Baby elephants playing, University of Sheffield Animals Biology 

Baby Elephants with Stressed Parents, Shorter Lives

By Kate Stone In the world of mammals, parental stress can have a lifelong impact on offspring. Elephants born into stressful situations grow up to have fewer offspring and age faster, researchers at the University of Sheffield have found. Scientists discovered that Asian elephants born to mothers with high stress levels grow up quickly, but then produce significantly fewer offspring in their lifetime.The research team also found that those animals born under stressful conditions had their lives cut short by premature old age. “Poor early life conditions have been linked…

Read More
grizzly bear Animals Featured 

Photographer in Alaska: Grazing Grizzly Bears

By Max Goldberg, Contributing Photographer Grazing Grizzly Bears: This is the second installment of wildlife photographer Max Goldberg’s latest Alaskan Adventure. After spending a few days at Brooks Lodge, my father and I went back to Anchorage, Alaska, and took three flights to our next destination: the Natural Habitat Ursus. The Ursus is an old crab–fishing boat converted into a floating home–from–home, and our base for the next week. Every morning, we would eat breakfast, put on our waders, get into a skiff, and go to shore looking for bears.  …

Read More
Berlin Mounted Dinosaur Skeleton: The huge mounted Giraffatitan in the main hall in Berlin, dwarfing the Diplodocus that stands behind it. (Photo by Steven Spence) Paleontology 

Mounting a Monument to a Mesozoic Monster

By David Hone Dr. Dave Hone is a lecturer at Queen Mary, University of London, specialising in dinosaurs and pterosaurs. In addition to writing for The Guardian, he blogs at Archosaur Musings, is a contributor to Pterosaur.net, created Ask A Biologist, and has published more than 50 academic papers on dinosaur biology. His latest book, The Tyrannosaur Chronicles, is now available for pre-order from Bloomsbury Publishing. Few visitors to the Museum for Nature in Berlin can fail to be impressed by the truly colossal dinosaur that takes centre stage in…

Read More
Worms and slugs: A slug Arion spec. commonly found in northern Germany, now known to be used by hitch-hiking nematodes for transportation (Carola Petersen, Hinrich Schulenburg, Kiel University) Animals Biology 

Worms Use Slugs as Public Transit

By Kate Stone Nematode Worms on the Move Buses and trains may not always be the cleanest ways to get around, but at least they aren’t as messy as slugs, which are a mode of transit in our gardens. According to a new study, slugs and other invertebrates provide essential public transport for small worms in search of food. Nematode worms (including Caenorhabditis elegans) are about a millimeter long and often live in temporary environments, such as a piece of decomposing fruit or other rotting plant material. Because their habitats…

Read More
Cat Videos: Bloomington, Indiana's own Lil Bub is one of the more popular felines on the Internet. (Photo by Mike Bridavsky/www.lilbub.com) Animals Citizen Science Health 

Cat Videos Boost Energy, Good Feelings

Do you get a warm, fuzzy feeling after watching cat videos online? If so, that emotional effect may be more profound than you realize. The Internet phenomenon of watching cat videos, from Lil Bub to Grumpy Cat, apparently does more than simply entertain. It boosts viewers’ energy and positive emotions while decreasing negative feelings, according to a new study from Indiana University Media School. Can a Cat Video a Day Keep the Doctor Away? The study, by assistant professor Jessica Gall Myrick, surveyed almost 7,000 people about their viewing of…

Read More
Giant Squid (Photo ©AMNH/P.Rollins) Animals Biology Oceanography 

The Voyage of the Giant Squid

This episode of the Shelf Life video series focuses on a simple transportation problem– how to  transport the body of a rare giant squid. But long before they were a quandary for customs officials, these mysterious cephalopods fueled fear and folklore all over the world. While they may not breathe fire or devour large ships, the animals that inspired their mythological counterparts are no less fantastic. The Giant Squid and the Kraken Though giant squid won’t reach the size of the mythological gigantic kraken— often depicted demolishing boats with its…

Read More
Hummingbird by Steven Spence Animals Biology 

Amazing Hummingbirds: Dancing in the Air

By Steven Spence Dancing in the Air A hummingbird puts fixed-wing aircraft and helicopters to shame. Not only can it hover, it can also fly forward, backwards, sideways, and even upside down! During a mating display, the male Anna’s Hummingbird can accelerate up to 385 body lengths (g-force 10) per second during a dive. A Peregrine falcon dives at only 200 body lengths per second, and a Mig-25 fighter jet dives a mere 40 times its length. Hovering hummingbirds use a “figure 8” wing motion. Wind tunnel studies have shown…

Read More
Structural Coloration in Bird Feathers Animals Biology Featured 

Structural Coloration in Bird Feathers

By Steven Spence Pimping Your Ride, the Natural Way If you are familiar with Pimp My Ride, a TV show about customizing old cars, you will know that one of the key elements in each customization is a bold paint job. It turns out that nature is ahead of TV. Biomimetics is the science of harnessing (or mimicking) nature in the design of human-engineered products. Aircraft wings have been improved with inspiration from birds, bats, and even sharks.  Geckos and their amazing gripping properties have inspired the development of adhesives…

Read More
A female great spotted woodpecker, photographed in Germany, April 2015 Animals Environment 

Drumming with the Great Spotted Woodpecker

By Steven Spence Drumroll, Please! May is family time for the great spotted woodpecker. Woodpecker pairs will have begun their courtship at the end of winter, a ritual that involves the male drumming his beak against hollow wood 10 to 20 times in just 2 seconds. This serves to mark his territory and alert a female to his presence. Females will also drum briefly to make themselves known when entering a male’s territory. Click the audio play button below to hear the bird drumming. Great spotted woodpeckers nest in tree…

Read More
Dolphins at sunset along the Indian River Lagoon (Photo courtesy of Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute, Florida Atlantic University) Animals Biology Oceanography 

Dolphins and Their Social Networks

By Kate S. They don’t have Twitter accounts, but dolphins are able to form highly complex and dynamic networks of friends, according to a recent study by scientists at Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute (HBOI) at Florida Atlantic University. Indian River Lagoon Dolphins Dolphins are known for being highly social animals, so the research team took a closer look at the interactions between bottlenose dolphins in the Indian River Lagoon and discovered how they mingle and with whom they spend their time. The Indian River Lagoon is a narrow 156-mile long…

Read More