Research 2006


11 04 06 Toadfish Chemical and Sonic Communication

Bob McDonald, of CBC’s Quirks & Quarks, interviews Patrick Walsh, professor of biology at the University of Ottawa on the relationship between toadfish excretion—which can lead predators to the the toadfish—and toadfish songs. The show includes sound clips of the gulf toadfish (Opsanus beta) “boat whistle.”
Q&Q: Toadfish Pee | ACP Fish and Sound

09 30 06 Satellite Males Take Over

Bob McDonald, of CBC’s Quirks & Quarks, interviews Marlene Zuk, of the University of California, Riverside on the emergence of a perponderance of satellite males among field crickets, an apparent evolutionary response to parasitic flies in the genus Ormia.
Q&Q: Quiet Cricket | ACP on Ormia flies

09 19 06 Faking a pheremone signal, cooperatively

The larvae of the parasitic blister beetle Meloe franciscanus gather in large groups at the tips of twigs, approximating the shape and size of a female solitary bee Habropoda pallida. To clinch the deception, the beetle larvae produce a convincing imitation of the scent that attracts male bees. When a male bee lights on the larvae, they instantly cling to the bee, hitching a ride first to a female bee and then to the nest, which they parasitize.
“Phoretic nest parasites use sexual deception to obtain transport to their host’s nest,” Leslie S. Saul-Gershenz and Jocelyn G. Millar, PNAS 09 19 06 (Abstract and supporting movies available without subscription.)
Q&Q: Blister Beetle Deception 

05 26 06 Ornaments and Weapons Communicate Fitness

Researchers have found that the weapons and ornaments of animals (horns, antlers, etc.) always scale disproportionately as body size increases, allowing them to serve as easily viewed signs of physical and sexual fitness.
Abstract © 2006 PNAS.
“The allometry of ornaments and weapons,” Astrid Kodric-Brown, Richard M. Sibly, James H. Brown Published online before print May 26, 2006 Free PDF of full article.

05 25 06 The Hidden Language of Insects

Treehoppers often cluster into groups and exhibit social behavior. Now sensitive microphones can capture the sound vibrations they create—vibrations that could indicate complex communication skills. NPR’s Alex Chadwick interviews Rex Cocroft, a researcher and professor at the University of Missouri, Columbia.
The NPR page includes images and sound recordings as well as a link to listen to the full story.

05 18 06 Monkey codewords

Putty-nosed monkeys (Cercopithecus nictitans) have two basic call sounds: ‘pyows’, used to warn their group of a loitering leopard; and ‘hacks’, used to alert them to a hovering eagle. But they can also combine these calls into strings consisting of several pyows followed by a few hacks. These ‘sentences’ — recorded by Kate Arnold and Klaus Zuberbühler, and described in the May 18, 2006 Nature — seem to function as a command to the group to move away to safer terrain.
Excerpted from a Nature abstract © 2006 Nature.
Nature news article with an image and linked sound files.

05 12 06 Dolphins “Name” Themselves with Signature Whistles
Some bottlenose dolphin (Tursiops truncatus) whistles appear to convey the caller’s individual “name” information, which other dolphins can recognize even when the caller’s voice features are electronically removed, researchers report.

04 27 06 Starlings Learn ‘Human-Only’ Syntax Patterns
In a series of experiments with European starlings (Sturnus vulgaris) using warbles and rattles in place of words, the birds learned to recognize a recursive-type grammar from a simpler grammar. Chomskian linguists have theorized that the ability to process recursive grammar forms the computational core of a uniquely human language facility. The research also contrasts with previous experiments showing that tamarin monkeys could not recognize recursive grammar.

03 27 06 Bites Recruit Wasp Workers
Experiments show that Polybia occidentalis workers recruit new foragers by biting them.

03 27 06 Birdsong Probed With X-Ray Movies
X-ray movies of singing cardinals reveal that songbirds adjust their song’s tonal qualities by actively changing the shape of their upper vocal tract in a cyclical manner.

03 16 06 Frogs Communicate with Ultrasound
The call of the concave-eared torrent frog (Amolops tormotus) contains both audible and ultrasonic components, which allows the calls to be heard against the babbling background of the streams where they live.

03 09 06 Frogs Mimic Less-poisonous Neighbors
Many edible animals avoid ending up as something’s dinner because they resemble the appearance of poisonous animals—an effect called batesian mimicry. A new study in the 03 09 06 Nature describes how the non-poisonous frog, Allobates zaparo, mimics the less toxic of two local poisonous species.

01 28 06 In Whipbird Duets, Female Song Varies

Bird biologists have long known that male song varies from region to region. But less is known about female song. Now researchers in Canada and Australia have shown that in eastern whipbirds (Psophodes olivaceus), female songs vary distinctly from region to region, while male songs remain highly consistent.
D. J. Mennill, of the University of Windsor in Ontario, Canada, has posted an interactive web page with spectrograms and audio recordings with a link to the research paper in the Journal of Avian Biology.

01 28 06 Just Duet

Biologists puzzle over bird’s ensemble vocalizations
by Susan Milius, Science News

“As the morning mists rose on the slopes of Ecuador’s Pasochoa volcano, the burbling of plain-tailed wrens came through the bamboo thickets. Two researchers started their standard procedure of catching wrens, banding them, and letting them go. Soon, however, they were startled when a small cluster of wrens settled into a bush and began singing together. It turned out to be “one of the most complex singing performances yet described in a nonhuman animal,” says Nigel Mann.” Read the article, which contains sound samples and photos.

01 12 06 Ants: Teacher-Pupil Feedback
Tandem running is a behaviour seen in some ant species, where one ant leads another from the nest to a food source by using signals that control the speed and route of the journey. Researchers now say this behavior constitutes teaching and learning.