Friends Help More Promptly, at Least in Monkeys

ScienceDaily (July 31, 2012) — Behavioral scientists of the German Primate Center cooperating with colleagues of the Universities of Portsmouth and Bogor have found out that crested macaques react faster if threatened by predators when a group member they share close social bonds with calls for help. In order to study this behavior, the scientists led by Antje Engelhardt, head of the junior research group Primate Sexual Selection, recorded recruiting calls of the monkeys. The macaques utter them, when predators like pythons are in sight.

Crested macaques are grooming other group members in the Indonesian rainforest near the field station Tangkoko. (Credit: Antje Engelhardt / German Primate Center)


By these calls they attract group members, which cooperatively drive the snake away. Hereafter the scientists replayed the recordings to different individuals of the group in order to document their reactions. Calls of “friends” as well as calls of less close group members were played to the macaques. When they heard calls of befriended monkeys, they reacted substantially faster than to the other calls. The study also sheds light on the evolution of social relationships in humans, the researchers conclude.

Hard to say if the scientists of the junior research group “Primate Sexual Selection” at the DPZ ever imagined they would have to mimic a snake to reach their scientific aims. They probably didn’t. But only this way the researchers in Antje Engelhardt’s group in the field station Tangkoko in Indonesia were able to study the effect of social bonds on how the macaques react to predators. Holding a life-size model of a python they hid behind a tree and subsequently showed the cardboard-snake to different macaques. Colleagues meanwhile recorded the calls with which the macaques reacted to the sight. Attracted by these “recruiting calls,” members of the macaques’ group usually join the caller to drive away the predator, in this case the fake snake.

The behavioral scientists tried to find out, whether macaques react differently to calls from socially close group members: The scientists replayed the recorded calls to different individuals of the group, once using the call of a socially close group member, once using the call of a more distant one.

Using video cameras the researchers then recorded the reaction and analyzing these found out: When a socially close macaque sounded the recruiting call, the others reacted more promptly than when the call came from a “non-friend.”

“Our results show, that close social bonds which surpass kinship played an important role even before the evolution of the human species,” Antje Engelhardt says. “Cooperative defense against predators seems to be one of the benefits within this context.”

 

Link:

http://www.alphagalileo.org/ViewItem.aspx?ItemId=122861&CultureCode=en

Journal Reference:

  1. Micheletta, Jérôme, Bridget M. Waller, Maria R. Panggur, Christof Neumann, Julie Duboscq, Muhammad Agil and Antje Engelhardt. Social bonds affect anti-predator behaviour in a tolerant species of macaque, Macaca nigra. Proceedings of the Royal Society B, August 1, 2012

Citation:

German Primate Center (2012, July 31). Friends help more promptly, at least in monkeys. ScienceDaily. Retrieved August 2, 2012, from http://www.sciencedaily.com­ /releases/2012/07/120731201210.htmation:

 

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Amazing Deep Diving by Imperial Cormorant Bird

ScienceDaily (July 31, 2012) — A team of researchers from the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) and the National Research Council of Argentina recently fitted a South American sea bird called an imperial cormorant with a small camera, then watched stunned as it became “superbird” — diving 150 feet underwater in 40 seconds, feeding on the ocean floor for 80 seconds where it eventually caught a snakelike fish, before returning to the surface 40 seconds later.

Imperial cormorants from Punta León in Argentina. (Credit: Wildlife Conservation Society)


This is the first time researchers have been able to watch first-hand the amazing feeding techniques of these fascinating birds, which occur off the coast of Argentina.

The footage shows the cormorant briefly on the surface before diving for the bottom. The camera is attached to the bird’s back, so the view is of its head as it pumps its feet to swim deeper. When it finally reaches the ocean floor, it explores a vast area searching for food. It eventually finds an elongated fish, which it brings to the surface to eat.

The footage came from Punta León in Patagonia, Argentina, a coastal protected area supporting more than 3.500 pairs of imperial cormorants. A WCS scientific team, led by Dr. Flavio Quintana, has been studying the cormorants’ feeding behavior for the past ten years. The team was joined by Dr. Carlos Zavalaga along with Ken Yoda from the University of Nogoya, Japan to fit the camera on the bird.

The WCS team has tracked more than 400 cormorants along the Patagonian Coast of Argentina using cutting edge technological tools such as multi-channel archival tags and high resolution GPS-loggers. This information will help identify priority feeding areas to help design new protected areas and to understand environmental conditions that affect cormorant populations.

Video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jZ4QAWKgBu4&feature=youtu.be

 

Link:

http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2012-07/wcs-sr073112.php

Citation:

Wildlife Conservation Society (2012, July 31). Amazing deep diving by imperial cormorant bird. ScienceDaily. Retrieved August 2, 2012, from http://www.sciencedaily.com­ /releases/2012/07/120731160753.htm

Camouflage of Moths: Moths Actively Seek out Best Hiding Places

ScienceDaily (July 31, 2012) — Moths are iconic examples of camouflage. Their wing coloration and patterns are shaped by natural selection to match the patterns of natural substrates, such as a tree bark or leaves, on which the moths rest. But, according to recent findings, the match in the appearance was not all in their invisibility.

Fig. 1 shows two species of moths that, according to the recent study of evolutionary biologists from Seoul, “know” how to find a spot on a tree bark to become invisible to predators: (a) – Hypomecis roboraria; (b) – Jankowskia fuscaria. (Credit: ©entomart NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0))


Despite a long history of research on these iconic insects, whether moths behave in a way to increase their invisibility has not been determined. A research team from the Laboratory of Behavioral Ecology and Evolution at the Seoul National University has conducted an experiment to directly answer this question. Chang-ku Kang, Jong-yeol Moon, Sang-im Lee and Piotr Jablonski have found out that moths walk on the tree bark until they settle down to rest; the insects seem to actively search for a place and a body position that makes them practically invisible.

Instead of placing moth specimens on a tree bark in various positions to see how body orientation of moths make them invisible to birds, which has been done by several researchers, “we let the moths to do the job for us” says Changku Kang, the PhD student who conducted the experiment. The researchers let inchworm moths of two species (Jankowskia fuscaria and Hypomycis roboraria) land on tree bark and freely choose the final resting spot and body orientation. Many moths did not remain at the spot of landing. They walked around with stretched wings as if they were looking for that one perfect spot that may make them invisible to predators.

To determine whether this final spot indeed made the moth really invisible, the researchers photographed each moth at its landing spot (initial spot) and at the final spot at which the moth decided to rest. Next, the researchers asked people to try to locate the moth from the photograph as quickly as possible. People had more difficulty finding the moths at their final spots than the same moths at their initial landing spots.

Amazingly, this was even true for the species (Hypomecis roboraria) that only changed its resting spot on the tree bark without changing its body orientation. Therefore, the researchers concluded, that moths seems to actively choose the spot that makes them invisible to predators. How do they know how to become invisible? The research team is now trying to answer this question as the next step.

 

Link:

http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2012-07/lobe-com073112.php

Journal Reference:

  1. C.-K. Kang, J.-Y. Moon, S.-I. Lee, P. G. Jablonski. Camouflage through an active choice of a resting spot and body orientation in moths. Journal of Evolutionary Biology, 2012; DOI: 10.1111/j.1420-9101.2012.02557.x

Citation:

Laboratory of Behavioral Ecology and Evolution at Seoul National University (2012, July 31). Camouflage of moths: Moths actively seek out best hiding places. ScienceDaily. Retrieved August 2, 2012, from http://www.sciencedaily.com­ /releases/2012/07/120731123521.htm

Critically Endangered Whales Sing Like Birds; New Recordings Hint at Rebound

ScienceDaily (July 31, 2012) — When a University of Washington researcher listened to the audio picked up by a recording device that spent a year in the icy waters off the east coast of Greenland, she was stunned at what she heard: whales singing a remarkable variety of songs nearly constantly for five wintertime months.

This bowhead whale is a member of the population that lives in the Alaskan Beaufort Sea. The bowheads that were the subject of this study are rarely seen. (Credit: Kate Stafford)


Kate Stafford, an oceanographer with UW’s Applied Physics Lab, set out to find if any endangered bowhead whales passed through the Fram Strait, an inhospitable, ice-covered stretch of sea between Greenland and the northern islands of Norway. Only around 40 sightings of bowhead whales, which were hunted almost to extinction, have been reported there since the 1970s.

Stafford and colleagues put two hydrophones, or underwater microphones, on moorings attached to the seafloor in Fram Strait, leaving them there for as long as the batteries would last: nearly a year. Since the population of bowhead whales likely to pass through was thought to number in the tens, they didn’t anticipate much interesting data.

“We hoped to record a few little grunts and moans,” Stafford said. “We were not expecting to get five months of straight singing.”

Not only did they record singing nearly every hour of the day and night, they picked up more than 60 unique songs. A paper detailing their discoveries appears July 31 as the feature article in Endangered Species Research and is openly accessible online.

The variety of tunes was so surprising that the researchers compared the whales’ song catalog to that of birds.

“Whether individual singers display one, multiple or even all call types, the size of the song repertoire for… bowheads in 2008-2009 is remarkable and more closely approaches that of songbirds than other… whales,” they wrote in the report.

They have yet to learn why the whales sang so consistently last year.

Scientists believe that bowhead whale song comes from males during mating season. In most other kinds of whales, individuals either sing the same song their whole lives or all members of a population sing the season’s same popular tune. If bowheads are like the former, that would mean more than 60 males were in the Fram Strait. If the population is evenly split between males and females, there could have been more than 100 whales — far more than anyone thought comprised this population.

With further study, the scientists instead could discover that individual bowhead whales have a repertoire of songs that they sing during a season. That would be equally interesting because it would make the bowheads the only known whales to sing a variety of songs in the same season.

The findings also hint at the possibility of a rebound in bowhead whales.

“If this is a breeding ground, it would be spectacular,” said Stafford. “For such a critically endangered species, it’s really important to know that there’s a reproductively active portion of the population.”

In addition, since the whales are difficult to study given their year-round residence in the Arctic, virtually nothing was known about where they spend their winters. The research offers a clue about the whales’ migration path.

Only a handful of bowhead whale populations remain. The largest historic population, which includes the individuals studied for this report, once possibly numbered more than 30,000 members but was hunted to near-extinction from the 1600s through the 1800s. Commercial whaling reduced bowhead whale populations in other regions as well; combined, the four remaining populations are thought to number fewer than 10,000 members.

Bowhead whales are massive creatures. They grow to over 60 feet long, may live to 200 years old and can weigh 200,000 pounds. They use their huge skulls to break through ice as thick as 1.5 feet.

Bowhead whale song is unique in that the whales appear to sing with “two voices,” simultaneously producing high- and low-frequency sounds. The whales sometimes repeat the same tune for hours at a time.

Stafford and her colleagues deployed the two hydrophones 60 miles apart. They made 2,144 hours of simultaneous recordings from September 2008 through July 2009. In order to conserve battery power and take recordings for a longer period of time, the hydrophones worked for nine minutes out of every half hour.

The hydrophone in the west, covered in dense ice and in colder water, picked up far more singing than the one in the east, where there was spotty ice coverage and warmer water. The greatest frequency of song occurred in the darkest, coldest period.

“It’s clear there’s a habitat preference,” Stafford said. The thick canopy of ice may provide better acoustics than the loose pack ice and therefore might be favored by singing whales, she said.

“As Arctic sea ice declines, there may be some places like this that are important to protect in order to preserve a breeding ground for the bowhead whales,” Stafford said.

To answer new questions that the data opens up — including how many whales make up this North Atlantic population — Stafford hopes to do additional study.

Co-authors of the paper include Sue Moore and Catherine Berchok from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration; Øystein Wiig of the University of Oslo; Christian Lydersen, Edmond Hansen and Kit M. Kovacs from the Norwegian Polar Institute; and Dirk Kalmbach with the Alfred Wegener Institute of Polar and Marine Research in Germany. The research was funded by NOAA and supported by the Norwegian Polar Institute and the Alfred Wegener Institute.

Bowhead whale song 1: http://www.washington.edu/news/files/2012/07/feb09songs_47USE.mp3

Bowhead whale song 2: http://www.washington.edu/news/files/2012/07/feb09songs_47USE.mp3

 

Link:

http://www.washington.edu/news/2012/07/31/critically-endangered-whales-sing-like-birds-new-recordings-hint-at-rebound-with-audio/

Journal Reference:

  1. KM Stafford, SE Moore, CL Berchok, Ø Wiig, C Lydersen, E Hansen, D Kalmbach, KM Kovacs. Spitsbergen’s endangered bowhead whales sing through the polar night. Endangered Species Research, 2012; 18 (2): 95 DOI: 10.3354/esr00444

Citation:

University of Washington (2012, July 31). Critically endangered whales sing like birds; New recordings hint at rebound. ScienceDaily. Retrieved August 2, 2012, from http://www.sciencedaily.com­ /releases/2012/07/120731123248.htmion:

 

To Know a Tiger Is at Least to Start Tolerating Them, Study Shows

ScienceDaily (July 31, 2012) — To protect a dangerous and endangered animal — be it a tiger in Nepal or a wolf in Michigan — you really do have to ask people “how do you FEEL about your predatory neighbor?”

In the buffer zone which runs along Nepal’s Chitwan National Forest, people and tigers closely coexist, both depending on the forest for their livelihoods. It is here doctoral student Neil Carter at Michigan State University’s Center for Systems Integration and Sustainability study tiger/human interactions. (Credit: Sue Nichols, Michigan State University CSIS)


Effective conservation calls for not only figuring out what protected species need — like habitat and food sources. It also requires an understanding of what it takes for their human neighbors to tolerate them. A Michigan State University doctoral student studying tigers in Nepal found that those feelings can provide critical information on how best to protect species.

“People have complex psychological relationships with wildlife,” said Neil Carter, researcher in MSU’s Center for Systems Integration and Sustainability (CSIS). “Picking apart these complex relationships is the best way to get a really good idea of what’s affecting their tolerance of the animal.”

The paper, “Utility of a psychological framework for carnivore conservation,” is published July 31 in Oryx, an international journal of conservation. Co-authors are Shawn Riley, MSU associate professor of fisheries and wildlife, and Jianguo “Jack” Liu, MSU University Distinguished Professor of fisheries and wildlife, who holds the Rachel Carson Chair in Sustainability and is CSIS director.

Carter has conducted research in Nepal’s Chitwan National Park, home to some 125 adult tigers that live close to people. And tigers, like all wild animals, have little regard for borders or fences. Likewise, the tigers’ human neighbors depend on the forests for their livelihoods. Conflict is inevitable. There were 65 human deaths due to tiger attacks from 1998 to 2006 and tigers are known to kill livestock. People sometimes kill tigers in response to these threats

Carter’s work has developed a novel tool to help figure out where to direct conservation resources — not just in Nepal, but also for conserving carnivores that live next to people in many regions of the world.

The research is unique in that it explores peoples’ attitudes about protected animals. Work has been done to understand how people feel about their wildlife neighbors, such as deer or coyotes. But the relationship with protected animals, especially those that can be dangerous, is more complicated. Issues of fear, risk and control make for a volatile mix, as do the constraints on solutions.

“You can’t just remove all the tigers, or the grizzly bears, or other carnivores that may pose a risk to people. Managing animal populations in this fashion is not a viable option for protected species,” Carter said. “It’s imperative to come up with ways that people and carnivores can get along.”

Policy and laws aren’t enough, he says. Carter said that in Nepal and around the world, people kill protected animals or turn a blind eye to poachers.

Carter, with his collaborators, surveyed 499 people living near Chitwan about how they feel about future tiger population size and factors that may influence preferences, like past interactions with tigers as well as beliefs and perceptions about tigers.

Other findings

While more study is needed, this work hints that it’s not fear that drives people’s preferences for the number of future tigers. Rather, it’s a combination of psychological responses that focus on the benefits and pragmatic costs of having tigers nearby.

“We expected that interactions — real experiences with tigers in the wild would be most influential,” Carter said. “Someone who had three cattle killed would have different tolerance than someone who hasn’t. Perhaps, if you’re exposed to something all the time, the fear stops becoming the powerful predictor.”

The survey identifies opportunities. For example, it was clear that people’s beliefs that tigers weren’t beneficial to the forest influenced their acceptance of tigers, a belief that had nothing to do with risk.

“That’s a real simple educational opportunity,” Carter said. “People can be shown that tigers regulate the populations of deer and boar, which cause real economic damage to crops. If they don’t see the connection then that’s a lost opportunity.”

In addition to Carter’s work on attitudes, he also has spent considerable time in Chitwan setting up camera traps to better understand the tiger populations, as well as understanding how people move in and out of tiger territory. His blending of social sciences and ecological studies is characteristic of CSIS, which works in the innovative new field of coupled human and natural systems to find sustainable solutions that both benefit the environment and enable people to thrive.

 

Link:

http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2012-07/msu-tka073012.php

Citation:

Michigan State University (2012, July 31). To know a tiger is at least to start tolerating them, study shows. ScienceDaily. Retrieved August 2, 2012, from http://www.sciencedaily.com­ /releases/2012/07/120731111416.htm

A Good Network Is Important for Brain Activity

ScienceDaily (July 31, 2012) — Speech, sensory perception, thought formation, decision-making processes and movement are complex tasks that the brain only masters when individual nerve cells (neurons) are well connected. Berlin neuroscientists have now discovered a molecular switch that regulates this networking of nerve cells.

(Credit: http://www.saburchill.com/ans02/chapters/chap001.html)


The scientists from Charité — Universitätsmedizin Berlin, the NeuroCure Cluster of Excellence and the Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine (MDC) have published their work in the journal Genes and Development.

The dendritic tree, a highly branched structure of neurons, plays an important role in these brain functions. The dendrites act like antennae to receive signals from other cells and send them on to the nerve cell body. Congenital neurological conditions, like mental retardation, are often associated with errors in dendritic tree development.

Marta Rosário’s research team, in cooperation with Victor Tarabykin from Charité and Walter Birchmeier from MDC, has now discovered how this branching process is controlled during development. In living mice, it could be shown that the NOMA-GAP protein serves as a switch in this process. Maturing neurons produce this switch protein, which then starts a chain of signals in cells that leads to dendritic branching. A central element of this signal chain is a protein, called Cdc42. It plays an important role in the first developmental stages of neurons, but inhibits the branching of the dendritic tree in later developmental stages. When NOMA-GAP becomes active, it turns off Cdc42 allowing maturing neurons to form complex dendritic trees. The correct deployment of the switch protein and control of the signal chain regulated by Cdc42 are thus essential for the proper dendritic branching of neurons and thus for the development of the neocortex (the cerebral cortex) that steers sensory perception, memory, speech and movement, among other functions.

“Errors in this signal cascade lead to an incompletely developed dendritic tree. The result is a risk of mental limitations as signals in the brain cannot be adequately processed,” explains Marta Rosário. “For us the study forms an important foundation for researching various conditions, like mental retardation, schizophrenia or depression, that will hopefully point out new therapeutic avenues.”

 

Link:

http://www.charite.de/en/charite/press/press_reports/artikel/detail/gut_vernetzt_wichtig_fuer_die_gehirnleistung/

Journal Reference:

  1. M. Rosario, S. Schuster, R. Juttner, S. Parthasarathy, V. Tarabykin, W. Birchmeier. Neocortical dendritic complexity is controlled during development by NOMA-GAP-dependent inhibition of Cdc42 and activation of cofilin. Genes & Development, 2012; DOI: 10.1101/gad.191593.112

Citation:

Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin (2012, July 31). A good network is important for brain activity. ScienceDaily. Retrieved August 2, 2012, from http://www.sciencedaily.com­ /releases/2012/07/120731102948.htm