no ordinary world

Polar Play: Animals Have Fun Too

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Tags Endangered Species, Keystone Species

We have all seen parrots talk, lionesses work as a team to hunt, and apes use tools to get the job done.  Humans tend to assign many behaviors a “human only” label; however, in reality, talking parrots are only the tip of the iceberg. To those of us who have interacted with dogs, it is abundantly clear that animals take part in playful activity in the same way humans do.  But just how common is animal play, and why and to what extent do they do it? While humans understand and expect that all animals play, we also grossly underestimate...


A Bee's Buzz

Where do bees get their buzz?  No, I’m not referring to the sound their vibrating wings make when they fly.  In fact, I’m talking about a much more colloquial “buzz” – the one you get from caffeine when you drink a cup of coffee.  It turns out bees also enjoy the little boost in energy they reap from coffee plants when they drink the nectar, which contains low levels of caffeine that the pollinators obtain much satisfaction from. Plants originally evolved caffeine as a defense against herbivory because it can be toxic at high levels.  However, at low levels, it...


Leaf-tailed gecko: a master of disguise

 This amazing creature is a master of disguise, blending in to its surroundings to the point that it is nearly indistinguishable from the litter of the forest floor where it makes its home.  The gecko, which has evolved its elaborate camouflage to escape visual detection by predators, sports leaf-shaped tail and leaf-patterned skin, complete with veins, folds, and insect nibble marks. Both crypticity and mimicry deceive the beholder into believing that the animal is something that it is not.  Crypticity typically involves an animal avoiding detection through colors and patterns and can be visual, olfactory, or auditory (Stevens & Merilaita...


Mystery underwater sand circles are actually puffer fish art

If you thought crop circles were strange, odds are you haven’t seen these: The underwater version of crop circles!  Some of the intrigue with crop circles faded once people stopped thinking they were made by aliens, but these sand circles are even more interesting to behold once you know where they do come from. So who or what makes these enigmatic sculptures where they are doomed to fade into nonexistence once the ocean erodes them away?  No, not an alien race, nor a group of people from of the legendary Atlantis, but Puffer fish! Male puffer fish craft their detailed...


Dress to impress: bird courtship rituals

[caption id="attachment_190" align="alignleft" width="300"] Mandarin duck[/caption] Birds exhibit some of the most elaborate and bizarre courtship rituals of any animals on earth.  Here are a few of the more beautiful and zany examples: The marvellous spatuletail hummingbird exhibits one of the most extreme courtship rituals (see video below).  The male bird has two elongated tail feathers that end in a large violet-blue disc, or spatule.  The male bird hovers in the air, waving his spatules in front of the female and making a snapping sound with his beak.  To the hummingbird, which is the size of a ping-pong ball, this...