Biggest news story of the week: an exceptional bonobo, who has learned how to fashion tools from flint, and has learned English comprehension.
"Kanzi the bonobo continues to impress. Not content with learning sign language or making up "words", he now seems capable of making stone tools on a par with the efforts of early humans."
It would likely take only a few individuals like Tanzi, in a group with the superior language abilities of homo sapiens, for what we tend to call 'civilisation' to commence its long climb, into what we know today.
Tits really are social animals.
No, i'm not making a joke about how they always come in pairs -- the bird species will aid their neighbours when their nests are pestered, and are more likely to do so, the better they know their neighbours.
Wasps don't waste their poison - they make sure predators know how poisonous they are by grading their brightness to the size of their poison glands.
"It might be thought that bigger wasps have bigger poison glands, and this is indeed true, but even when the data was adjusted to take in to account the size of the insect, a positive correlation between gland size and brightness remained."
Can aphids do photosynthesis?
They would be the first animal found to be able to do so -- some amphibians integrate algae into their skin - but that's not quite the same.
Aphids are the only insects known to have the genes to produce carotenoids, which harvest light for photosynthesis.
They produce more ATP than cousins bred to lack carotenoids, but that doesn't explain the mechanism - some other mechanism could be causing light exposure to increase ATP production inside the aphids' bodies.
Even if the carotenoids aren't responsible for enhanced ATP production, they are responsible for the aphids' colour -- that's why they're green. So now you know.
[video] Bluegill sunfish prefer to hunt lone prey, but if unavailable, they will go for the least ordered group - the one with the highest tortuosity.
'Rat that doesn't gnaw discovered in Indonesia'
Rodents account for 40% of living mammal species, and they owe much of their success to their teeth, but one has been found to have very few - Paucidentomys vermidax has no molars, and its incisors are shaped for gripping food rather than gnawing.
The researcher found the rat's stomach to contain remains of earthworms. If it eats only soft-bodied animals, that would explain the dearth of its teeth.
'Cultured killer whales learn by copying'
"THE killer whale has a ferocious appetite for imitation. It is as quick as a dolphin when it comes to picking up a new trick from one of its peers."
"The whales took no more than eight attempts to successfully imitate a familiar behaviour, and even the new behaviours took no more than 16 tries to perfect.
That puts them on a par with captive dolphins, says Abramson."
[audio] 'Helium-Breathing Gibbons Sing Like Human Sopranos'
According to a study of 12 and 18-month human toddlers, fear of heights is not innate - they found that, unlike experienced walkers and 12-month-old crawlers, inexperienced walkers would attempt 90-cm drops - well beyond their inabilities.
They have therefore concluded that:
"some of the general knowledge that infants appear to gain early in life may in fact be highly specific and tightly linked to their emerging motor abilities."
[video] Molecular Visualizations of DNA
On that subject:
'Scientists manipulate the Set2 pathway to show how genes are faithfully copied'