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Interesting Findings And World Unfolding Through My Eyes.

Friday, October 5, 2007

Be Aware Crow! Big Brothers Are Watching You

Scientists have launched the avian equivalent of Big Brother in which tiny tail cameras give unparalleled access to the hidden world of the cleverest feathered toolmakers on the planet.
The ingenuity shown by New Caledonian crows in turning sticks, stems and leaves into tools to extract caterpillars and grubs is such that the birds have already been hailed as the Einsteins of the avian world.

Now a new video spying method has allowed Oxford University zoologists to 'hitch a ride' with wild birds on the Pacific island territory where they live to witness undisturbed behaviour, revealing feats that have never been witnessed before.

Observing the crows in the wild is extremely difficult because they are easily disturbed and live in densely forested, mountainous terrain. The secret of the new reality TV footage, published today in the journal Science, rests on miniaturised video cameras with integrated radio-tags - "tailcams" that weigh only 14 grams - that can be stuck on the tail feathers of wild, free-flying birds.

This is the first time that video cameras have been attached to wild crows roaming their natural habitat - most previous work has relied on either studying birds in the lab to show off their intellectual skills, or observing wild birds with binoculars from hides.

'Everyone thought that New Caledonian crows use tools mainly to probe into holes and cracks in rotting wood and tree crowns, but we now discovered that they use tools even on the ground,' said Dr Christian Rutz.

One crow - codename EK1 - was seen probing leaf litter with grass-like stems, which marked a new kind of tool and tool use that decades of conventional observations had missed.

By analysing the footage the team could also work out that the birds averaged eight morsels (such as beetle larvae, small lizards and small fruits) for every hour of ground foraging and hanging on to particularly "good" tools for future use.

'This discovery highlights the power of our new video-tracking technology' said Dr Rutz.

'This is the first time that wild birds have been tracked in this way, and it has already changed our understanding of New Caledonian crow behaviour.'

The tail cams were attached with sticky tape, and were designed so that they did not adversely affect the birds' movements, and could be removed by the crows themselves or would detach after a few weeks during the birds' natural moulting process.

'Observing wild birds this closely in their natural habitat has been one of the final frontiers of ornithological field research,' said Dr Rutz. 'Whilst video footage has been taken before using tame, trained birds, it is only now that we have been able to design cameras that are small and light enough to travel with wild birds and let them behave naturally.

Video tracking should be useful for studying many other bird species that are shy or live in inaccessible habitats. "Potentially, this new video technology could help us to answer some long-standing questions about the ecology and behaviour of many other bird species that are otherwise difficult to study.'

Previous studies on New Caledonian crows by the Oxford group, headed by Prof Alex Kacelnik, have shown that: tool-related behaviour emerges in juvenile crows that had no opportunity to learn from others; crows have a preferred way of holding their tools comparable to the way that humans are either right- or left-handed; adult crows can make or select tools of the appropriate length or diameter for experimental tasks; and one crow, at least, can bend and unbend novel material to match task requirements.

Posted by Ajay :: 5:46 PM :: 0 comments

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On Wedding Night

A groom was arrested during the reception to his wedding on charges of sexual assault.

The owner of La Cupola restaurant in Bantam, Frank Rosa, told Eyewitness News that a wedding reception at his restaurant got out of hand earlier in the month.

Police allege the groom, Oscar Carpio, 32, was found with a bridesmaid in a room he and his bride had rented. According to police, Carpio was found wearing very little clothing.

"It was pretty bad that things happened that way," Rosa said.

Posted by Ajay :: 10:01 AM :: 0 comments

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Plant Killed Dog

We were letting our dog play outside all day Sunday and upon checking on him found that he had yanked a small houseplant off of the deck and was chewing on the root of it. He chews on all kinds of plants in the yard and I thought of tossing it over the fence but figured he would just try to dig under to get it so unfortunately I let him keep it.

A couple hours later we let him in the house and he’s foaming yellow froth, drooling, and shaking. 20 minutes later we are in the emergency vet and are told the prognosis is not good and he’ll likely die.

The plant is called a Sago Palm and its highly poisonous to both pets and humans. A chemical in the plant called cycasin is toxic and often causes permanent liver damage as well as neurological damage if enough of the poison is absorbed by the body. The seeds are the most poisonous part of the plant and the effects on humans are seizures, coma and death.

Of course you and I wouldn’t just yank off a chunk of this plant and gnaw on it but the seeds are colorful so if you have kids and Sago palm in your yard educate them on the danger or get rid of the plant.

Fortunately our dog was one of the lucky ones. I later discovered that our dog vomited the plant in the yard soon after swallowing it, and after 2 days in the vet on IV, and having a ball of charcoal inserted in his stomach, a test revealed that his liver was recovering and he came home. Sadly few people are aware of how dangerous this plant, many have lost their dogs, and even many veterinarians are unaware. This plant doesn’t carry a warning label and is becoming popular in Walmart, Lowes, and Home Depot so spread the word.

Best advice I’ve read: Don’t let your animal chew on any plants.

Posted by Ajay :: 9:58 AM :: 0 comments

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