Behold, the Gargantuan Stick Insect

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Behold, the Gargantuan Stick Insect – Science Friday

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Lizard Mating Strategies: a Delicate Balance of Rock, Paper, Scissors

In the dating world, there are many ways to win over a mate. In nature, it’s often a little less complicated; out west, males lizards have narrowed it down to three options.

Uta stansburiana, the common side-blotched lizard, comes in a variety of colors. These are not merely decorative, however. They are indicative of different hormone levels, and different mating strategies. Blue-throated males are devoted to their mates, forming strong pair-bonds with females. Orange-throated males are the largest, with the most testosterone. They favor the “love ’em and leave ’em” strategy, acting aggressively toward other males and mating with females in a large territory. An orange-throat can easily drive a blue-throat away from the blue-throat’s territory. The third type of male is the yellow-throat; they have the lowest testosterone levels, and actually mimic females. This enables them to sneak into orange-throat territory and mate with females while the orange-throat isn’t looking. This doesn’t work on blue-throats, however, who monitor their females much more closely.

What this creates is an evolutionary game of rock-paper-scissors. Orange beats blue, blue beats yellow, and yellow beats orange.

From Lizard Mating Strategies: a Delicate Balance of Rock, Paper, Scissors

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Yet another lovely example of horrifying savagery…

…in the natural world:

When Douglas W. Mock of the University of Oklahoma began studying egrets in Texas three decades ago, he knew that the bigger babies in a clutch would peck the smaller ones to death. Still, Dr. Mock was caught off guard by what he saw — or failed to see. He had assumed that the murderous attacks would surely take place while Mom and Dad egret were out fishing. …

Instead, Dr. Mock witnessed utter parental indifference. The mother or father would stand by the side of the nest, doing nothing as one chick battered its sibling bloody. “The parent would yawn or groom itself and look completely blasé,” said Dr. Mock… “In the 3,000 attacks that I witnessed, I never saw a parent try to stop one. It’s as though they expect it to happen.”

One researcher watched a nest of African black eagles for three days as the larger eaglet alternated between tirelessly stabbing at its sibling and taking food from its solicitous mother’s mouth. There was prey to spare, but the mother did not bother feeding the second, abused baby. When the eaglet’s poor, tattered body was finally tossed to the ground, the researcher calculated that it had been pecked 1,569 times.

Another reason to hesitate before too eagerly making the analogy between the “positive” results generated by natural selection and by pure, unfettered market forces.

PS: It also adds yet more to the “problem of evil” flaw in “intelligent design” – why on earth would God design hatchlings to kill each other by pecking? Surely the mother could at least have been designed to slip the unwanted hatchlings a bit of painless poison.

Universal Acid: Nature red in tooth and claw

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Stupid Human Trick: What’s the opposite of swallowing?

Hadji Ali was a vaudeville performance artist, thought to be of Egyptian descent, who was famous for acts of controlled regurgitation. His best-known feats included water spouting, smoke swallowing, and nut and handkerchief swallowing followed by disgorgement in an order chosen by the audience. Ali’s most famous stunt, and the highlight of his act, was drinking copious amounts of water followed by kerosene, and then acting by turns as a human flamethrower and fire extinguisher as he expelled the two liquids onto a theatrical prop. While these stunts were performed, a panel of audience members was invited to watch the show up close to verify that no trickery was employed.
Although never gaining wide fame, Ali had a dedicated following on the vaudeville circuit in the United States. He performed for heads of state including Tsar Nicholas II of Russia. Judy Garland named him her favorite vaudevillian…

Hadji Ali – Wikipedia

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Bumblebees can solve a string-pulling puzzle, and share the innovation with their other bees in their colony

Read all about it here:

PLOS Science Wednesday: Hi Reddit, my name is Lars and I published a PLOS Biology study showing bumblebees can solve a string-pulling puzzle, and share the innovation with their other bees in their colony — Ask Me Anything!

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Functioning mechanical gears seen in nature for the first time

Read all about it right here: https://phys.org/news/2013-09-functioning-mechanical-gears-nature.html

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A crow goes tobogganing using a plastic lid

 

 

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