Research 2007


12 22 07 Baboon Social Status

On Quirks & Quarks, Bob McDonald interviews Dorothy Cheney, University of Pennsylvania, about her book on baboon communication. The Quirks & Quarks page includes links to Cheny’s web site, as well as links related to the book. 
Q&Q: Baboon Metaphysics (includes links)
Vervet Monkeys.

12 20 07 Birdsong Variation Enables Learning
Birdsong is a complex learned skill requiring precise and rapid vocal control. In some species, including the Bengalese finch, adults sing highly stereotyped songs. But by working within the range of normal variability, and in tiny increments, researchers can push the song in a particular direction. Natural variation, the researchers suggest, may help birds fine tune their songs.

12 08 07 Humpback Whale Communications Recorded

On Quirks & Quarks, Bob McDonald interviews Rebecca Dunlop, a researcher at the University of Queensland in Australia about Humpack Whale communication, and it’s not just the “songs” you’ve heard before. The interview (available for download) includes recordings of the whales. The Quirks & Quarks page also includes links to the Humpback Whale Acoustic Research Collaboration and to Rebecca Dunlop’s web site.
Q&Q: Humpback Whale Dictionary

08 17 07 Infrared Communication by Squirrels
California ground squirrels (Spermophilus beecheyi) have evolved a special way to defend their young against rattlesnakes: they heat their tails, deterring the snakes, researchers find. No other species is known to communicate with infrared radiation, the authors write.

04 30 07 Apes Point to Language Origins
Bonobos (Pan paniscus) and chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes), use gestures differently from the way they use facial/vocal signals. Facial/vocal signals were tied to specific contexts and used similarly across species and groups. Gesture usage, however, was so flexible that it could not be generalized from species to species – or even from group to group within the same species.

03 19 07 Nuthatches eavesdrop on chickadee alarm calls

Many animals recognize the alarm calls produced by other species, but the amount of information they glean from these eavesdropped signals is unknown. We previously showed that black-capped chickadees (Poecile atricapillus) have a sophisticated alarm call system in which they encode complex information about the size and risk of potential predators in variations of a single type of mobbing alarm call. Here we show experimentally that red-breasted nuthatches (Sitta canadensis) respond appropriately to subtle variations of these heterospecific "chick-a-dee" alarm calls, thereby evidencing that they have gained important information about potential predators in their environment. This study demonstrates a previously unsuspected level of discrimination in intertaxon eavesdropping. Abstract © 2007 PNAS.
University of Washington press release includes photos and calls.

03 03 07 Caterpillars Click to Warn Predators

When threatened by predators or forceps-weilding researchers, some caterpillars emit repeated clicking noises, then regurgitate a noxious chemical. Bob McDonald, of CBC’s Quirks & Quarks, interviews biologist Jayne Yack, of Carleton University, about research into the biology behind caterpillar clicking. The file includes a recording of the caterpillars, and the page includes several relevant links.
Q&Q: Caterpillar Clicking
ACP: caterpillar communication

01 13 07 Termites Tap Heads to Signal Alarm

Formosan termites tap their heads on the carton nest material to signal alarm. Bob McDonald, of CBC’s Quirks & Quarks, interviews Tom Fink about research he and colleagues from the National Center for Physical Acoustics conducted to record and analyse termite tapping. The page includes links to a presentation by Fink and Fink’s web site, which include images and sound files.
Q&Q: Termite Head Bangers