Tag Archives: animal behavior

GREAT MIGRATIONS: National Geographic’s Global Television Event Starts November 7

I just received the following announcement via email, and thought it worth sharing here. A couple of days ago I also received a pre-screening packet from them with DVDs and a couple of books accompanying the series. I intend to post reviews here in time for the series to begin. In the meantime, here’s the announcement.


A friday salute to mothers of all species

It is curious, and reassuring, that in this week of familial heartbreak after the loss of a mother, I should come across these two videos of animal mothers that touch the heart in different ways.

First, the Jane Goodall Institute remembers Fifi, the matriarch famous all over the world ever since she entered Jane’s life:

[vimeo http://www.vimeo.com/4987813 w=500&h=283]

And here we have a curious tale of an orphan squirrel being adopted by a cat, and beginning to act like one, even purring when stroked! How fascinating the way evolution has wired the mammalian maternal brain to allow such wonderful associations! Ain’t motherhood grand?

Wandering the bazaars of western India – with a pet Cheetah in tow!

No, you can’t quite do that, or see that in action – you’ll have to imagine it. For, unfortunately, the following film doesn’t have footage of that walk in the bazaar with said cheetahs, although the narrator does allude to such walks. But it does have some remarkable footage, from 1939, of the cheetahs in action as hunting animals – kinda like hunting dogs or falcons! And its even in colour (yes I did say its from 1939)!

Really fascinating to see how the sleek animals were put to work hunting blackbuck from the backs of bullock carts. And sad to contemplate that within a decade and a half of this footage being captured on film, the last wild cheetah had been shot dead in India!

A handful of these Asiatic Cheetahs remain in Iran, and just last week, the Indian govt approved plans to reintroduce them back to parts of their former range in India. Given the dismal recent history of tiger conservation in India (including their reintroduction to Sariska), or the relocation of lions, or a number of other ambitious projects, it may be a while before we get to really see cheetahs sprinting after blackbucks again through that tall grass across the western plains. In the meantime, here’s this video:

[Hat-tip: Janaki Lenin via Facebook]

Twist it, shake it, shake it, shake it, shake it baby!

ResearchBlogging.orgYou are brightly colored – enough to be considered charismatic even by humans who like to keep you as a pet! You can make fairly loud calls. So how do you communicate with each other? Especially in the dark of night when you are most active? When bats are around listening for sounds to pick up juicy prey like you? Well, so much for the investment in all those bright colors (which may deter visual predators, but not in the dark!) and sounds (which the ladies may like, and we know they like to see you flirt with danger too) – the cost may be even steeper than you think! So what else is there for a little frog do to? Especially if another frog may sneak on to your favorite branch to put the moves on the princesses? There’s got to be a better way to talk to each other for routine communication, no?

Well, if you’ve still got it, you gotta shake it, shake it, shake it, shake it, baby:

[Oops… Posterous apparently can’t handle the video embed code from Science Friday for some reason – although Blogger has no problems with it! I’m hoping their support will get back to me wth a fix. In the meantime, use the above link for the video. Or go to my Reconciliation Ecology blog. Sorry]

Pretty amazing that a common behavior in a species so well known had never been properly described or understood! Until someone thought to turn those darn lights off and let the frogs do their little dance in the dark. Check out the paper that goes with this video from Science Friday. Cool work!


Caldwell, M., Johnston, G., McDaniel, J., & Warkentin, K. (2010). Vibrational Signaling in the Agonistic Interactions of Red-Eyed Treefrogs Current Biology DOI: 10.1016/j.cub.2010.03.069

Robertson, J., & Zamudio, K. (2009). Genetic Diversification, Vicariance, and Selection in a Polytypic Frog Journal of Heredity, 100 (6), 715-731 DOI: 10.1093/jhered/esp041

The sloth and the hummingbird: antidotes to human malfeasance in the biosphere! (warning: serious cute overload!)

On days (weeks, really) like these, when the media abounds with bad news about the environment, including fresh videos of the oil continuing to gush out ‘neath the ocean in the Gulf of Mexico, which itself may be heading for hypoxia, one desperately needs reminders that we human beings are not only about one constant fuckup after another. That we are, no doubt, more often that not. Fuckups, I mean. But we are also capable of some good, of relating with the environment and wildlife in tender, nurturing ways, of beginning to heal the injuries we have inflicted upon this world and ourselves.

So in that spirit of reconciliation ecology, of wanting to draw upon our innate biophilia and altruism, allow me to share with you a couple of videos of wildlife being rescued. Rest assured that neither video is anywhere near as heavy-handed in conveying the message as I just was. And if it helps – the wildlife being rescued are very very cute … you’ve been warned!

First – whatever jackanapes came up with the idea that Sloth was a sin (or whatever jackanapes named these beautiful creatures after a sin) had clearly never experienced anything like this:


I filmed this at the Aviaros del Caribe sloth sanctuary in Costa Rica – the world’s only sloth orphanage. Baby 2 and 3 toed sloths, whose mother’s have either been run over or zapped by power lines are brought to the sanctuary and looked after by Judy Arroyo. For more sloth photos and vids visit my blog pinktreefrog.typepad.com or follow me on twitter @amphib_avenger. For more on the sanctuary go to slothrescue.org. Music: “Scrapping and Yelling” by Mark Mothersbaugh from “The Royal Tenenbaum’s” movie soundtrack.

At the other end of the activity scale, check out this amazing tale of an injured baby Hummingbird rescued by humans – in astonishingly close and active collaboration with the wild mama hummingbird!! Wow!!

[Tip o’ the hat to Arvind and Audubon California, both via Facebook]

How the Spoon-billed Sandpiper uses its unique beak

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F6UFCq_Wl-Q&hl=en&fs=1]

David Sibley, of the Sibley Guides to Birds fame, recorded the above video of the critically endangered Spoon-billed Sandpiper, Eurynorhynchus pygmeus, foraging in the mudflats of Thailand where they winter. In an expanding upon the observations annotating the above video, Sibley proposes a hypothesis about how these lovely little birds use their odd bills more like shovels than spoons:

Before seeing the birds, most people assume that they use their bills to swipe sideways through the water, in the manner of the true spoonbills (genus Platalea), sensing and grabbing food items as they pass between the flattened tips of the mandibles. But in reality these sandpipers use very little sideways motion in their feeding. There does seem to be a bit more sideways movement of the bill than in other small sandpipers such as Red-necked Stint, but these are subtle, irregular, and tiny movements and nothing like the rhythmic sideways swiping of true spoonbills.

Coming up with a new hypothesis proved difficult. At first I couldn’t detect any difference in the way these sandpipers fed compared to the stints. They do tend to keep their head down and their bill in the water for longer stretches than the Red-necked Stints, which have a more frenetic foraging action dipping their bill briefly into the water and mud and then raising it again, over and over. Also, the Spoon-bills seemed to feed exclusively in water – I never saw one feeding on open mudflats.

After several days of observation I noticed that while their bills were in the water the Spoon-billed Sandpipers were pushing lumps of mud and algae ahead of them, using their bills as shovels to move mud around. They always look a bit “husky” and thick-necked, which comes in part from this habit of pushing the bill through the mud, as they use their body for leverage and push with their legs. It’s not unusual to see one of their feet suddenly slip backwards under the effort of pushing. Once some mud or algae has been lifted the bird very quickly works the bill tip around underneath it, then moves on. This video shows the shoveling motion clearly in the last scene. (The video will be a little sharper if you click here to open it in YouTube and select 480p).

This seems like a plausible hypothesis to explain the unusual bill shape. The broad bill tip could be used as a shovel to get under and lift up loose substrates, and then would make an effective tool for finding and grabbing any small invertebrates that were in the slurry of mud and water flowing in behind the lifted material. This could also explain why they cover so much ground on the mudflats. If they are looking for loose bits of mud/algae/etc. that they can lift to search for prey, these might be scattered across a wide area, forcing them to walk in search of these foraging opportunities.

Have you ever seen these birds forage? Are you in a position to make more observations in other locations to see if they do the same thing? I am not, much to my regret while watching the above video… Given the rapidly declining populations and our ignorance about even their basic biology, it is clear that the spoons these birds are born holding in their mouths are far from silver ones! Can we at least find out how this marvel of evolution, this wonderful spoon-bill, works before we are forced to bid adieu to the Spoon-billed Sandpiper?

Posted via web from a leaf warbler’s gleanings

OMG!! Watch out for a computer bug that goes after your cursor!!

Those predatory instincts are hard to curb, so you’ve got to go after any small moving object, don’t you?! Oblivious to the ensuing LOLZ heard from around the internets! And apparently, computer pointer hunting is not an uncommon activity for Preying Mantids like this one – just click through to the YouTube page for this video by Bug Girl, and you’ll find a few other videos (albeit of poorer quality) of similar mantis on cursor action!