from the world's big
Maybe you've been wondering if you're seeing one persistent squirrel or a rotating cast of characters.
Watching the wildlife outside your window can boost your mental well-being, and it's something lots of people have been doing a lot more of lately.
These pink feathered folk form complex social networks and are choosy about who they spend their time with, according to a new study.
- A five-year study conducted by researchers at the University of Exeter shows that flamingos are choosy about who they spend their time with.
- Flamingo friendships are made and maintained long-term due to preference rather than loose, randomly made connections.
- In 2009, Madison, Wisconsin, named the plastic pink flamingo the city's official bird.
Research findings<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMzA4ODQ4NC9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYyOTg0Mjk0OH0.0kHti5uD5VAzFV2c5Pz4HJNPJWyIp0L-Y3C8bQK9kyQ/img.jpg?width=1245&coordinates=0%2C0%2C0%2C0&height=700" id="9fc5f" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="2b64c67c722641d733a2d570c85216b8" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
Photo Credit: Shutterstock<p>The study, published in <a href="https://trello-attachments.s3.amazonaws.com/5abbd0de21543606f77671cb/5e973b531af0401c662673d6/f95d4964cfd0be6e9beb756118bbd829/Flamingo_Study.pdf" target="_blank"><em>Behavioural Processes</em></a>, examined four captive flamingo species held at WWT Slimbridge Wetland Centre in the U.K. from 2013 to 2016 and compared the findings to data collected on the flamingos in 2012. Researchers examined flocks of Caribbean, Chilean, Andean, and Lesser flamingos. Behavioral data was collected by photographic records of the birds, which were taken four times per day in the spring and summer and three times per day in the fall and winter. </p><p>The researchers found that in every flock, the birds had formed social bonds including mating pairs, same-sex pals and groups of three to four close friends. The preferred acquaintances that were noted in 2012 were still present in 2016. </p><p>"We compared birds that were consistently seen together, in close proximity, over time," said Paul Rose, Ph.D., an author of the study, in an email to Big Think. "We repeated our measurements to make sure what we were seeing was not by chance and to be able to build up a picture of who would be most often seen near or with another bird." </p><p>According to the research team, the results indicate that flamingo societies are complex, with flamingo friendships made and maintained long-term due to preference rather than loose, randomly made connections. </p><p>"There have been several pieces of published research that show non-human animals form social bonds that are important to their health and well-being and to the social [organization] of their group (i.e. keeping it together)," explained Rose. "What we think is interesting about the flamingo work is that this is a gregarious bird that gathers in very large flocks, yet within these large flocks there is an element of social choice. So the flamingos must be aware of who is around them to choose who they want to be associating with."</p><p>All of the flamingos in the study were more frequently seen socializing rather than being solitary, though some were especially social, fluttering between groups. The observed flocks varied in size from just over 20 to more than 140, and the findings suggest that the flamingos in the largest flocks displayed the highest occurrence of social interactions </p><p>Additionally, the researchers wanted to see what impact foot health had on individual differences in flamingo social behavior. (Captive flamingos are prone to suffer from changes to the plantar surface of the foot.) The foot health scores, as it turned out, did not matter when it came to predicting the friendships in the three of the four studied flamingo flocks. Though, researchers found that the number of connections made between flamingos was significantly influenced by the season.</p>
Improving conservation efforts<p>It's typical for some animals to invest in social relationships that convey fitness benefits, and those bonds can be long lasting. These new understandings of how the formation of a long-term social bond can be important for a flamingo's quality of life may be utilized to advise animal management and conservation efforts going forward.</p> <p>"These results are helpful for those working with captive flamingos to consider the number of birds housed so that an array of opportunities for choice of associate and/or breeding partner are available in zoo-housed flocks," the authors write. "Understanding the persistence and strength of social bonds could help inform conservation actions for wild flocks by maintaining suitable habitats for birds to return to year-on-year."</p> <p>For example, you wouldn't want to split up life-long pals when moving a flock to a new location. In the future, the researchers think that the impact of flock size and environment on flamingo social networks should be further investigated. </p>
More about flamingos<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMzA4ODQ4Ni9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY0OTU3MzUzMX0.l_3zglYpnXLq7RmWlziXkf1YjYeRSZGEQs9kq37DcfE/img.jpg?width=980" id="0ad5c" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="e9060ba0634027555f01061d1fd90fe4" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
On the origin of beauty: Darwin's controversial idea about sex<div class="rm-shortcode" data-media_id="gd1MDKD1" data-player_id="FvQKszTI" data-rm-shortcode-id="d79d56bc91a1a34da141d93237cbcf41"> <div id="botr_gd1MDKD1_FvQKszTI_div" class="jwplayer-media" data-jwplayer-video-src="https://content.jwplatform.com/players/gd1MDKD1-FvQKszTI.js"> <img src="https://cdn.jwplayer.com/thumbs/gd1MDKD1-1920.jpg" class="jwplayer-media-preview" /> </div> <script src="https://content.jwplatform.com/players/gd1MDKD1-FvQKszTI.js"></script> </div>
Groundbreaking neurological research on songbirds provides insight on human learned behavior and speech.
- Scientists recently implanted a false memory into the brains of young zebra finches, teaching them a melody they had never heard before.
- By stimulating certain neural circuits in the male birds' brains, researchers taught them courtship songs bypassing the lessons of an adult tutor.
- Scientists hope this research expands our knowledge of neurodevelopmental disorders such as autism.
The anatomy of bird 'inception'<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="ec72f3a2e728a0ee4bbecd080ab5cc7f"><iframe type="lazy-iframe" data-runner-src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/TaC6D1cW1Hs?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span><p>To test whether manipulating certain neural circuits could implant behavioral-goal memories, the researchers raised young male birds without any social or auditory experience gained through adult song tutors. </p><p>Typically, young male zebra finches learn to sing a mating song from their father or another adult tutor. The finches use their song to court female birds in a behavior that is called "directed singing." Naturally, the birds spend a great deal of time practicing their song in private so they are ready to swoop in and serenade a female when the opportunity arises. </p><p>Researchers optically tutored the finches using light pulses that stimulated certain neural circuits, which were designed to mimic short song elements. This "opto-tutoring" in the young birds shaped the temporal structure of their mating song in adulthood by imprinting "memories" of the song into the birds' brain, bypassing the tutor's lessons. The finches sang the courtship songs that corresponded to the duration of time light had kept the neurons active. Birds that received shorter pulses sang songs with a shorter duration, and those that received extended pulses held their melodies longer. </p><p>Interestingly, the researchers found that opto-tutored male birds grasped the social norms of singing. Like regularly tutored birds, they practiced their mating song when alone and, when presented with a female finch to woo, they performed using the shorter and extended notes they learned through the false memory implantation.</p><p>While the researchers were able to imprint the duration of syllables in the birds' memories, that isn't everything that they need to learn in the song. There are other important characteristics that a zebra finch needs to nail, including pitch and correctly ordering the syllables. Next the researchers want to identify the circuits that carry that other information, and investigate the ways to encode those memories.</p>
Human Implications<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMjA2MTAyOC9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYxNDc4ODI1M30.hOJ6Ss6B38RGFMbYZWptoBreY1byF93CgB64UCC9s6k/img.jpg?width=1245&coordinates=107%2C169%2C27%2C95&height=700" id="24b6c" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="d68b68b4f1722fbcb7b9eaf048b79baf" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
Photo Source: Wikimedia Commons<p>The groundbreaking study could potentially serve as a blueprint for discovering how genetic and social environments influence neural circuits over time.</p><p>"This is the first time we have confirmed brain regions that encode behavioral-goal memories — those memories that guide us when we want to imitate anything from speech to learning the piano," said <a href="http://profiles.utsouthwestern.edu/profile/134757/todd-roberts.html" target="_blank">Dr. Todd Roberts</a>, a neuroscientist with UT Southwestern's <a href="https://utswmed.org/odonnell/" target="_blank">O'Donnell Brain Institute in a press release.</a> "The findings enabled us to implant these memories into the birds and guide the learning of their song."</p><p>Because the zebra finches vocal development process is similar to humans, this knowledge might help us better understand the mechanisms of human speech and language learning. The hope is that someday it will be used to target certain speech genes that are disrupted in people with neurological conditions that affect vocalization, such as autism. Not only that, but it could be used to help kids understand other social patterns and cues. </p><p>Of course, the neural pathways of the human mind are a great deal more complex than the circuitry of a songbird's brain. While this research points us in the right direction on where to look for more information on neurodevelopmental disorders, it will be a while before science can imprint the human mind with false memories via light pulse. </p>
New research provides insights on the effect of the lunar cycles on wildlife behavior.
- Researchers at Lund University in Sweden charted the migratory activity of European nightjars to find out how the lunar cycle and moon light affected the birds' departure.
- The birds consistently took flight for sub-Saharan Africa around ten to eleven days after the full moon in synchronization.
- Previous research has indicated that lunar cycles affect wildlife, for example the Great Barrier Reef coordinates its "annual sex festival" with the full moon.
Research Findings<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="7043a438b5eb7f011bd51e6128796d0a"><iframe type="lazy-iframe" data-runner-src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/YzMYebIuCA0?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span><p>Results showed that the birds' activity during their nocturnal hunt for flying insects more than doubled on moonlit nights as compared to when it was darker, such as during a new or crescent moon. This was predictable. Because sight is important to the European nightjars foraging success, it is far easier for them to snatch flying insects out of the air in the bright, moonlight nights. </p> <p>But they also found something more baffling. The birds' departure on their three-month-long autumn migration south consistently took place around ten to eleven days after the full moon. Individual birds synchronized their migration and flew off around that same time. </p> <p>The researchers expressed astonishment that the lunar cycle had such a profound impact on the birds' hunting activities, which in turn affected their migration pattern in such a way that they synchronized their flight ten to eleven days after the full moon. This is the first study to detail how a large-scale natural pattern, e.g. the lunar cycle, can synch up large groups of animals in their migration timing. Next, the researchers say that they plan to examine how other animals adapt to lunar cycles in their migration patterns.</p><p>"Worldwide, animals migrate by the billions every year and our findings may improve our understanding of how and when many of them time their movements," <a href="https://www.biology.lu.se/gabriel-norevik" target="_blank">Gabriel Norevik</a>, a postdoctoral fellow at Lund University who led the study, <a href="https://www.sciencefocus.com/news/nightjars-moonlight-movements-could-help-us-understand-migration-patterns/" target="_blank">told PA Media</a>.</p>
Lunar Affects on Other Species<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMjAzNDAyMC9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYxODA2MjU5MH0.Gxbf2CWBHbYPg-uQ-DCq2bitQ5eHw_tjvk7hAq7ao9A/img.jpg?width=980" id="c239f" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="25acdf226a6058ef6e92a31c9de847a2" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
Photo: Wikimedia Commons<p>Previous research has detailed the way that lunar patterns affect wildlife. For example, it has been discovered that <a href="https://phys.org/news/2011-12-moon-petrels-migration.html" target="_blank">Brau's petrels synchronize</a> their voyages to an island mating ground with the full moon. Similar to the European nightjars, researchers in that study noted that the peterals were more active during a full moon, taking advantage of the light to feed. And a 2006 study concluded that lunar cycles <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16407788" target="_blank">can affect bird hormone levels</a>, causing daily variations in melatonin and corticosterone to vanish during full moons.</p><p>The power of lunar influence isn't just for the birds either. For example, the Great Barrier Reef coordinates its "annual sex festival" with the moon's cycle. This system of corals off the coast of Australia synchronizes a massive, explosive release of egg and sperm with <a href="https://www.sciencealert.com/the-full-moon-just-triggered-one-of-the-largest-mass-spawning-events-of-2016" target="_blank">a full moon in November.</a> There's even evidence to suggest that <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23891110" target="_blank">human sleep patterns</a> and <a href="https://www.bbc.com/future/article/20190731-is-the-moon-impacting-your-mood-and-wellbeing" target="_blank">moods</a> are affected by lunar phases. </p><p>Now, Lund University's research findings provide a route to understanding how local ecosystems are impacted by the temporal movements of celestial bodies, which may influence other large-scale animal migrations and their environmental effects. </p>
Determining whether human nature is short-sighted when it comes to survival-necessary situations
- Do you know what evidence supposedly supports the claim that "human nature" is short sighted?
- Can our abstract math help us weigh the "utility," or value, of cupcakes against burning the biosphere?
- By mixing moral or survival-needed items with trinkets, this math seduces many into calling "rational" what we know will logically lead to collective doom.