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Living world news archive: April-June 2009

A leaf of Caladium steudneriifolium damaged by mining moths (left) compared to one faking it (right)
The plant that pretends to be ill
(Jun 20, 2009)

A plant that pretends to be ill has been found growing in the rainforests of Ecuador. The plants feigns sickness to stop it being attacked by insect pests known as mining moths, which would otherwise eat its healthy leaves. It is the first known example of a plant that mimics being ill, and could also explain a common pattern seen on plant leaves known as variegation.

Read more. Source: BBC

bigfin reef squid
The cephalopods can hear you
(Jun 16, 2009)

Octopus and squid can hear. The discovery resolves a century-long debate over whether cephalopods, the group of sea creatures that includes octopus, squid, cuttlefish and nautiluses, can hear sounds underwater. Compared to fish, octopus and squid do not appear to hear particularly well.

Read more. Source: BBC

Chimps mentally map fruit trees
(Jun 9, 2009)

Chimpanzees remember the exact location of all their favourite fruit trees. Their spatial memory is so precise that they can find a single tree among more than 12,000 others within a patch of forest, primatologists have found. More than that, the chimps also recall how productive each tree is, and decide to travel further to eat from those they know will yield the most fruit.

Read more. Source: BBC

greater mouse-eared bat
Bats 'recognise others' voices'
(Jun 9, 2009)

As if flying around in the dark swooping and diving to catch insects was not tricky enough, bats also listen for their fellow hunters. A study has revealed how these winged mammals recognise other bats' voices. They are able to differentiate the ultrasonic "echolocation" calls that other bats make as they navigate.

Read more. Source: BBC

Rooks reveal remarkable tool-use
(May 26, 2009)

Rooks have a remarkable aptitude for using tools, scientists have found. Tests on captive birds revealed that they could craft and employ tools to solve a number of different problems. The findings, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, came as a surprise as rooks do not use tools in the wild.

Read more. Source: BBC

komodo dragon
Venom is key to Komodo dragon's killing power
(May 19, 2009)

Far from harboring toxic bacteria in their mouths as long believed, Komodo dragons produce venom from complex glands in their lower jaws, according to a team led by Bryan Fry of the University of Melbourne, Australia. The study also suggests that the largest venomous creature to have ever existed was a 5.5-meter-long ancestor of the Komodo – the now extinct Megalania lizard.

Read more. Source: New Scientist

Mongolian gazella mega-herd
Largest herd of gazelles sighted
(May 15, 2009)

A mega-herd of a quarter of a million Mongolian gazelles has been seen gathering on the country's steppes, one of the world's last great wildernesses. The coming together on the grassy plains is the largest ever recorded. The biologists who saw it estimate it contained perhaps a quarter of all Mongolian gazelles on the planet.

Read more. Source: BBC

chick counting test
Baby chicks do basic arithmetic
(Apr 2, 2009)

Baby birds can do arithmetic, say researchers in Italy. Scientists from the universities of Padova and Trento demonstrated chicks' ability to add and subtract objects as they were moved behind two screens. Lucia Regolin, an author of the study said the animals "performed basic arithmetic" to work out which screen concealed the larger group of objects.

Read more. Source: BBC


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