Fruit fly species can learn each other's dialects

Fruit flies from different species can warn each other when parasitic wasps are near. But according to a new study led by Balint Z. Kacsoh of, they are more likely to get the message across if the fly species have previously cohabited and learned each other's dialects, according to Science Daily.

Parasitoid wasps, which deposit their own eggs into larvae of fruit flies, are such a threat to the adult fly that just seeing a wasp will cause females flies to lay fewer eggs in an effort to protect her offspring. Previous experiments showed that females use wing movements to communicate the threat of the wasps to other females, who will then lay fewer eggs, despite never having seen a wasp. In the new study, the researchers tested whether fruit flies from different species could communicate that wasps are near. They found that when testing distantly related flies could not communicate as effectively as flies of the same species, but that communication improved when the two species cohabitated. Living together enabled the flies to learn new dialects composed of different visual and scent cues. Further genetic experiments showed that learning another dialect requires a part of the brain called the mushroom body, which is the center of learning and memory in flies.

Snorts indicate positive emotions in horses

New evidence that horses reliably produce more snorts in favorable situations could improve animal welfare practices, according to a study by Mathilde Stomp and colleagues.

Assessing positive emotions is important for improving animal welfare, but it has been challenging to identify reliable indicators. Physiological markers often give contradictory results, and many behavioural signals are ambiguous. In particular, few studies have examined acoustic indicators of positive emotions, according to Science Daily.

Stripes may be cool -- but they don't cool zebras down

 Susanne Akesson, a biologist at Lund University in Sweden, refutes the theory that zebras have striped fur to stay cool in the hot sun. That hypothesis is wrong, she and her colleagues show in a study recently published.

There has been an ongoing discussion among researchers, dating back to Darwin, on why zebras have their signature black and white stripes, according to Science Daily.

One of several theories is that it keeps them cool in the sunshine. The black stripes get warmer than the white areas, and the theory states that this creates small vortexes when the hotter air above the dark fur meets the cooler air above the white fur. According to the theory these vortexes works as a fan to cool the body.

Neuroscientists uncover secret to intelligence in parrots

University of Alberta neuroscientists have identified the neural circuit that may underlay intelligence in birds, according to a new study. The discovery is an example of convergent evolution between the brains of birds and primates, with the potential to provide insight into the neural basis of human intelligence, according to Science Daily.

"An area of the brain that plays a major role in primate intelligence is called the pontine nuclei," explained Cristian Gutierrez-Ibanez, postdoctoral fellow in the Department of Psychology. "This structure transfers information between the two largest areas of the brain, the cortex and cerebellum, which allows for higher-order processing and more sophisticated behaviour. In humans and primates, the pontine nuclei are large compared to other mammals. This makes sense given our cognitive abilities."

Lemurs can smell weakness in each other

Some people watch the competition carefully for the slightest signs of weakness. Lemurs, on the other hand, just give them a sniff ,according to Science Daily.

These primates from Madagascar can tell that a fellow lemur is weaker just by the natural scents they leave behind, finds a study on ring-tailed lemurs led by Duke University researchers. Males act more aggressively toward scents that smell "off."

"Our study shows that physical injury from peers dampens an animal's scent signature, and in a way that its counterparts can detect," said Duke professor of evolutionary anthropology Christine Drea.