I’ve always thought that the observational powers of birds could be harnessed for good or evil. Perhaps the nuthatch republicans would like to place a tiny camera on a yellow-shouldered Amazon parrot’s head to spy on Venezuela’s leader, Hugo Chavez. They’re obsessed with his socialist activities, for some reason. Or the paparazzi would like to use little Tits to spy on bigger tits.
There are so many birds around us on a daily basis, we most often tune out their chatter. What a shame. I’ve noticed over twenty-five bird species in my own backyard while paying a minimum of attention over the years. On any given day there must be at least a dozen. I just hope none of them have been watching me too closely. Sometimes I have their cousins over for dinner.
Check out David Attenborough on YouTube. His series on the Life of Birds is brilliant and educational. The Bowerbirds are my favorite.
Filed under Biology, Science
Do you want to wear a big ant on your chest? The first Darwin Report T-Shirt is available at CafePress.
One of the greatest, most fascinating, invertebrate animals in the world has to be the Leafcutter Ant. There are about 40 species of this social insect and all of them make their living by growing a fungus (their food) on the chewed-up remains of leaves, which they diligently harvest.
When I was 12 years old, I visited one of the pyramids in Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula. And on the grassy field surrounding the pyramid, I spotted a long narrow path cut through the grass; it was only three or four inches wide. Curious I walked toward the strange sight and saw what appeared to be a fleet of tiny green sails traveling along the path like boats on a river. Upon closer inspection I saw that the green sails were actually sections of cut leaves, which were being carried along by a streaming army of ants. It’s one of my favorite childhood memories.
Evolution is truly fascinating. There’s a video of a squirrel tap dancing around a snake and bravely nibbling on its body. The quality isn’t that great, so the identity of the snake is a bit of a mystery. It acts like a rattlesnake, but it doesn’t have the arrow shaped head, which is characteristic of the viper family. However, non-venomous gopher snakes mimic the behavior of rattlers to scare away predators. And on top of that, even if it were a rattlesnake, the squirrel has a genetic advantage. Adult squirrels have a partial immunity to rattlesnake venom. They can take several hits of venom and still survive. They even have a physiological mechanism to heat up their tails, which fools with the snake’s heat sensing ability. The moral of the story is that our human preconceptions about what’s going on in the natural world are often wrong.