Wasps smarter than previously thought

A study conducted byUniversity of Michigan biologist Elizabeth Tibbetts, found that paper wasps can determine which opponents are the weakest by watching them fight with another wasp. According to the study, “fighter” wasps were placed in a small container while two “bystander” wasps observed the pair through clear plastic partitions. The scientists found that bystander wasps were more aggressive when paired with an individual that was the victim of lots of aggression in a previous bout, as well as individuals who initiated little aggression in the previous fight.

Wasp cleans up, brood, Naturepark Spessart, Bavaria

 

The research also illustrated that the wasps can recall what they saw for a long time. This study shows a few interesting points. First, small brains, which were previously thought to be less intelligent, are not necessarily so. Also that wasps are capable of a rather complex thought process that includes analyzing what they saw,  remembering it, that they recognize and can categorize individuals.

If wasps can do this, imagine what other animals are capable of? How should that affect our training methods for our pets and other animals? How does human interference affect wildlife?

Worms suffer PTSD

In a study by Dr. Alon Zaslaver and research associate Dr. Yifat Eliezer at Hebrew University of Jerusalem’s Genetics Department discovered that worms suffer from PTSD. In their study they used the C. elegans worm because it only has 302 neuron cells which enabled the researchers to pinpoint where the memory was stored. This information will allow researchers to use their findings to gain a better understanding of the molecular changes that take place within individual memory neurons and the privation-mode responses they provoke, to alleviate and possibly cure PTSD triggers, such as odor.

What is interesting about this study, is that even basic life, such as a worm, can associate the past, present and future. This means that they have some form of memory or can “think.” If a worm can suffer from a form of PTSD then so can other animals. This gives animal behavior consultants and trainers new insight as to how to treat animals that have suffered from a trauma in their lives. It points out that rehabilitation is more complex than many people may think.

Coronavirus structure clue to high infection rate

This is an interesting study and one that everyone should read. According to the study conducted by Gary Whittaker, professor of virology, is the senior author on the study at Cornell University, primates, cats, ferrets, and mink are the most susceptible to the human virus.

cat under sheets kitten

According to Whittaker, further research into feline coronaviruses might provide further clues into SARS-CoV-2 and coronaviruses in general.

New strain of canine distemper in wild animals

A new strain of canine distemper has been found by pathologists with the New Hampshire Veterinary Diagnostic Lab at the University of New Hampshire. The infected animals were from New Hampshire and Vermont. The animals infected are fishers, two gray foxes, one skunk, one raccoon, and one mink. This is a distinct strain has not yet been found in domestic dogs. There is no way to determine how many animals are or have been infected that are undetected by veterinarians and researchers.

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Symptoms of distemper in domestic dogs include respiratory disease, oral and nasal discharge, gastroenteritis and in advanced stages, neurological disease. If your dog should show any of these symptoms, take it to your veterinarian immediately. It is very important that you get your dog’s yearly shots to prevent infection.

What is important to note is that pathologists discovered that this distinct strain was identified in one raccoon in Rhode Island in 2004. This means that the disease has traveled.

The questions now are how far it will travel and how likely is it that some domestic dogs will catch it and spread it among the pet dog population. Dog owners should be diligent in watching their dogs, especially if they have an encounter with a wild animal.

Future help for humans with speech impairments

By using computers, scientists have discovered the brain activity that precedes vocalization in Seba’s short-tailed bats. This species is important to study since they use a vocal range produced through their larynx to communicate with other bats. What is of interest to scientists is that besides this species of bat, only songbirds and humans use this method.

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Since bats use sonar navigation to maneuver and to find food as well as vocalizations to communicate with other bats, their brain activity is an important clue to help understand human vocalizations.

Julio C. Hechavarria at the Institute for Cell Biology and Neuroscience at Goethe University, investigated brain activity preceding vocalization in Seba’s short-tailed bats and were able to identify a group of nerve cells that create a circuitry from the frontal lobe to the corpus striatum in the interior of the brain. When this neural circuit fires off rhythmic signals, the bat emits a vocalization about half a second later. The researchers were able to predict, based on the rhythmic signals, if the bats were about to utter echolocation or communication vocalizations.

According to Dr. Hechavarria, “. . . we know that the corresponding brain networks are impaired in individuals who, for example, stutter as a result of Parkinson’s disease or emit involuntary noises due to Tourette syndrome. We therefore hope that by continuing to study vocal behavior in bats, we can contribute to a better understanding of these human diseases.”

Australian Dingo is its own species

Dr. Bradley Smith from Central Queensland University has conducted a study that proves that the Dingo is not a variety of domestic dog, feral dog, or other wild canids such as wolves, but is its own species.

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image from free google stock

Dr. Smith also says that “Further evidence in support of dingoes being considered a ‘wild type’ capable of surviving in the absence of human intervention and under natural selection is demonstrated by the consistent return of dog-dingo hybrids to a dingo-like canid throughout the Australian mainland and on several islands.”

He goes on to say that there is scant evidence that any canid species are interchangeable with Dingoes even though most canids can successfully interbreed with them.

This is an interesting statement to consider. How does it apply to other hybrids such as dog/wolf mixes and donkey/horse mixes? It also brings into question the theory that dogs are descended from wolves. Is it possible that the ancestor of the dog was a canid sub-species and not a wolf just as the dingo is its own species?

Roaming cats worry their owners

A study conducted by researchers at the University of Exeter, found that owners who allow their cats to roam freely outdoors worry about their cat’s safety. Why then do they let their cats roam? The study shows that many cat owners feel that their cats need to roam and hunt. They feel that a cat would not be happy or fulfilled if they are kept indoors.

 

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A feral kitten we rescued a few years ago. We found her in the road on a cold, snowy Christmas eve. She was adopted to a good home. 

Unfortunately these sentiments can be detrimental to a cat’s health and even it’s life. Cats do not need to be free outdoors to roam and hunt. Cats can and do live a happy and productive life indoors. It is up to the owner to provide interactive toys or play with their cat to satisfy the cat’s need to hunt and attack prey.

Cats also need companionship, either from another animal or their owners. Most cats are very social although not in the same way as dogs are.

There are videos made for cats to watch. If a cat owner feels strongly that their cat should spend time outdoors there are cat containment systems that allow a cat to go outdoors and be safe. You only need to google “cat outdoor yards” or “cat containment systems” to find a wide variety to meet your cat’s needs.

There are a number of reasons why a cat should not be allowed to freely roam outdoors. Being outdoors, even in a city or urban environment subjects the cat to predators which can range from dogs, other cats, hawks, foxes, coyotes and other wild animals that will attack a cat either aggressively or defensively. There are also evil people who make it a sport to trap and torture or kill cats.

If a cat kills wildlife, they are exposed to various parasites and diseases. If they come in contact with other outdoor cats, they can be exposed to various cat borne diseases which could be fatal. If a cat kills and ingests some of the blood of a rodent that has eaten rodent poison, the poison in the rodent’s blood can kill the cat.

Being exposed to injury, diseases and parasites, can make the cat sick and cost the owner multiple veterinarian bills. Not to mention subject the cat to preventable suffering and death.

If the cat is not spayed or neutered, letting it roam freely will cause pregnancy and add to the feral cat population. Contrary to what many people think, feral cats do not live a good life. They are subjected to all the above-mentioned diseases and death. Most feral cats do not live past kittenhood and if they do, only live about two very harsh years, struggling to find food, water, warmth and to fend off predators.

In conclusion, there is no positive reason to let a cat roam freely outdoors. There is every reason to trap, spay, neuter and adopt feral cats.

Pilot whale groups have their own dialect

In a new study by the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) has found that short-finned pilot whales living off the coast of Hawaii have their own vocal dialects. This discovery may help researchers understand the whales’ complex social structure.

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By using genetic material scientists have determined that the smallest family of whales, referred to as a unit, are directly related. We would call it the immediate family. Next is the cluster which would be the extended family, such as aunts, uncles, cousins, etc. When a group of clusters gather it forms a community, such as a neighborhood.

Understanding their social structure will help scientists understand the life and nature of the whale. They have a close-knit relationship which is evident by mass beaching. If the leader of a group beaches, the rest will follow.

Although the pilot whale is not on the endangered list, they do have risks. They are hunted in many countries and research suggests that they are sensitive to human made noise.

It would be a super thing if we could find a way to understand the language of whales as well as other animals. This latest research is one more step in that direction.

Animal related injuries account for over 1 billion dollars of health care

What may be surprising to many people is that most of the injuries are due to non-venomous insect and spider bites, about 40%. Dog bites only accounted for about 25% of the injuries. About 13% were caused by hornet, wasp and bee stings.

The dollar amount does not include doctor’s fees, outpatient charges, lost productivity, and rehabilitation.

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Over half of the costs associated with animal injuries included dog bites, non-venomous insect and spider bites, and bites from venomous snakes and lizards.

Death due to injuries is rare, only .02% with the highest rate of death due to rat bites, with venomous snake/lizard a close second and third was by dogs.

People over the age of 85 were six times more likely to be admitted to hospital and 27 times more likely to die after their injury.

It seems that while people are careful around dogs and other animals, they should be more aware of the reptiles and insects that they may encounter. This is especially true of ticks that carry several diseases that can make a human or animal seriously ill or even bring about their death.