Animal fabulations

By ast | Stories about animals and multi-species relations

A New Way to Find the Tree of Life's Missing Branches

Scientists have devised a method to sequence more microbes, more quickly, which could lead to a better understanding of the origin of complex life.<p>Scientists have been been studying the DNA of microbes for a quarter-century, and in that time, they have sequenced about 2 million microbes. By one …

Biology

Animals Have Culture, Too

In this episode of <i>Animalism</i> featuring <i>The Atlantic</i> science writer Ed Yong, we investigate fascinating examples of culture in the animal kingdom, including the bizarre traditions of Capuchin monkeys in Costa Rica, the long-held fashion trends of bottlenose dolphins in Australia’s Shark Bay, and the …

Costa Rica

New lab-bred super corals could help avert global reef wipeout

Pioneering research on cross-species coral hybrids, inoculations with protective bacteria and even genetic engineering could provide a lifeline for the ‘rainforests of the oceans’<p>New super corals bred by scientists to resist global warming could be tested on the Great Barrier Reef within a year as …

Oceans

A Chinese company is developing facial recognition for organic chickens

If you live in a city but still want to look deep into the eyes of your dinner, you’re in luck. Thanks to blockchain technology being developed by Chinese insurance tech company ZhongAn Online, people will soon be able to use facial-recognition technology to track organically farmed chickens …

Farming

Sex between snow monkeys and sika deer may be 'new behavioural tradition'

Following a report of monkey-deer interactions earlier this year, researchers have now recorded the behaviour in another group of monkeys<p>Sexual interactions between snow monkeys and sika deer could be a new behavioural tradition within a group of monkeys observed in Japan, researchers have …

Wildlife

New Bird Species Arises From Hybrids, As Scientists Watch

The rapid, unorthodox emergence of a new finch in the Galápagos hints that speciation isn’t rare. New hybrid species may quietly appear and disappear …

Sigourney Weaver on Gorillas in the Mist and Dian Fossey's primate family: 'I thought, "Oh, this must be what it’s like to have a child"'

Sigourney Weaver has battled many near-fatal foes in her long career, from acid-squirting space-monsters in the Alien franchise to a dangerously tight military uniform in the cult comedy Galaxy Quest. But it was while interacting with real primates while playing the trailblazing conservationist and …

Imagining the Jellyfish Apocalypse

The stinging, gelatinous blobs could take over the world’s oceans.<p>In my mid-20s, I spent three months living in Broome, a coastal township in Western Australia famous for its moonrises, pink beaches, and pearl farms. Each morning during what is known locally as “the buildup” (the hot, muggy weeks …

Oceans

Country diary 1967: sniffing out birds at the sewage farm

5 December 1967 CM Gadd was apparently the first person to realise how migrating birds are attracted to municipal sewage farms<p>CHESHIRE AND LANCASHIRE: I was sad to hear recently of the death of a Cheshire naturalist whose name is probably quite unknown to the great number of ornithologists who have …

'A great silence is spreading over the natural world'

Bernie Krause has spent 40 years recording nature's sounds. But such is the rate of species and habitat loss that his tapes may become our only record of the original diversity of life<p>"The birds are silent in the woods.<br>Just wait: Soon enough<br>You will be quiet too"<br>- Robert Hass<p>When musician and …

Ep. #99 - Kath Weston

Posted by dominic on Nov 9, 2017<p>Cymene and Dominic review this week’s blue wave and talk about becoming a more multispecies household. Then (10:57) …

We can learn from fruit fly brains to improve our search algorithms

Nature knows what it’s doing<p>The key to better computer algorithms might be found in the brains of fruit flies, researchers say.<p>Computers are always doing searches that involve comparing similar things. Think about when you go on YouTube to listen to Coldplay and it recommends a song by Radiohead. …

Algorithms

Crows Are Doing the Best They Can

It’s time to give these resourceful, community-minded creatures some credit.<p>The first thing to know about crows is that a group of them is called a <i>murder</i>.<p>In America, crows count as a Halloween decoration, like skeletons and mini-gravestones. Homeowners perch plastic ones in their trees to instill …

Birds

Cows are loving, intelligent and kind – so should we still eat them?

Rosamund Young, farmer and author of The Secret Life of Cows, says she is really a ‘ghostwriter’ for her herd, with a mission to explain how they play games, babysit and even judge us. But that doesn’t mean she’s a vegetarian …<p>‘I’ll see who is in the mood for talking,” says Rosamund Young, …

Have we underestimated the emotional intelligence of animals?

Pablo Neruda may be best known today to English speakers for his romantic and sensual verses or through a portrayal in the 1994 film <i>Il Postino</i>, but …

Books

Why Is This Deer Licking This Fox?

A cuddly island mystery<p>When Chris Lowe first saw the buck stoop to lick the small, silver-speckled fox, he thought his eyes might be playing tricks on him. He’d just gotten back from a run on Santa Catalina, a remote Southern Californian island where he studies sharks, and came upon the two animals …

Animals

Finally, the truth about just how manipulative your dog really is

Our pets have specific expressions they reserve for humans, it’s been revealed. But as a dog owner, I have to say that news comes as no surprise to me<p>Sitting at my desk, I stealthily peel open a packet of biscuits, hardly daring to breathe as I carefully reach inside. Even as my fingers close …

Simple Bacteria Offer Clues to the Origins of Photosynthesis

Studies of the energy-harvesting proteins in primitive cells suggest that key features of photosynthesis might have evolved a billion years earlier …

Biology

Warning of 'ecological Armageddon' after dramatic plunge in insect numbers

Three-quarters of flying insects in nature reserves across Germany have vanished in 25 years, with serious implications for all life on Earth, scientists say<p>The abundance of flying insects has plunged by three-quarters over the past 25 years, according to a new study that has shocked …

Ecology

The Loudest Underwater Sound Ever Recorded Has No Scientific Explanation

In 1997, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration discovered an unusual, ultra-low-frequency sound emanating from a point off the southern coast of Chile. It was the loudest unidentified underwater sound ever recorded, detected by hydrophones 5,000 miles apart. It lasted for one minute …

Oceans

How the Benzene Tree Polluted the World

The organic compounds that enabled industrialization have unintended, long-lasting consequences for the planet’s life.<p>Deep in the Mariana Trench, at depths lower than the Rockies are high, rests a tin of reduced-sodium Spam.<p>NOAA scientists caught sight of it last year near the mouth of the …

Organic Chemistry

'Hero' dog Dave rescues family from sea at Hayling Island

Dave the dog is being hailed a hero after helping to save a family who got into difficulty in the sea off Hayling Island beach.<p>Nicola's 14-year-old daughter and 19-year-old niece both were being swept out to sea at the entrance to Langstone harbour. Nicola jumped in to help, but got into trouble …

Should We Kill Animals to Save Them?

Trophy hunting fees help fund conservation. Critics say the benefits are exaggerated and that killing big game animals is wrong.<p><b>Elephants kept appearing in wrinkled herds, loitering near the dusty pans, in search of water. With the September temperature pushing a hundred degrees at midday, the</b> …

Octlantis: the underwater city built by octopuses

The discovery of aquatic architecture has led scientists to compare the behaviour of cephalopods to humans – but octopus city life is no utopia<p>If animals are our other, there is nothing quite so other as the octopus. It is the alien with whom we share our planet, a coeval evolutionary life form …

Australia

How a photographer snapped this tragic photo of a seahorse lugging a Q-tip

“I spend a lot of time underwater all over the world, and I see trash and debris and human waste all over the place.”<p>When nature photographer Justin Hofman was out snorkeling off the coast of the Indonesian island of Sumbawa last year, he didn’t know he was going to stumble upon what could be the …

Scuba Diving

Bats crash into buildings because smooth surfaces trick their echolocation

It’s like a mirror<p>Scientists have figured out why bats crash into buildings: smooth, vertical surfaces like window panes throw off their navigation systems, basically keeping them from “seeing” those obstacles.<p>The findings, published this week in the journal <i>Science</i>, help explain why injured or dead …

Biological Species

Genetically Modified Moths Come to New York

A diamondback moth with altered DNA is being tested to control pests on cabbages.<p>Earlier this spring, Anthony Shelton found himself planting a cabbage patch with members of his lab in upstate New York.<p>“We’re A to Z here,” says Shelton, who is an entomologist at Cornell University. If “A” is …

Cayman Islands

We inhale up to 10 billion mold spores daily; here’s why you haven’t died yet | Ars Technica

Hint: It’s not because our immune systems carry out mass fungi-cide.<p>Humans inhale somewhere between 1,000 and 10 billion mold spores on an average …

The truth about the brutal dairy industry will put you off cow's milk

Vegans understand there's no such thing as humane milk - what happens to cows is disgraceful.<p>Normally on dairy farms it's the harrowing cries of baby …

Agriculture