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Noel W. Cusa’s brilliant seabird drawings

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.


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ResearchBlogging.orgWhat with my recent effort to write a lot about tubenosed seabirds (specifically, true petrels or procellariids: see links below), I consider it a peculiar coincidence that I happened to chance upon a copy of Ronald Lockley’s Flight of the Storm Petrel in a second-hand bookshop. Note that this book (Lockley 1983) is about storm-petrels (hydrobatids), not about petrels proper.

Storm-petrels are small tubenoses, found in oceans worldwide and famous for the ‘surface pattering’ behaviour they practise while foraging at the sea surface. Some storm-petrels (the mostly southern Oceanites, Garrodia, Pelagadroma, Fregatta and Nesofregatta, grouped together in Oceanitinae) have long legs and proportionally short, rounded wings. Others (the mostly northern taxa grouped together in Hydrobatinae: Hydrobates, Halocyptena and [the paraphyletic] Oceanodroma) have short legs and longer, more pointed wings. The two groups may not in fact form a clade: some studies find hydrobatines closer to albatrosses than to oceanitines (Penhallurick & Wink 2004). Anyway, one of the things I really like about Lockley’s Flight of the Storm Petrel is the artwork – in particular, Noel W. Cusa’s brilliant, black-and-white-drawings. I previously featured one of them here. In the interests of bringing them to further attention, I’m sharing some (but certainly not all) of them here. They’re interesting for several reasons.

 

Many of Cusa’s drawings in Flight of the Storm Petrel show storm-petrels being killed, eaten or dismembered by predators. In fact, as you’re about to see, there appears to be an unusually high number of pictures where storm-petrels are depicted as unfortunate victims, not as heroes or victors. There are a few ways to interpret this. Maybe Cusa was making the point that life as a storm-petrel is dangerous and nasty, and that they live a risky life where nefarious predators lurk around every corner: owls, raptors, gulls, skuas… This is only partly true – many tubenoses (storm-petrels included) are long-lived for their size and deaths at the hands or bills of predators are comparatively rare (major caveat: feral cats and rats have devastating impacts on many breeding tubenoses, and humans are doing their best to rid the world of albatrosses and other tubenoses via plastic pollution and the fishing industry). Another possible interpretation of Cusa’s many drawings showing storm-petrel death and dismemberment is that he was illustrating especially interesting vignettes of storm-petrel natural history – after all, there are only so many times you can illustrate seabirds foraging over the surface of the open ocean. Another interpretation is that he didn’t like storm-petrels much. I kid, of course.

In the above drawing, a British or European storm-petrel Hydrobates pelagicus is being beheaded by a Little owl Athene noctua. This scene is inspired by descriptions of this exact interaction, witnessed occurring on Skokholm (off Pembrokeshire, Wales). Lockley (1983) writes that “one day in July 1936 we found a [Little owl] nest … in a rabbit burrow, with two tiny owl chicks and a larder of nearly 200 corpses of storm petrels, the majority with only the head removed!” (p. 62). Lockley and colleagues actually took the step of removing these owls and of “shooting or banishing” any additional ones from Skokholm, “preferring to protect our petrels rather than encourage this acclimatised importation from Europe” (p. 62). In 1954 the step was taken to remove Little owls from Skokholm entirely (Hayden 2004), and they’ve since been blamed for a decline in storm-petrels on Skomer. Little owls are native to much of continental Europe but they were introduced to the British Isles during the 1840s, and from here they colonised Skokholm and Skomer during the 1920s. Moving on…

This illustration (above) shows Matsudaira’s storm-petrel Oceanodroma matsudairae. The one thing that books always say about this hydrobatine species is that it nests on volcanic islands south of Japan, and you’ll note the very obvious Japanese references (art-memes?) in Cusa’s drawing – I mean, come on, I don’t need to even mention them, do I? Matsudaira’s storm-petrel migrates to the Indian Ocean outside of the breeding season, moving all the way west to the coast of Somalia and Kenya. Observations suggest that they migrate through the channel that separates Australia from Indonesia (Harrison 1983). Oceanodroma as conventionally imagined is paraphyletic with respect to the other hydrobatine taxa Hydrobates and Halocyptena. One solution is to lump them all into the same genus (Hydrobates Boie, 1822 has priority); another is to propose a revised taxonomy – and this is at least consistent with the apparently substantial divergence dates inferred from amino acid distance data. According to the revised taxonomy, Matsudaira’s storm-petrel belongs to the same lineage as the Least storm-petrel Halocyptena microsoma, and thus becomes another member of Halocyptena (Penhallurick & Wink 2004).

Here’s more art that might be deemed offensive to storm-petrels. In the above illustration, a Peregrine Falco peregrinus stands over a White-faced or Frigate storm-petrel Pelagodroma marina. If you know Cusa’s artwork, you might recognise a similar-looking peregrine featured elsewhere, though this time in colour. I don’t know if the illustration is based on a specific observation, but Lockley (1983) does refer to the use of ships as hunting platforms for peregrines that will “strike and kill small birds, including storm petrels, fluttering and feeding in the ship’s wake” (p. 154). Some peregrine populations really can be considered specialist predators of seabirds. Incidentally, we also now know that some Gyrfalcons F. rusticolus live at sea for months, resting on sea-ice and subsisting entirely on auks and other seabirds.

Below, skuas (one of the Catharacta species, perhaps C. antarctica) are the bad guys. Skuas are awesome predators – more awesome than you might think, since they can and do kill seabirds similar in size to themselves – but they tend not to bother with storm-petrels since they’re too nimble in flight. Lockley (1983) says that a dead or disabled storm-petrel, however, will of course be taken by a skua. The storm-petrel shown here is Wilson’s storm-petrel Oceanites oceanicus.

But don’t get me wrong, there are about 60 of Cusa’s drawings in Lockley (1983), and the ones featuring predation, dismemberment etc. are actually very much in the minority. We end with a flock of Dove prions Pachyptila desolata flying over a stormy ocean (below)…

I hope you like Cusa’a drawings as much as I do and that you enjoyed my showcasing of them here.

For previous Tet Zoo articles on tubenosed seabirds, see…

And for articles about other kinds of seabirds, see…

Refs – -

Harrison, P. 1988. Seabirds: an Identification Guide. Houghton Mifflin Company, Boston.

Hayden, J. E. 2004. The diet of the little owl on Skomer 1998-2003. CCW Contract Science Report 673.

Lockley, R. M. 1983. Flight of the Storm Petrel. David & Charles, Newton Abbott & London.

Penhallurick, J., & Wink, M. (2004). Analysis of the taxonomy and nomenclature of the Procellariiformes based on complete nucleotide sequences of the mitochondrial cytochrome b gene Emu, 104, 125-147

Darren Naish About the Author: Darren Naish is a science writer, technical editor and palaeozoologist (affiliated with the University of Southampton, UK). He mostly works on Cretaceous dinosaurs and pterosaurs but has an avid interest in all things tetrapod. His publications can be downloaded at darrennaish.wordpress.com. He has been blogging at Tetrapod Zoology since 2006. Check out the Tet Zoo podcast at tetzoo.com! Follow on Twitter @TetZoo.

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.





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  1. 1. Hai~Ren 12:26 pm 03/23/2012

    To quote Ricky Gervais:

    “They’re not photographs! That’s not proof, is it? Someone just drew them…” =P

    But in all seriousness, these are nice illustrations, helping us to visualise behaviour that might not always be satisfactorily depicted in photographs.

    Link to this
  2. 2. naishd 12:34 pm 03/23/2012

    Ah, yes, the famous Bruce Bagemihl segment, I know it well (in fact I reviewed Bagemihl’s book for a magazine once. Oh, the shame).

    Good point on visualising behaviour that’s rarely/never photographed – some of the most amazing stuff has >never< been photographed or filmed (hey, someone should compile a list). Hence my drawings of vesper bats catching/pursuing passerines…

    Darren

    Link to this
  3. 3. Dartian 1:49 pm 03/23/2012

    Darren:
    Good point on visualising behaviour that’s rarely/never photographed

    I don’t know if little owls have ever been filmed catching storm petrels, but short-eared owls Asio flammeus from the Galápagos Islands have several times been caught on film doing exactly that (for example, in one episode of the 2006 BBC documentary series Galápagos).

    someone should compile a list

    Of tetrapod behaviour that we know must take place, but has never been filmed? My suggestion for that list: sperm whales hunting giant squid!

    Link to this
  4. 4. dinogami 2:14 pm 03/23/2012

    Just a side note: I am fairly certain that R.M. Lockley was Martin Lockley (of dinosaur track studies fame)’s father.

    Link to this
  5. 5. John Harshman 4:13 pm 03/23/2012

    Just a quick note on phylogeny (because you know that’s what I obsess on): paraphyly of Hydrobatidae is also shown in Hackett et al. (2008), in which Oceanodroma is closer to Pelecanoides and Puffinus than to Oceanites. And the reason we bothered to sample two species from that one family is that Nunn & Stanley (1998) found something similar.

    Hackett, S. J., R. T. Kimball, S. Reddy, R. C. K. Bowie, E. L. Braun, M. J. Braun, J. L. Chojnowski, W. A. Cox, K.-L. Han, J. Harshman, C. J. Huddleston, B. D. Marks, K. J. Miglia, W. A. Moore, F. H. Sheldon, D. W. Steadman, C. C. Witt, and T. Yuri. 2008. A phylogenomic study of birds reveals their evolutionary history. Science 320:1763-1768.

    Nunn, G. B., and S. E. Stanley. 1998. Body size effects and rates of cytochrome b evolution in tube-nosed seabirds. Molecular Biology and Evolution 15:1360-1371.

    Link to this
  6. 6. naishd 5:16 pm 03/23/2012

    Wow, had no idea that Lockley was related to Lockley. Thanks.

    John: the brief comment on phylogeny here was a late additional aside – much more (including citation and discussion of Hackett et al. and Nunn & Stanley) in the next petrel article.

    Darren

    Link to this
  7. 7. Heteromeles 5:42 pm 03/23/2012

    @Dartian: I know for certain that most species on the planet have never been filmed mating (fungi, insects, etc). I wonder if that’s true for a majority of tetrapods. More often mating is assumed, rather than documented. For all we know, humpback whales reproduce by parthenogenesis, and the males are a caste rather than a sex. Right?

    Link to this
  8. 8. Heteromeles 7:54 pm 03/23/2012

    Late thought, but I suspect this will be one of the unconsidered consequences of smartphones: there will be fewer sketches, because more people will simply be pulling out the phone, recording these bizarre acts, and putting it on YouTube or similar.

    Link to this
  9. 9. Hai~Ren 3:20 am 03/24/2012

    If we’re compiling a list of behaviour that hasn’t been photographed, here’s a few random ones off the top of my head. I might be wrong, of course:

    Amur tiger preying on brown bear
    Chimpanzees hunting terrestrial prey like duiker or bush pig
    Some sort of antelope (e.g. sable, gemsbok) impaling a predator (lion, spotted hyena, leopard) with its horns
    Orca preying on leatherback turtle
    Tuatara eating shearwater chick
    Javan rhino courtship

    Link to this
  10. 10. naishd 6:19 am 03/24/2012

    I’m kinda resisting listing some of the things I have in mind, since I’ll be spilling the proverbial beans on surprising bits of behaviour that I hope to write about here one day. However, here are but a few…

    – Greater noctule or Great evening bat predating on passerines
    – desert cheetahs predating on whatever it is they predate on
    – any interaction between clouded leopards and orangutans
    – male narwhal using horn/tusk in foraging or aggressive fighting
    – seabirds (petrels, gulls, penguins) accidentally swallowed by lunge-feeding rorqual
    – super-deep dives by leatherback turtles (this might have been done)

    By the way, it’s my understanding that a tuatara has been filmed eaten a shearwater (or prion) chick.

    Darren

    Link to this
  11. 11. Dartian 9:15 am 03/24/2012

    Have fishers ever been filmed attacking and killing porcupines? If not, that’s another item for the list.

    Also, it would be nice to have actual photographic/filmed documentation of:
    - swifts and albatrosses sleeping while they’re flying;
    - large whales being impaled by swordfish/sailfish/marlins;
    - a huge migrating herd of springboks (‘trekbokken‘);
    - the behaviour and ecology of juvenile, pre-reproductive age sea turtles out at sea;
    - *cough* giraffes swimming *cough*;
    - walruses hunting seals;
    - confrontations between a tiger and a large group of dholes;
    - basically anything about the natural behaviour of coelacanths (slightly off-topic, I know, but coelacanths are almost tetrapods).

    Link to this
  12. 12. BrianL 10:08 am 03/24/2012

    Those are some pretty good suggestions. How about these? I wouldn’t be surprised if there actually is footage for some of them but I just don’t know about it.
    - Weka hunting and killing rats
    - Leopard hunting forest elephant calf
    - Nile Crocodiles taking lions
    - Footage of living *Geopsittacus*.
    - Gibbons catching birds in mid-air
    - Antipodes parakeet scavenging penguin carcasses
    - Eagle owl taking a fox
    - Eagle owl peeling a hedgehog
    - Lappet-faced vulture hunting larger mammalian prey
    - Spotted hyena giving birth
    - Aardvark eating aardvark cucumber
    - Eland jumping 2 meters into the air.
    - Moose opening locks with their lips
    - Echidna placing its egg into its pouch
    - Shoebill feeding on young crocodiles
    - Goliath frog jumping

    Link to this
  13. 13. Heteromeles 10:43 am 03/24/2012

    As for the Goliath frog, in 1990 some dudes brought a goliath frog to the Calaveras County Frog Jumping festival. I’m looking for footage of that. Apparently they croaked or flopped as jumpers. There might be some footage associated with the movie “Jump”.

    Link to this
  14. 14. naishd 11:20 am 03/24/2012

    Awesome suggestions :) Dartian – are you sure about albatrosses sleeping on the wing? My understanding is that they don’t do this – in fact they sleep on the sea. While it looks likely that swifts, frigatebirds (Heilingt et al. 2003) and Sooty terns (which are apparently on the wing for the first four years of their life) sleep on the wing, I don’t think this has been demonstrated for any of them (Rattenborg 2006). However, unihemispherical sleep and brief naps have, I understand, been demonstrated for migrating ducks and thrushes at least.

    Walruses eating seals: ok, maybe not >hunting< seals, but I've definitely seen images (stills?) of a walrus eating a ringed seal.

    Darren

    Refs – -

    Heiling, A. M., Herberstein, M. E. & Chittka, L. 2003. Frigatebirds ride high on thermals. Nature 421, 333-334.

    Rattenborg, N. C. 2006. Do birds sleep in flight? Naturwissenschaften 93, 413–425.

    Link to this
  15. 15. naishd 11:33 am 03/24/2012

    Goliath frogs: the books say that they have terrible endurance, generally being unable to leap twice in succession, and that their leaps involve so much effort that repeated leaping causes death. Incidentally, Goliath frogs and their relatives (they form the africanuran clade Pedropedetidae) were previously covered here on Tet Zoo ver 2.

    Darren

    Link to this
  16. 16. David Marjanović 4:36 pm 03/24/2012

    I wonder if that’s true for a majority of tetrapods. More often mating is assumed, rather than documented.

    It drives me into HULK SMASH mode that the external fertilization of sirenid salamanders is only inferred from their anatomy (lack of certain glands that salamanders which use a spermatophore have, blah blah). It has never been observed. Siren lacertina was described by Linnaeus Himself and his student Österdam in 1766. AAAAAAAAARGH!!!

    Spotted hyena giving birth

    Ouch! I don’t want to see that.

    Link to this
  17. 17. Heteromeles 4:50 pm 03/24/2012

    Um, here’s video of a purported goliath frog jumping. The quality could be a lot better, as could the species ID.

    Link to this
  18. 18. Christopher Taylor 5:14 pm 03/24/2012

    Tuatara eating shearwater chick

    There is a photograph of a tuatara with a prion here.

    Link to this
  19. 19. naishd 5:37 pm 03/24/2012

    Heteromeles – broken link, can you resend please?

    Chris – photo looks kinda familiar :)

    Darren

    Link to this
  20. 20. Heteromeles 7:20 pm 03/24/2012

    Here you go:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iXfPIjSSpgI

    Previous caveats still apply…

    Link to this
  21. 21. llewelly 9:10 pm 03/24/2012

    Does Heteromeles’ video have much to do with the controversey?

    I had thought the controversey was over the leaping ability of goliath frogs which were relatively large for their species. That one looks smaller than a regular American bullfrog.

    I admit I have nothing to contribute, but in this video http://www.youtube.com/v/0O0EuDFxr7g , it is claimed Goliath frogs eat crabs. Now that would also be nice to have a video of.

    Link to this
  22. 22. Heteromeles 11:10 pm 03/24/2012

    I should hope it did nothing to stifle the controversy about how far the beasts jump. But someone wanted a video, so someone got a video. Maybe. I’m still not convinced that was a Goliath frog.

    Link to this
  23. 23. llewelly 11:36 pm 03/24/2012

    There are other videos of the same frog, which give a better view of it, such as: http://www.youtube.com/v/TAtvIGJiTjU . I guess a frog expert could prowl hoganbaly’s channel until enough good views of the frog enabled a better species ID. I really have no idea, though it doesn’t much resemble the frog in the Attenborough clip I linked my previous post.

    Link to this
  24. 24. Dartian 2:59 am 03/25/2012

    Darren:
    are you sure about albatrosses sleeping on the wing? My understanding is that they don’t do this – in fact they sleep on the sea.

    I’m not sure about it at all; I was just under the impression that they did. Thanks for setting things straight.

    Walruses eating seals: ok, maybe not >hunting< seals, but I've definitely seen images (stills?) of a walrus eating a ringed seal.

    There are also photos of a walrus eating a bearded seal Erignathus barbatus. But it’s seeing the actual hunt (ambush?) that I’m most interested in.

    One more item for my personal wish list of (AFAIK) un-filmed behaviour: footage of interaction between sympatric gorillas and chimpanzees in the wild.

    Link to this
  25. 25. Jerzy New 10:28 am 03/25/2012

    Hi folks,
    Saw footage of those:
    – male narwhal using horn/tusk in foraging or aggressive fighting
    - Eagle owl peeling a hedgehog
    - Spotted hyena giving birth
    - the behaviour and ecology of juvenile, pre-reproductive age sea turtles out at sea;
    Photo of this is in HMW2:
    - Eland jumping 2 meters into the air.
    And I think I saw this on film, but narrator didn’t point that:
    – seabirds (petrels, gulls, penguins) accidentally swallowed by lunge-feeding rorqual

    Basically, large segments of wildlife are never filmed. Anything non-habituated in thick rainforest is un-filmable. Anything living in politically unstable Congo, Sudan or Somalia too. So, no Congo Peacock, great antelope migrations across the Sudd, dibatags or beiras.

    Which brings me to my old moaning, how much wildlife documentaries distort the perception of nature by choosing what is easy to film, pretty and politically correct. ;)

    Link to this
  26. 26. Heteromeles 10:42 am 03/25/2012

    Which brings me to my old moaning, how much wildlife documentaries distort the perception of nature by choosing what is easy to film, pretty and politically correct. ;)

    And considering the risk and expense involved, the problem is…?

    Link to this
  27. 27. Dartian 11:06 am 03/25/2012

    Jerzy:
    Saw footage of those

    Then how about providing some links to videos, and/or identifying the relevant documentaries?

    great antelope migrations across the Sudd

    Have been filmed. Already by David Attenborough in the early 1980ies, for example. Haven’t you seen The Living Planet?

    More recent pictures of antelope migration in (the newly independent) South Sudan can be seen here. (Note that they arrange photo safaris for tourists there nowadays.)

    Link to this
  28. 28. JohnTheHutch 11:29 am 03/25/2012

    Just from a locomotion researcher’s viewpoint:

    Elephants jumping (there is an anecdote of one doing this once, over a fence, but it is dubious for many reasons) or “running” ~25mph+ (accurately measured). A little bit more about this here– http://tinyurl.com/6m7sche

    Hippos using a gait other than a walk/trot

    Any accurate recordings of near-maximal rhinoceros speed and gait (beyond trot), including performance in different species (e.g. Sumatran, Javan!).

    And for me, the big money would be this: striding bipedalism (not standing propped up w/tail or other B.S.) in any Crocodylia (rumoured in Euparkeria monograph, IIRC; and I’ve heard spurious anecdotes). Must take multiple steps. I doubt it really happens except as freakish accidents.

    Link to this
  29. 29. Mark Robinson 11:55 pm 03/25/2012

    @John – re bipedal crocs, one word – “Kolchak”!
    youtube.com/watch?v=WZnR7H1zZQY relevant part from 5:45.
    (I cut the http and www bits to hopefully avoid having my comment delayed by any spam filters, so it won’t be clickable – sorry).

    You’ll possibly also appreciate this awful joke from later in the same Ep – youtube.com/watch?v=NvRXgNZkVfI – 2:05.

    Link to this
  30. 30. Jerzy New 4:15 am 03/26/2012

    @Dartian

    You think I remember every documentary I saw? Hyena giving birtth was in BBC’s The Trials of Life. Sparring narwhals were in another landmark Attenborough documentary. Eagle Owl and hedgehog was in Polish documentary called “Tetno pierwotnej puszczy” about Bialowieza.

    Thanks, must go to Sudan on holidays. BTW, every naturalist should go there – I guess this huge, diverse country de facto closed for several decades has still big zoological surprises!

    Link to this
  31. 31. Jerzy New 4:19 am 03/26/2012

    BTW2
    Great illustrations were also made by David Quinn to another book: Dunnock Behaviour and Social Evolution.
    Making Dunnock beautiful was a challenge!

    Link to this
  32. 32. Dartian 5:13 am 03/26/2012

    Jerzy:
    Hyena giving birtth was in BBC’s The Trials of Life. Sparring narwhals were in another landmark Attenborough documentary. Eagle Owl and hedgehog was in Polish documentary called “Tetno pierwotnej puszczy” about Bialowieza.

    Thanks for that information, but what about the sea turtles (which I were particularly interested in)? To be precise: I specifically mean footage of young sea turtles in the life stages between hatching (which, being highly predictable events, have been filmed approximately a gazillion times) and adulthood in their natural environment. It is my understanding that our knowledge about juvenile sea turtle behaviour, ecology, and movements is still very limited; you say that they have been filmed in the wild – if so, when and by whom?

    Link to this
  33. 33. David Marjanović 12:41 pm 03/26/2012

    A little bit more about this here– http://tinyurl.com/6m7sche

    Hey, you son of a Hutch! The mysterious “Dr. Griznemek” is Dr. Grzimek, rz being pronounced like a French j. (It’s Polish. It all makes sense.)

    I’ve heard spurious anecdotes

    I read long, long ago that “crocodiles run away bipedally when they’re scared”. Naturally, it’s not easy to scare a grown crocodile, is it? (In Soviet Russia, crocodile scares YOU!)

    Link to this
  34. 34. naishd 12:46 pm 03/26/2012

    And – - some of us (hint hint) are working on Grzimek’s volumes right now…

    Steve Salisbury and Dino Frey have both given talks where they say that crocodiles have reared up into bipedal poses when legging it like jiggery (to use the technical term). In small crocodiles, the animal’s aerodynamic shape generates lift, and away it goes!! (tongue planted in cheek).

    Darren

    Link to this
  35. 35. Heteromeles 2:03 pm 03/26/2012

    Good to know Grzimek is getting worked over. My parents got all of them, and I read the vertebrate ones when I was a teen.

    Of course, the amusing part was the short shrift given to the rest of life. That first volume will need to be entirely rewritten.

    Link to this
  36. 36. naishd 5:00 pm 03/26/2012

    Response to Jerzy (comment 30) on narwhals: yeah, ‘sparring’ has been filmed many times. I should have been clearer that I specifically had really vigorous, aggressive behaviour in mind. Some narwhals have been killed when their bodies were speared by the tusk of another narwhal, and tusk tips have been retrieved from the tips of intact tusks on at least two occasions. So far as I know, vigorous fighting behaviour of this sort hasn’t been filmed… or am I wrong?

    Darren

    Link to this
  37. 37. Jerzy New 4:16 am 03/27/2012

    I once switched on some German TV channel and there was a very small sea turtle in the open sea feeding on jellyfish and trying to eat plastic rubbish. Very likely a freshly hatched juvenile released for the filming.

    Unfortunately don’t know the name – not even if it was German or not. But little creature trying to peck at plastic was pretty sad.

    Link to this
  38. 38. Jerzy New 4:24 am 03/27/2012

    @Heteromeles
    The problem is that even biologists repeat wrong stuff they saw on TV. For example (again old chestnut) that lions typically live in large prides and male lions don’t hunt but steal food from females.

    Link to this
  39. 39. naishd 4:26 am 03/27/2012

    I really should finish that article on lions and their behavioural and morphological plasticity…

    Darren

    Link to this
  40. 40. Jerzy New 8:09 am 03/27/2012

    Wow, tip of tusk in split other tusk. This is amazing.

    You are right, AFAIK vigorious sparring was not filmed.

    Link to this
  41. 41. Heteromeles 12:20 pm 03/27/2012

    @38: Really? Given that I worked on mycorrhizal ecology for my doctorate, I’d say that problem goes all the way from top to bottom of biology education. To limit myself to one ubiquitous example, why does competition get a chapter in every general ecology textbook, while symbiosis gets at most a few pages? All macroscopic organisms depend on symbiosis every day (at least, I can’t think of one that doesn’t). Conversely, direct competition is so difficult to demonstrate that textbooks tend to repeat the same (flour beetle) examples. If I didn’t realize that capitalist ideology requires us to glorify competition over anything that smacks of mutual aid, I’d say the textbook writers were just stupid.

    Yes, there’s quite a lot of misinformation in nature films, but they’re limited to their 41 minute hours and the need to tell a story to get the funding to film. But please don’t limit your frustration and outrage to TV. There are problems all over the place.

    Link to this
  42. 42. BrianL 2:37 pm 03/27/2012

    @Darren:
    That lion article seems very interesting, do you think you could post it sometime in the near future? Apologies if this sounds pushy, it wasn’t my intention.

    Link to this
  43. 43. vdinets 2:38 pm 03/29/2012

    Alligator dances have never been filmed. Since I discovered them a few years ago, a few people have tried (including one company working for the BBC), but the footage was of poor quality because of light conditions. I’ll try again in a few weeks.

    I have a few photos of galloping subadult Nile crocs showing them in a slightly upright posture, but they still use their front legs.

    Link to this

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