Articles on Animal behaviour

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I’m more of a cricket man, really. Ben Birchall/PA

By studying animal behaviour we gain an insight into our own

In the field of animal behaviour, there is one topic that is almost guaranteed to get your study in the popular press: showing how an animal behaves just like humans. This can be solving problems, using…
Simple, yet so effective – a fish’s swimming motion removes the trade-off between stability and manoeuvrability. Mell P

Mullet over: how robotics can get a wriggle on with fishy locomotion

Teaching a robot to walk – even poorly – requires huge investment into computational resources. How is it that even the simplest animals are able to achieve far more sophisticated feats of manoeuvrability…
Not so dumb-o. Anna Smet

Elephants get the point when it comes to making gestures

As humans, we point all the time. It’s an action we do almost without thinking: even one-year-old infants use pointing and understand what pointing means when an adult does it for them. It’s a really simple…
With 16 photoreceptors to humans’ three, mantis shrimp see the bigger picture. DiverKen

Mantis shrimp have the world’s best eyes – but why?

As humans, we experience an amazing world of colour, but what can other animals see? Some see much more than us, but how they use this vision is largely unknown. We see what we see because our eyes have…
The flap of wings, the click of the beak … every cyclist knows the sounds of an impending aerial attack. romanjoost

From cable ties to losing eyes: how to survive magpie season

September is the peak of Australia’s own version of “home-grown terrorism” (as memorably described to me by a distraught and bleeding school principal, valiantly attempting to protect his pupils), when…
Winter is coming. Clara do Amaral

Alaskan frogsicles take winter in their stride

For life to persist, it must tolerate its environment. The depth of an arctic winter is formidable, and is most notably overcome by hibernation. But some reptiles and amphibians survive by allowing their…
Who’s in charge here? Fish adapt to their new roles. Shinnosuke Nakayama

Following fish teach us that leaders are born, not made

In our society, not many people are lucky enough to have an ideal boss who they would want to follow faithfully for the rest of their lives. Many might even find their boss selfish and arrogant or complain…
Baboons can be shy, just like you. Arno Meintjes Wildlife

Hungry baboons are a lesson in human personality

Our individual, varied personalities are among the traits often cited as those that distinguish us from the rest of the animal kingdom. However, as we, like the rest of life on Earth, are products of natural…
Down Fido: not all dogs make gentle family pets. Dominic Lipinski/PA

Government is barking up the wrong tree on dangerous dogs

A new round of public consultation has begun on proposals to increase the sentencing for the owners of dogs who carry out fatal attack from seven years to life. Such moves are prompted in part by the huge…
Jumping spider silk draglines join bird wings and lizard tails as stabilising features in the animal kingdom. VonShawn

How do jumping spiders make a perfect landing? Watch and learn

Jumping spiders are unique in the spider world as they don’t build webs - they’re active visual predators who rarely use silk. In fact, the main use we thought jumping spiders had for silk was a safety…
They aren’t just pretty birdies - superb fairy-wrens teach each other to identify and fend off parasitic species such as cuckoos. William Feeney

Superb fairy-wrens recognise an adult cuckoo … with some help

Can superb fairy-wrens learn to respond to brood-parasitic cuckoos by simply watching other fairy-wrens react to a cuckoo? That’s the question posed in a new Biology Letters study by myself and Naomi Langmore…
This rapacious little critter could actually help humans one day. Larah McElroy

Worker antics could lead us to search and rescue robots

When disaster strikes, search and rescue robots could save lives by finding and retrieving people buried under rubble. But designing robots that can descend rapidly through unstable and uneven rubble has…
Rapid colour change may occur due to various “triggers” – but what are they? Today is a good day

How do chameleons and other creatures change colour?

When most people think of colour change, they think of octopuses or chameleons - but the ability to rapidly change colour is surprisingly widespread. Many species of crustaceans, insects, cephalopods (squid…
Ronan the sea lion was able to keep a musical beat, even when hearing a song for the first time. American Psychological Association

Dancing seal is first non-human mammal to keep a beat

US scientists have trained a seal to bob its head in time to music, in a study that the researchers say presents the first…
Dingo: when they come to rely on humans for food and water, not killing them can be naive. Flickr/woulfe

Non-violence has its place, but let’s give dingoes due credit

The sad reality of human-dingo relations is that blood will be shed, as Brad Purcell recently reminded us in these pages with his article about non-violent co-existence, The Australian Dingo: to be respected…

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