Cockatoos are very smart

An international team of scientists, Barbara Klump and Lucy Aplin from the Max Planck Institute of Animal Behavior, John Martin from the Taronga Conservation Society and Richard Major from the Australian Museum have made an interesting discovery.The sulphur-crested cockatoo, native to Australia, has been observed lifting the lids off of garbage bins to gain access to food. The team of researchers have determined beyond any doubt, that this behavior has been taught through social interaction from bird group to bird group. In one case a lone bird reinvented the technique of opening the trash bin and it was quickly copied and spread to other bird groups. The researchers have determined that this “taught/copied” behavior illustrates regional subcultures.     

cockatoo opening a trash bin – Max Planck photo

Not all of the cockatoos use the technique to open trash bins, but will wait for another bird, typically a male, to open the bin and then they scavenge for food.

Sulphur crested cockatoos are very smart. They are also persistent and in the wild as well as as pets, have adapted very well to living with people.

Dogs understand humans better than wolves

Scientists are constantly trying to understand the mind of the dog vs. the wolf. A recent study at <a href="http://&lt;!– wp:paragraph –> <p>www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2021/07/210712122206.htm</p> Duke University showed that dogs understand people almost from birth whereas wolf puppies that were raised by people within days of their birth do not.

The wolf puppies were fed, slept in bed with and thoroughly interacted with people to try and socialize them. The dog puppies were left with their mother and littermates. The wolf and dog puppies were tested between 5 and 18 weeks old.

The researchers hid a piece of food in one of two bowls and then pointed to the right one. The dog puppies knew instantly, often on the first try, to follow the clue given by the tester. The wolf puppies never were able to follow the tester’s indication, often pointing to the correct bowl.

When the food was put in a container so that the puppy could not access it, the dog puppies looked to the human tester for help but the wolf puppies did not.

According to the researchers, the ability to understand human gestures is a complex cognitive ability that is rare in the animal kingdom. So, the fact that dogs can do it is special.

Author’s Note: Researchers try to understand the process about how dogs became dogs. There are a number of theories and as more material becomes available the theories change. One theory is that dogs are not descended from wolves, even though they are closely related but a species in and of themselves. There is evidence to support this theory the same as other theories.

Dingo, hybrid dingo or wild dog?

In a revealing study conducted by the University of New South Wales, Dr. Kylie Cairns a biologist found that contrary to popular belief, there are few wild dogs and Dingo hybrids in Australia. The study showed that 99% of the 5000+ animals tested, were pure Dingoes or if they were hybrids, were mostly Dingo and not dog. Only 1% were wild dogs or dog dominant hybrids.

Some groups refer to Dingoes as wild dogs and try to kill them. The researchers feel that if Dingoes are called Dingoes, the groups that are in favor of destroying them will change their attitude.  Because Dingoes come in a range of colors, it can be difficult for people to identify a Dingo and mistake it for a wild dog.

Dingo

Research has found that by killing Dingoes, the local ecosystem is harmed. The Dingoes keep the herbivores and smaller predators under control and thus keep the environment balanced. When the Dingoes are removed, the Kangaroo population grows which leads to overgrazing and causes damage to the soil.  

Only the Victoria National Park in Australia protects Dingoes. Elsewhere they are hunted by dropping aerial bait to kill them. Farmers do complain that their livestock is harmed by Dingoes so a means of protecting farm animals is necessary.

Collecting DNA from the air

DNA has been collected in various way, including soil and water, now scientists have proven that environmental DNA (eDNA) can be collected from the air.

Both plants and animals shed DNA in the environment that they interact with. Dr. Elizabeth Clare, of the Queen Mary University in London has stated that ecologists and conservationists are always looking for non-invasive ways to monitor biological environments, collecting DNA from the air provides one way to do this.     

An added benefit to monitoring eDNA is that it will allow researchers to study the transmission of airborne diseases. What the study does not mention is how long the eDNA exists in the air. However, it is an interesting and beneficial step in the right direction that will benefit the health of all living things.

Helping Bats

Bats have had a significant decline in the past few years due to white nose syndrome. As a result, many people have done what they could to help bats repopulate. Bat ecologists Joy O’Keefe and Reed Crawford at the University of Illinois, have conducted a study to see how beneficial bat boxes are in helping repopulate bats.

google images

They found that the common bat boxes that many people use may actually be harmful to bats. Many of the flat-paneled boxes with slats often get too hot for the bats and do not allow them to move away from the hot area. This is especially true of the boxes are painted a dark color.

If you want to put up a bat box, they suggest a four-sided box that gives the bats freedom to move all around the inside. Even with a better bat box, the placement is also critical. Do not put the box where it will get direct sun all day. The area where the bat box is located should be safe for bats, protecting them from predators, away from roads, and free from parasites.

What home owners can do is plant native trees and wildflowers that attract the insects that bats eat. Provide a clean water source and leave dead standing trees, which are natural roosting areas for bats.

Animals in the Bible

As we approach Passover and Easter, it is a good time to reflect on the impact and role that animals have in God’s plan. From the very beginning, in the Garden of Eden, God used an innocent animal to represent His saving Grace.

When Adam and Eve sinned, they tried to fix their sin themselves by making aprons of fig leaves to cover their nakedness or sin. But God showed them that only God can forgive or fix sin. To do this He killed an animal and made them clothes of the animal’s skin. From that point on the Jewish people had to sacrifice an animal on the Day of Atonement to cover their sins for a year. This animal sacrifice represented the coming of the Messiah.

When the Angel of Death visited Egypt, those people who had the blood of the lamb on their door posts were passed over. Did you realize that their animals were also spared?

Scientists have long pondered the mental abilities of animals. Recently they have designed tests to determine just how smart and how aware animals are. If they had carefully read the book of Numbers, they would have had their questions answered.

The Bible teaches us kindness to animals, how they think, which animals were created to be domesticated and which ones were not. It also talks about miracles that involve animals.

Jesus is referred to as the Lamb of God. When he died and was raised from the dead, there was no longer a need to sacrifice animals, the debt had been paid. Have you ever thought of the fact that only an animal is innocent and pure enough to represent the Messiah?

If you want to read more about the role of Animals in the Bible, you can do so in my book, God’s Creatures: A Biblical View of Animals. There is so much the Bible teaches us about them. You will be amazed. You can order a signed copy at http://www.sbulanda.com

Dogs, wolves and dingoes

According to retired anthropologist Pat Shipman from Penn State University, dingoes and their closely related New Guinea singing dogs, are not dogs. They are not wolves either, but fall into their own class.

Domestic dogs arrived in Australia in 1788 with the first ships of convicts. The dingoes were already there for at least 4000 or more years prior to that. Genetically and behaviorally, they are more like wolves with their inability to digest starches and their inability to bond with humans. Dogs on the other hand have no difficulty digesting starches and do bond with people.  

Dingoes can survive in the Australian outback where domestic dogs that are feral have a difficult time or cannot survive.

What makes it difficult to separate the lines between wolves, dogs and dingoes is that genetically they can hybridize and have fertile offspring unlike horses and donkeys who typically produce infertile mules.

Shipman feels that a dingo is a wolf on its way to becoming a dog but never made it.

Dingo – free photo dreamstime

New wolf hunting tactics observed

It has long been thought that wolves hunting methods only involve running down large prey until they are too exhausted to fight. However, new research has shown that wolves have developed a stalk and ambush method of hunting in the summer, designed specifically to catch beavers.

Beavers have poor eyesight but a keen sense of smell. Wolves have learned to wait downwind from where the beaver comes out of the water to go on land.

pexels free photo

Researchers found that this hunting method is not limited to a few wolves, but has spanned several years through multiple packs over the Northern Hemisphere where wolves and beaver co-exist.

The study shows that wolves are flexible in their hunting methods and can change to the method that works at that time.

Author Note: This also demonstrates the wolf’s intelligence and ability to communicate the method to other members of the pack.

Birds spread Lyme’s disease and ticks

A new study by Global Ecology and Biogeography with lead researcher Daniel Becker, a postdoctoral fellow at Indiana University developed a model that identified, with an 80% accuracy, the species of birds that spread Lyme’s Disease. They found 21 new species that spread the disease.

The research team found about 102 other studies that showed Lyme disease infection from ticks feeding on the birds. There were 183 species of birds that infect the ticks with Lyme’s. The birds have a broad range that spans the Americas, Africa, Asia and Oceania.

What this means is that even though the birds do not spread Lyme to people, the ticks on them can drop off of the bird into a garden or yard and then attach to a person. Because birds can fly great distances, they can spread Lyme’s disease to areas that previously did not have it or did not have a lot of it.

The study found that thrushes are the riskiest bird as well as perching birds and those that eat seeds and forage on the ground. 

Author’s note: Tick activity is always the strongest in the spring and fall where there are definite seasons. Always take precautions when outside, especially wearing long sleeves, long pants with your socks over the cuff of your pants. This prevents ticks from crawling up your pant legs. Use bug repellent and cover your head. After working outdoors, remove and wash all clothing and be sure to check your entire body for ticks.