 320 days in a lab.

Read more. Source: New Scientist

ancient asexual organism
Eighty million years without sex
(Oct 12, 2007)

The mystery of how an animal has survived for 80 million years without sex has been solved by UK scientists. A Cambridge team says the single-celled creature owes its existence to a genetic quirk that offers some recompense for prolonged celibacy. Many asexual organisms have died out because they cannot adapt to changes in the natural world.

Read more. Source: BBC


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