Great tit birds have as much impulse control as chimpanzees

Biologists at Lund University in Sweden have in a recent study shown that the great tit, a common European songbird, has a tremendous capacity for self-control. Up to now, such impulse control has been primarily associated with larger cognitively advanced animals with far larger brains than the great tit. According to the new results, the great tits' ability for self-control is almost the same as that of ravens and chimpanzees, according to Science Daily.

The biologists placed food in a small translucent cylinder. The great tits that started pecking at the cylinder to get to the food failed the test as the behaviour was considered an impulsive act. Those that, on the other hand, moved to an opening in the cylinder and thereby were able to access the food without pecking at the cylinder wall passed the test.

First mapping of global marine wilderness shows just how little remains

Researchers have completed the first systematic analysis of marine wilderness around the world. And what they found is not encouraging; only a small fraction -- about 13 percent -- of the world's ocean can still be classified as wilderness, according to Science Daily.

"We were astonished by just how little marine wilderness remains," says Kendall Jones. "The ocean is immense, covering over 70 percent of our planet, but we've managed to significantly impact almost all of this vast ecosystem."

On land, rapid declines in wilderness have been well documented. But much less was known about the status of marine wilderness. Wilderness areas are crucial for marine biodiversity.

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.