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Owning a dog is influenced by our genetic make-up

Woman and dog. Credit: © Vasyl / Adobe Stock A team of Swedish and British scientists have studied the heritability of dog ownership using information from 35,035 twin pairs from the Swedish Twin Registry. The new study suggests that genetic variation explains more than half of the variation in dog ownership, implying that the choice…

Scientists propose rethinking ‘endangered species’ definition to save slow-breeding giants

Elephants. Credit: © Chaiphorn / Adobe Stock Conservation decisions based on population counts may fail to protect large, slow-breeding animals from irrevocable decline, according to new research coinciding with Endangered Species Day. "Critical thresholds in so-called vital rates -- such as mortality and fertility rates among males and females of various ages -- can signal…

Owning a dog is influenced by our genetic make-up

Woman and dog. Credit: © Vasyl / Adobe Stock A team of Swedish and British scientists have studied the heritability of dog ownership using information from 35,035 twin pairs from the Swedish Twin Registry. The new study suggests that genetic variation explains more than half of the variation in dog ownership, implying that the choice…

True identity of imposter ‘pigs’ on 17th century map overturns early...

Peccary. Credit: © buteo / Adobe Stock Which came first, the pigs or the pioneers? In Barbados, that has been a historical mystery ever since the first English colonists arrived on the island in 1627 to encounter what they thought was a herd of wild European pigs. A recent discovery by an SFU archaeologist is…

Escaped pet parrots are now naturalized in 23 US states, study...

Monk parakeets. Credit: © jangnhut / Adobe Stock When Stephen Pruett-Jones, PhD, an ecologist at the University of Chicago, first came to Chicago in 1988, he stumbled on a unique piece of the city's history: the monk parakeets of Hyde Park. The squat, bright-green birds aren't native to Illinois, or the United States at all.…

Treats might mask animal intelligence

Rat with cheese. Credit: © Kirill Kurashov / Adobe Stock Rewards are frequently used to promote learning, but rewards may actually mask true knowledge, finds a new Johns Hopkins University study with rodents and ferrets. The findings, published May 14 in Nature Communications, show a distinction between knowledge and performance, and provide insight into how…

Evolutionary backing found in analysis of mammalian vertebrae

Two-toed sloth. Credit: © tomalu / Adobe Stock Differences in numbers of vertebrae are most extreme in mammals which do not rely on running and leaping, such as those adapted to suspensory locomotion like apes and sloths, a team of anthropologists has concluded in a study appearing in the journal Nature Ecology & Evolution. Previous…

How whales defy the cancer odds: Good genes

Humpback whale Credit: © willtu / Adobe Stock Scientists know that age and weight are risk factors in the development of cancer. That should mean that whales, which include some of the largest and longest-lived animals on Earth, have an outsized risk of developing cancer. But they don't. Instead, they are less likely to develop…

Is one toe really better than three? How horse’ legs evolved...

Horses' hooves. Credit: © Mark / Adobe Stock Palaeobiologists from the University of Bristol and Howard University (USA) have uncovered new evidence that suggests that horses' legs have adapted over time to be optimised for endurance travel, rather than speed. The ancestors of horses (including asses and zebras) had three toes on each foot. Because…

Why unique finches keep their heads of many colors

Gouldian Finch (stock image). Credit: © Duncan Noakes / Adobe Stock There appears to be an underlying selection mechanism at work among Gouldian Finches -- a mechanism that allows this species to produce and maintain individuals with red heads, black heads, and yellow heads. Research by scientists from the the University of Sheffield in the…

Paper wasps capable of behavior that resembles logical reasoning

Paper wasps. Credit: © Floki / Adobe Stock A new University of Michigan study provides the first evidence of transitive inference, the ability to use known relationships to infer unknown relationships, in a nonvertebrate animal: the lowly paper wasp. For millennia, transitive inference was considered a hallmark of human deductive powers, a form of logical…

Antarctic biodiversity hotspots exist wherever penguins and seals poop

Penguins and seals. Credit: © Guy Bryant / Adobe Stock Scientists have found that on the desolate Antarctic peninsula, nitrogen-rich poop from colonies of penguins and seals enriches the soil so well that it helps create biodiversity hotspots throughout the region. Their work, appearing May 9 in the journal Current Biology, finds that the influence…

Paper wasps capable of behavior that resembles logical reasoning

Paper wasps. Credit: © Floki / Adobe Stock A new University of Michigan study provides the first evidence of transitive inference, the ability to use known relationships to infer unknown relationships, in a nonvertebrate animal: the lowly paper wasp. For millennia, transitive inference was considered a hallmark of human deductive powers, a form of logical…

Lions vs. porcupines

African crested porcupine (Hystrix cristata). Credit: © Derrick Neill / Adobe Stock Not much can mess with a lion. They're four-hundred-pound top predators, bringing down large prey like wildebeests, zebras, and even giraffes. But they're not invincible -- a new study delves into the interactions between lions and porcupines, and shows how these spiky, cocker…

New 3-foot-tall relative of Tyrannosaurus rex

Sterling Nesbitt and fossil remains of Suskityrannus hazelae, which he found at age 16 in 1998. Credit: Virginia Tech A new relative of the Tyrannosaurus rex -- much smaller than the huge, ferocious dinosaur made famous in countless books and films, including, yes, "Jurassic Park" -- has been discovered and named by a Virginia Tech…

Birds use social cues to make decisions

A zebra finch pair is inspecting a nest box. Credit: Hanja Brandl A new study in The Auk: Ornithological Advances suggests that some birds prioritize social information over visual evidence when making breeding choices. The quality of an environment can be difficult for a bird to assess and, therefore, continuously gathering information is a good…

Giant panda’s bamboo diet still looks surprisingly carnivorous

This photograph shows a wild panda feeding on bamboo leaves in the Foping Nature Reserve. Credit: Fuwen Wei Giant pandas are unusual in being extremely specialized herbivores that feed almost exclusively on highly fibrous bamboo, despite belonging to a clade (Carnivora) of primarily flesh-eating carnivores. But a study reported in Current Biology on May 2…

Spider venom is a dangerous cocktail

The wandering spider Cupiennius salei from Central America has a legspan of approx. ten centimeters. Credit: © Institute of Ecology and Evolution, University of Bern Over the past decades, the research of spider venom mainly focused on the neurotoxins it contains. This involved understanding the paralyzing and toxic effect of individual components of the venom…

A genomic tour-de-force reveals the last 5,000 years of horse history

This image shows a herd of Kazakh horses in the Pavlodar region of Kazakhstan in August 2016. Credit: Ludovic Orlando Each year on the first Saturday in May, Thoroughbred horses reach speeds of over 40 miles per hour as they compete to win the Kentucky Derby. But the domestic horse wasn't always bred for speed.…

Wolves more prosocial than pack dogs in touchscreen experiment

This is a touchscreen test. Credit: Rachel Dale, 2019 In a touchscreen-based task that allowed individual animals to provide food to others, wolves behaved more prosocially toward their fellow pack members than did pack dogs. Rachel Dale of the Wolf Science Center in Vienna, Austria, and colleagues present these findings in the open access journal…

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