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Not bad science


New discoveries in animal behavior and cognition
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    Felicity Muth Felicity Muth is an early-career researcher with a PhD in animal cognition. Follow on Twitter @notbadscience.
  • Inside the Wonderful World of Bee Cognition – Where We’re at Now

    A bumblebee drinks sugar water from an artificial flower and learns to return to yellow flowers in the future

    As I wrote about in my last post, bees are capable of learning which flowers offer good nectar rewards based on floral features such as colour, smell, shape, texture, pattern, temperature and electric charge. They do this through associative learning: learning that a ‘conditioned stimulus’ (for example, the colour yellow) is associated with an ‘unconditioned [...]

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    Inside the Wonderful World of Bee Cognition – How it All Began

    Most research on bee cognition uses honeybees and bumblebees

    One of the first things I get asked when I tell people that I work on bee cognition (apart from ‘do you get stung a lot?’) is ‘bees have cognition?’. I usually assume that this question shouldn’t be taken literally otherwise it would mean that whoever was asking me this thought that there was a [...]

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    Male Bark Beetles Have to Sing a Password to Be Given Access To a Female’s Home

    A female blocks a male bark beetle from entering her gallery

    The males of many animals compete with each other for females. This can be through direct fighting, as in the case of crickets and fruitflies. However, males also compete for female attention through courtship displays. One common way males compete for females is through song. Song allows females to assess males through how good they [...]

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    Both Winning And Losing Fights Makes Flies More Aggressive

    fly

    Many animals behave aggressively towards one another. This is usually when they are fighting for something like territory, mates or food.  However, an animal’s decision to become aggressive isn’t a simple on-off switch and many factors feed into how aggressive an animal is. For example, many animals become less aggressive after losing a fight against [...]

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    Lost Penguin Chicks Try To Find Their Way Home

    A King Penguin chick

    King penguins are pretty social animals. Not only do they tend to hang out in a big group, but even within the group, they form little sub-groups; cliques of penguins who like to hang out together. In case this couldn’t get any cuter, their chicks also hang out in groups without any adult penguins around. [...]

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    Teenagers Are No More Risk-Taking Than Children

    Adolescents weren't actually any more risk-taking than children

    For a change, I thought this week instead of writing about black widow spiders or praying mantids I’d write about an animal I often neglect: humans. A topic of conversation I often seem to stumble into with people is that of risk. As an amateur rock climber, something that gets said to me frequently by [...]

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    An Optical Illusion As Seen By a Fish

    The Ebbinghaus Illusion

    Visual illusions are fun: we know with our rational mind that, for example, these lines are parallel to each other, yet they don’t appear that way. Similarly, I could swear that squares A and B are different colours. But they are not. This becomes clearer when a connecting block is drawn between the two squares [...]

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    Peacocks Produce Sounds We Can’t Hear

    peacock

    If you’re lucky enough, you may have seen a peacock displaying to a female. It’s an impressive event to witness: the peacock spreads and ruffles his enormous, brightly coloured tail feathers for a female, who, after checking him out, may choose to mate with him or not. One of the most obvious features of the [...]

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    Can Pigs Empathize?

    Pigs are social animals with complex emotions - but do they empathize?

    There are a handful of traits that scientists and philosophers would argue would make us human, including self-awareness and language. Another key part of being human is thought to be our ability to empathize (although I sometimes find myself doubting some humans’ abilities to empathize). I also doubt that we are the only animal that [...]

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    What Makes Bowerbirds Such Good Artists?

    The Great Bowerbird, Ptilonorhynchus nuchalis

    Bowerbirds are perhaps the most intriguing artists of the bird world. Their beautiful constructions are built purely to impress females (they are not nests, as often mistaken to be). One bowerbird, the Great Bowerbird, creates a particularly fantastic bower: in addition to building a symmetrical avenue made of carefully placed twigs, he also rearranges the [...]

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