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Animal behaviour

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Crocodiles keep their own secrets. Tambako

The unknown crocodiles

Just a few years ago, crocodilians – crocodiles, alligators and their less-known relatives – were mostly thought of as slow, lazy, and outright stupid animals. You may have thought something like that…
Some of the bird world’s mimicry superstars. Clockwise from top left: superb lyrebird; silvereye; satin bowerbird; Australian magpie; mistletoebird; brown thornbill. Alex Maisey; Justin Welbergen; Johan Larson; Leo/Flickr; David Cook/Filckr; Patrick/Flickr

The mimics among us — birds pirate songs for personal profit

From Roman classics to British tabloids, humans have long celebrated the curious and remarkable ability of birds to imitate the sounds of humans and other animals. A recent surge of research is revealing…
Who could be a bad parent to this face? Jennifer Sanderson

Stressed out mongooses can’t cope with baby booms

Many of us know from personal experience that raising children can be stressful, but a new study reveals that stress can be enough to affect the quality of parenting – in mongooses, at least. A recent…
Rabbit or duck, it’s all in the eyes. Wikimedia

Animals could help reveal why humans fall for illusions

Visual illusions, such as the rabbit-duck (shown above) and café wall (shown below) are fascinating because they remind us of the discrepancy between perception and reality. But our knowledge of such illusions…
Why did they always have to go in groups? Martin Ezcurra

How I found the world’s oldest communal toilets

Fossils can tell us lots about animals – their size, age or sex, which is mostly physical characteristics. Evidence about how they may have behaved is rare. But the 240m-year-old fossil dung that I found…
Rest in peace, buddy. emil_95

Ant undertakers are always ready to take one for the team

Ants have been quite successful, evolutionarily speaking. They are found on every continent, apart from Antarctica. They fill a range of ecological niches, from the tops of towering rain forest trees to…
Them’s fighting words. And colours. Megan Best

Colourful language: chameleons talk tough by changing shade

Humans have been fascinated by the colour-changing abilities of chameleons for a long time. Aristotle himself, the forefather of Western philosophy and also a keen zoologist, mentioned the lizard’s ability…
Mobile nursery for parasites. Paul Appleton

Manipulative parasites make hornets their nest

Hornets put fear into the minds of most, but there is a parasite that the hornets fear (if indeed they are capable of fear). Sphaerularia vespae is a parasitic nematode that infects the Japanese yellow…
Captive bred Tasmanian devils have recently been reintroduced to Tasmania. But do we want daring or docile devils in the wild? AAP

Personality matters: when saving animals, fortune favours the bold

Reintroduction programs are key initiatives for re-establishing or re-stocking animal populations, and while some are successful, many, unfortunately, are not. Endangered and critically endangered animals…
A brain the size of a sesame seed, such as that found in a honey bee, is still capable of weighing up decisions. macropoulos

What bees don’t know can help them: measuring insect indecision

Everyone knows what it’s like to be uncertain – at least, humans do. But are non-human animals ever uncertain? When we feel uncertainty, instead of risking the consequences of a bad or wrong decision…
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…

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