Even cockatoos draw conclusions

Goffin cockatoos are a highly curious Indonesian parrot species that have already proven to possess remarkable cognitive capacities. They possess high levels of 'Neophilia', which is the tendency of an individual to explore novel items and is believed to have evolved in species inhabiting islands, as there they might face fewer or no predators. In the current task, the Goffins had to learn to associate a picture with a reward that would be delivered automatically after they touched the picture on the touchscreen whereas the picture next to it would lead to no reward. During this training the unrewarded stimulus occasionally was replaced by novel, unknown stimuli. Only once the individuals chose reliably the positive stimulus over the negative or novel ones they were tested for their inference skills. This procedure ensured that the cockatoos would not choose novel pictures purely based on curiosity in the test.

Competition from cats drove extinction of many species of ancient dogs

Competition played a more important role in the evolution of the dog family (wolves, foxes, and their relatives) than climate change, shows a new international study.

An international team including analyzed over 2000 fossils and revealed that the arrival of felids to North America from Asia had a deadly impact on the diversity of the dog family, contributing to the extinction of as many as 40 of their species.

"We usually expect climate changes to play an overwhelming role in the evolution of biodiversity. Instead, competition among different carnivore species proved to be even more important for canids" says leading author Daniele Silvestro.

Cosmonauts complete spacewalk outside space station

A pair of Russian cosmonauts began their working week on Monday by cleaning the windows of the International Space Station (ISS), floating 250 miles (400 km) above the Earth's surface.

Station commander Gennady Padalka and flight engineer Mikhail Kornienko closed the hatch on the station's Pirs module at 1951 GMT (1551 EDT), completing the almost six-hour spacewalk to install new equipment and carry out maintenance tasks,Reuters reported.

The cosmonauts finished the expedition 30 minutes ahead of schedule after breezing through their first task - installing equipment to help crew members manoeuvre outside the ISS.

Horses and humans share facial expressions

Horses share some surprisingly similar facial expressions to humans and chimps, according to new research.

Mammal communication researchers have shown that, like humans, horses use muscles underlying various facial features -- including their nostrils, lips and eyes -- to alter their facial expressions in a variety of social situations.

The study builds on previous research showing that cues from the face are important for horses to communicate, by developing an objective coding system to identify different individual facial expressions on the basis of underlying muscle movement.

Evolutionary link between diet, stomach acidity

An analysis of data on stomach acidity and diet in birds and mammals suggests that high levels of stomach acidity developed not to help animals break down food, but to defend animals against food poisoning. The work raises interesting questions about the evolution of stomach acidity in humans, and how modern life may be affecting both our stomach acidity and the microbial communities that live in our guts.

Subcategories