Sections

Services

Information

US United States

Animal behaviour

Analysis and Comment (32)

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…
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…
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…
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…
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…
An important ‘apex predator’ that should neither be hunted as an enemy nor treated as a pet. With respect and wisdom, we can coexist. AAP/Tony Phillips

The Australian dingo: to be respected, at a distance

It’s the dry season in the Northern Territory, and for many people that means camping under a clear winter’s sky in the Top End. Yet rediscovering nature can be a fraught exercise in wilderness areas like…
Steve Irwin may be more famous, but corvids are among our most successful expats. Chris73/Wikimedia

Stone the crows! Could corvids be Australia’s smartest export?

Among birds, crows and ravens (or corvids) are the most intelligent. They have the largest brains for body size; they’re more like primates than birds. In fact, some people call them “flying monkeys…

Research and News (2)

Research Briefs (5)