Bees can do math!

Researchers have designed a test that proves bees can do basic math.

Since scientists have known that bees understand the concept of zero, they wanted to determine if bees could perform the basic math functions of adding and subtracting. Their tests have shown that bees can do this.

This is very important because solving math problems requires the use of both long- and short-term memory and the complex mental management of numbers.

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The team from RMIT University in Melbourne, Australia taught the bees to recognize colors that represent addition and subtraction. Once the bees were taught the meaning of the colors, they were able to use the colors to solve math addition and subtraction problems. While this level of math may seem simple to us, it really involves complex thought processes.

In past studies, beekeepers claimed that they did not get stung by their bees (at least not too much) because the bees understood that they meant no harm and were friendly to the keepers. If bees can perform mathematical functions it is certainly reasonable that they could understand their relationship to bee keepers.

What is amazing is that the tiny bee brain can do this. As we discover more ways to communicate with animals and insects, it will open a whole new world and understanding of our animal and insect friends.

The only barrier we have to fully understanding other creatures is the barrier of language. How amazing this finding is because it shows us how much we have yet to learn.

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Beech trees are dying, and nobody’s sure why

I do not often write about plants since my expertise is mainly dogs and cats, but as a tree lover, I felt it important to pass along this information.

“In a study published in the journal Forest Pathology, researchers and naturalists from The Ohio State University and metroparks in northeastern Ohio report on the emerging “beech leaf disease” epidemic, calling for speedy work to find a culprit so that work can begin to stop its spread.”

The disease has been found in Ohio, Pennsylvania and Canada. If a tree is infected it will have dark green bands between the veins of the leaves. As the disease progresses the leaves get very dark, shrink and get leathery. Then the limbs that have the disease do not produce buds. From there the tree dies. According to the report young trees are usually hit harder than older trees.

Trees of all kinds are important to wildlife and people. We have already had an infestation in parts of the country that have killed Oak trees and Hemlocks. Elm trees never recovered from the Dutch Elm disease. I would hate to see another species of tree die.

If you suspect that any of your trees are affected, I would suggest that you contact your local agricultural agency or DCNR office. Let’s hope that we can stop the Beech tree disease.

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Beech leaf disease symptoms include dark banding between the veins in early stages, followed by crinkling leaves.

Credit: Forest Pathology, Ohio State

Goats can read human faces and prefer people who smile!

Although Dr Alan McElligott is currently based at the University of Roehampton, he led the study at Queen Mary University of London to determine if goats react to human facial expressions. He found that goats would rather interact with people who smile and are happy. The study further showed that goats use the left hemisphere of their brain to react to positive facial expressions.

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Anyone who works with goats recognizes that they are very attuned to human body language, but this study shows that goats recognize facial expressions and the emotions that they represent. Past studies have shown that dogs, birds and horses also have this ability.

Goats, horses, birds  and dogs  represent a wide spectrum of the animal kingdom. It stands to reason that many other animals, both domestic and wild have the same abilities to some degree. The challenge is to devise a way to test a wider range of animals and birds. It is exciting to be able to understand more about the animals that we love and anticipate what future studies will teach us.

A new species of tick invades the Mid-Atlantic

The longhorned tick, (Haemaphysalis longicornis), also known as the bush tick or cattle tick can seriously hurt or even cause death in livestock. The ticks can last for up to a year without feeding. They have been found in other countries such as Russia, China, and Japan.

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(Although this is not a longhorned tick, it is about the size of the tick. The longhorned tick has a pattern on its body that resembles a turtle shell.)

When the tick infests cattle, it can cause severe blood loss and even death, especially in calves. In dairy cows it can cause reduced milk production and in sheep poorer wool quantity and quality. This is because the tick transmits theileriosis.

In humans and pets the tick can transmit Q-fever and anaplasmosis. Q-fever can cause death in humans. The symptoms include “high fever, headache, sore throat, malaise, nausea, diarrhea, chest pain, nonproductive cough, pneumonia, and hepatitis. Neurological manifestations occur in about one percent of patients and could develop into meningitis, encephalitis, myelitis and/or peripheral neuropathy. Endocarditis, infection of the heart valves, is the most serious manifestation. However, it is usually found in patients with preexisting valvular disease. Unfortunately, the mortality rate is increasingly high, currently at 65 percent.”

The signs of Anaplasmosis are “Fever, Severe headache, Muscle aches, Chills and shaking. Less frequent symptoms of anaplasmosis include nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite, weight loss, abdominal pain, cough, diarrhea, aching joints and change in mental status.

Although people of any age can get anaplasmosis, it tends to be most severe in the aging or immune-compromised. Severe complications can include respiratory failure, renal failure and secondary infections.”

Although the longhorned tick has only been found in the Mid-Atlantic, it is just a matter of time until it will be found across the country.

African wild dogs sneeze to vote

Dr Neil Jordan, a research fellow at UNSW Sydney and Taronga Conservation Society Australia and Reena Walker, of Brown University in the US, have studied the wild dogs, (Lycaon pictus) of Botswana found that these canines sneeze to vote whether or not they should go hunting.

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A pack of wild African dogs. Photo by Megan Claase

The study showed that if the dominant pair were not part of the vote, that approximately ten more sneezes were needed to make the decision. The team studied 68 social gatherings from 5 African wild dog packs living in the Okavango Delta in Botswana. The act of sneezing to vote shows the cognitive ability and process of these wild dogs.

We know that our pet dogs sneeze to show joy, now we have to wonder if they lived in groups, would they also communicate with each other by sneezing to decide daily activities.  What an interesting thought.

 

Can humans identify the emotions of all air-breathing animals?

A study by researchers at Vrije Universiteit Brussel and Ruhr-Universität Bochum, in collaboration with colleagues from Alberta, Canada, and Vienna, Austria, say yes!

Humans are capable of identifying the emotions of all air-breathing beings via the sounds that they make.

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The research team headed by Dr Piera Filippi, currently at the University of Aix-Marseille and the Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics in the Netherlands, included, among others, three academics from Bochum: philosophy scholar Prof. Dr. Albert Newen, biopsychologist Prof. Dr. Dr. h. c. Onur Güntürkün and assistant professor Dr Sebastian Ocklenburg.

To test their theory, they used 75 people whose native language was English, German or Mandarin. The participants listened to audio recordings of nine different species of land-living vertebrates to include, mammals, amphibians and reptiles, and birds.

The participants were able to identify both high and low levels of arousal in all species. This suggests that there is a universal ability to communicate emotions. If humans can identify the emotions of other animals, it stands to reason that this ability is not unique to humans and that all animals have the ability.

Of course, pet owners have seen this to be true with their pets. They always seem to know how we feel and we know how they feel.

Dogs, wolves and some primates understand inequality

A new study by comparative psychologists at the Messerli Research Institute of the University of Veterinary Medicine, Vienna has illustrated that both dogs and wolves understand what it means to be treated unequally.

Previously, the studies that illustrated that dogs understood and reacted negatively to inequality, assumed that this reaction was due to domestication. The current study illustrates that this is not true because wolves  reacted the same way as dogs.

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The tests also showed that higher ranking wolves and dogs became frustrated more quickly when they perceived favoritism. Scientists assumed this is because they are not used to receiving lower quality rewards.

What makes this interesting is that the study illustrates that the animals being tested understand and recognize what a lower quality reward consists of. This means that they observed the differences in the rewards, were able to value the reward and determine that they were not getting as much.

The most exciting information from this experiment is how it illustrates an animal’s ability to think, reason and make decisions and judgements. For pet owners, it shows us that when we train our animals, the reward needs to be something valued by the animal. After all don’t people feel the same way too?

New research says dogs are smarter than cats!

A recent comparison of the number of cortical neurons in the brains of various carnivores found two things: First, the size of the brain does not necessarily coordinate with the level of intelligence as was previously thought and, Second, dogs have over twice the neurons than cats.

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For example, raccoons have as many neurons as a primate but in the brain about the size of a cat while bears have the same number of neurons as a cat but in a much larger brain.

The research was conducted by Associate Professor of Psychology and Biological Sciences Suzana Herculano-Houzel, who developed the method for accurately measuring the number of neurons in brains.

Herculano-Houzel is convinced that the number of neurons an animal has determines their ability to predict what is about to happen in their environment based on their experience. What that may mean is that dogs are biologically capable of doing more complex and flexible things with their lives than cats.

The study also found that there was no difference between wild and domestic animals or predators or prey. It was always thought that predators were smarter than prey.

My comments: This is an interesting study that adds more fuel to the debate about who is smarter, dogs or cats. One thing to keep in mind is that intelligence varies from individual to individual (human or animal) and having greater intelligence does not necessarily mean it is used to its fullest capability.  In the case of animals, there is no accurate way to measure their true intelligence or their willingness to do what humans want, also known as being biddable.

FMI: www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/11/171129131341.htm

Tick diseases in humans and pets

Tick season is here again in many parts of the country. Ticks can cause diseases in both dogs and humans as well as other pets. Most people do not realize that there are a number of diseases that are transmitted by ticks with some infections taking place in as little as three hours after being bitten.

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Many diseases transmitted by ticks can infect a variety of species of animals as well as humans. Although many pet owners use tick and flea prevention drugs, it is important to realize that while the tick may not bite the pet, the tick can travel from the pet to a human.

Therefore, if the pet owner lives in an area where there are ticks or their pet goes to a tick infested area, the pet should be checked thoroughly for ticks. One way to do this is to use a flea comb and comb the pet’s fur right to the skin but not digging into the skin.

Sometimes a pet owner can run their hands over the pet and feel a tick. This is very important if the pet sleeps on the owners bed, furniture of sits on the owner’s lap. Keep in mind that ticks are found in bushes, trees, grass, weeds, and in the soil. Check with your veterinarian to see what tick preventative medicine is best for your pet

Pets and humans (especially children) should be checked for ticks every time they go into a potentially tick infested area. Ticks are often most active in the spring and fall, but in certain areas of the country can be active year round.

Humans can use insect repellent when entering tick infested areas. Wearing long sleeves and putting pant legs inside socks can help prevent ticks from crawling up pant legs and arms. Hats can help to protect the head from ticks dropping from overhead vegetation. .

If the tick embeds it should be removed as quickly as possible. A product called a tick key is very useful in removing ticks from pets and humans.

If you do not have a tick key, remove a tick by using tweezers to grab the tick as close to the skin as possible, then pull up with a stead, even pressure. Do not twist or jerk the tick since the head of the tick may break off. If it does try to remove the head with the tweezers. Do not touch the tick with your hands if possible. Dispose of it by dropping it in rubbing alcohol or wrap the tick on sticky tape and throw it away. Be sure to wash your hands after handling a tick.

It is a good idea to take a shower after working or playing in tick infested areas and washing your clothes. Ticks can hide in clothing and then crawl into the home. With a little diligence and care, you can protect yourself and your pets from tick diseases.

Ticks exist in all 50 states, with some having greater infestations than others. Here is a list of some of the tick diseases:

Anaplasmosis human, – is also known as human granulocytic ehrlichiosis. Ticks get the organism when feeding on deer, elk or wild rodents. The symptoms are: fever, headache, muscle pain,malaise, chills, nausea and/or abdominal pain, cough, confusion and although rare, a rash. Dogs can get anaplasmosis as well as other animals. The symptoms in dogs are: joint pain, high fever, lethargy, loss of appetite, vomiting, diarrhea, seizures and neck pain.

Bartonellosis – Although it is thought to be carried by ticks, this disease at present, does not seem to be transmitted to humans through ticks. However, it is transmitted by cats through fleas. It causes what is commonly known as “cat scratch disease” and is most likely carried by feral cats. There is some evidence that it can be transmitted to humans by being bitten with an infected flea.

Hepatozoonosis – is often fatal in dogs. Dogs get it by eating an infected tick. The symptoms include: fever, weakness, muscle atrophy, generalized pain, reluctance to move, ocular discharge; and gradual deterioration of the body.

Rocky Mountain spotted fever (RMSF) is a serious, potentially fatal disease that is transmitted to humans by a tick. It is carried by the American dog tick, Rocky mountain wood tick, and the brown dog tick. Symptoms include fever, headache, abdominal pain, vomiting and muscle pain. A human can get a rash from the tick bite. It must be treated in the first few days or the disease can be fatal.

Dogs and other animals can get RMSF. The symptoms in dogs include: depression, lethargy, anorexia, blood in the urine, irregular heartbeat, discolored skin that often looks like a bruise, loss of coordination, swelling in the limbs, bleeding through the nose and stools, difficulty with blood clotting, swollen lymph nodes, pain in the eyes, inflammation or conjunctivitis.

Ehrlichiosis Affects both dogs, humans, and wild canids and is found worldwide and throughout the United States. It is transmitted by ticks including the brown dog tick and the Lone Star tick. What is important to realize is that this disease can live in a tick for up to five months, which means that a tick that has it in the fall can pass it along to a dog or human in the spring.

There are three phases of this disease. The acute phase develops in 1 – 3 weeks. The liver, lymph nodes and spleen are often enlarged. Humans get fever, depression, lethargy, loss of appetite, shortness of breath, joint pain and stiffness and bruises. Dogs can sometimes fight the infection and go into the subclinical phase. In this phase the dog may show slight anemia. This phase can last for years when the dog will eliminate the disease from its body or go into the chronic phase which can be mild or severe. The signs are weight loss, anemia, neurological signs, bleeding, the eyes can become inflamed, fluid builds up in the hind legs, and fever develops. Sometimes the disease will only show up when the dog becomes stressed. In some cases arthritis or kidney disease may develop.

Lymes Disease in humans is transmitted by deer ticks or the blacklegged ticks. Symptoms include fever, headache, fatigue and sometimes a rash. This disease can spread to joints, the nervous system and the heart.

Lymes disease in dogs Symptoms include: a stiff walk with an arched back, sensitivity to touch, difficulty breathing, fever, lack of appetite and depression, lymph nodes may be swollen, and although rare, heart abnormalities and neurologic issues.

Rat bite fever

Many people have rodents as pets and they can make wonderful pets for people who do not have room for a larger pet or cannot have a dog, cat or bird. However, although it is rare, rat bite fever can be transmitted by pet rodents, either through a bite or scratch. Rats, gerbils, mice, guinea pigs and ferrets are capable of transmitting rat bite fever. Rat bite fever is an old disease that has been recorded for over 2300 years.

Rat bite fever is caused by Streptobacillus moniliformis which is the most common cause. The symptoms include fever, pain in joints, nausea, rash and vomiting and can be fatal if not treated.

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Children, pet store workers, veterinary technicians, veterinarians and laboratory technicians are in the higher risk group since they handle rodents on a regular basis. People who frequently handle rodents can wear protective gloves to prevent being bitten.  Parents should monitor children who have rodents as pets and if they are bitten or scratched, notify your pediatrician.

Socializing a pet rodent is a precautionary measure that will reduce the chance of being bitten. Rodents can be trained using clicker training methods which will also help to reduce the chances of being bitten by teaching the rodent to come to you.

Always be careful not to frighten or startle a rodent. Avoid trying to handle a rodent that is sleeping. A tap on the cage or talking to the rodent before handling it can calm the rodent and allow the pet to be aware that it is going to be handled. Using common sense will help prevent being bitten and avoid rat bite fever. 

Keep in mind that rat bite fever can also be transmitted by wild rodents. If there are wild rodents in your area and they are trapped, use caution in removing them or handling predators that might have caught and killed a rodent.

 http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/12/151223141151.htm?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+sciencedaily%2Fplants_animals%2Fanimals+%28Animals+News+–+ScienceDaily%29

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1797630/