Is human memory unique?

Many academics believe that only humans can ‘mentally time travel’ to relive their experiences and imagine future ones. But Iona Twaddell reveals new research which indicates humans may not be so unique as scrub jays may share some of the same memory abilities.

Science behind the photo #48

A Persian falconer’s prize, the Black Shaeen (Falco peregrinus peregrinator) is one of the fastest and treasured falcons, reaching speeds of up to 320km/h …

Science behind the photo #47

Salticidae Spider Depth perception takes on a whole new meaning when you have eight eyes. The spider in the picture belongs to the Salticidae family, which contains over 5000 described species. The Salticidae’s ability to jump is not unique among spiders, but they are set apart from other families by their capability to make precise, […]

Placebo: making evidence-based medicine bad for you

The placebo effect is like a slightly embarrassing trick you play on someone who’s never heard it before. There’s no deception that makes a person look so gullible or so much of a hypochondriac as to bring them back to health with a treatment that does nothing at all. However, although it’s still debated, the […]

Putting Love in a Pill

We can all admit to being, on occasion, slaves to our emotions. But what if we could medically alter and regulate our most basic feelings? Be prescribed a pill to love, an inhaler to feel anger, or a topical lotion for loneliness? Neuroscience is starting to better understand the hard-wiring of our emotions. And one […]

A Sense of Magnetism

The Summer 2012 issue of I, Science took a look at perception, discussing senses and their limitations. However, one sense that was not touched upon was that of magnetism, called ‘magnetoception’. The way magnets attract and repel things, or even levitate them (most notably frogs), gives magnetism the aura of the artificial, or the quality […]

Pooh Sticks

Just a short post today. I came across this video of the strangest animal behaviour I’ve ever witnessed. The bear, named Claude, can be seen twisting and spinning a large stick with more precision and agility than your average sergeant major. Such complex tool use is rarely seen in the animal kingdom naturally, such as […]

Not-so-happy feet

If a human stopped feeding their child for 5 months it would soon be a matter of national news and public outcry. However, it seems King Penguins don’t mind if their children go hungry, in fact, they leave them for months on end. New research from the University of Strasbourg has shown that King Penguin […]

Science Behind the Photo #28

This is odd behaviour for a southern tamandua anteater (tamandua tetradactyla).  They’re usually found in trees, not wandering open grassland.  In fact, tamanduas are so badly adapted for living on the ground, they have to walk on the outside of their feet to stop their claws piercing their palms. What’s more, being nocturnal, they’re usually […]

The Dance of the Starlings

This amazing video by Mark Rigler demonstrates the beautiful complexity that exists throughout the natural world. Like a Bach fugue, patterns emerge and fade, interweave, and are exquisitely modified to form an endless variety of beautiful structures. The end result seems too complicated, too ordered, too apparently designed to have appeared by chance. But, like […]

Run Lassie – no not over there! Damn you Lassie!

Scientists can be utter bastards some of the time. Not content with letting us unwashed masses revel in our ignorance, they systematically poke and prod the world around us, looking for answers to questions best left unanswered. The latest casualty of this scientific tirade – my childhood. Specifically, the destruction of my faith in man’s […]

Buzz Off: Are Bees the Answer to the Elephant Wars?

“I studied Zoology.” “Oh right, the study of zoos.” “Not exactly.” Zoology is the study of ANIMALS and it’s one of those science disciplines that rarely gets the reaction that chemistry or physics have come to expect. The response is normally one of confusion – why would anyone want to study something that has no […]

Titanic antics

Last year, I had the good fortune of going on a white water rafting trip. Shivering uncontrollably from the combination of the cold and the danger, it was, all things considered, an amazing adventure. One factor, which at the time, I was very grateful for was the raft – a sturdy construction of rubber and […]

Vampire Bats

“Again I woke in the night, and found Lucy sitting up in bed, still asleep, pointing to the window…between me and the moonlight flitted a great bat, coming and going in great, whirling circles.” (Dracula, p104). Vampire bats have been flitting around human imaginations for a while. Unused to thinking of ourselves as a food […]

Diversity over ability: how to pick the perfect pub quiz team

‘Swarm intelligence’ refers to how grouping can help solve cognitive problems and a study published in Animal Behaviour this week examined how this works in humans. Most companies work on the assumption that employing the strongest individuals will produce the best team, but theoretical studies have started to question this. One model has predicted that […]

Ant Wars

Warfare in the ant world is nothing new. From chemical weapons to suicide bombers these insects have done it all before. Poison is the attack method of choice for most ant species; those that can’t sting spray formic acid instead. Of the stinging ants, the Bullet ant is the most notorious. It has a sting […]

Science Behind the Photo #19

  There can be few species on Earth about which more myths exist than piranhas. Piranhas have an aggressive image as flesh-eaters, able to dilacerate a human body in seconds. While piranhas do occasionally attack humans, this is only usually when water levels are low and there has never been an official recorded death due […]

Science Behind the Photo #14

Earlier this month, researchers from New Zealand announced that they had observed wasps lifting up ants and carrying them away from food. This video footage also shows how the wasps hurl the ants away in their desperate attempts to monopolise the food source.  Although this video was made in a laboratory environment, the ant-dropping behaviour […]

London’s Foxes

Family feuds, gang wars and illicit affairs – the urban fox might only live for a maximum of five years but they pack a lot in. We tend to only see only one fox at a time, normally a streak of light brown across an empty street. But London’s foxes live in extended family groups […]

At it like rabbits. Or lions. Or bats.

Something about animals having sex is inherently hilarious. Having done a biology degree, I know quite a lot about the sex lives of various animals – their courting rituals, how often they do it, and how many partners they do it with. That kind of knowledge is pretty important when studying the evolutionary origins of […]

Nurturing Nature

Animal behaviour is a subject that has always fascinated me. At first glance, the actions of animals seems so familiar, obvious to the point of not being noteworthy. They eat when they are hungry, they run when danger is present, and they get down to it when, you know, they want to. What I find […]

Do elephants mourn?

I know, I know, I used the word “mourn” in the title. I could almost feel the disapproving eyes boring into my head as I wrote it. But before anyone accuses me of anthropomorphism let me ask you a question, why would it have been more acceptable to say “Do elephants grieve”? or perhaps “A […]

Hiding behind nature

Hide and seek goes on just about everywhere. It’s a simple case of looking hard enough. Camouflage allows organisms of all shapes and sizes to remain unnoticed by their predators or prey. Obvious examples include a tiger’s stripes or a leopard’s spots, but let’s take a closer look at some more unusual cases of visual […]

Can animals dream?

Most animals need sleep. Even C. elegans, the nematode worm, has sleep-like states and it is one of the simplest organisms that exists with a nervous system. Sleep comes in many guises, in invertebrates like the cockroach; it can be as simple as folding down your antennae, adopting your favourite posture and decreasing your sensitivity […]

How to Hypnotise a Great White Shark

The Great White Shark or Carcharodon carcharias if you want the Latin, otherwise known as Jaws. This infamous predator can grow to up to six metres in length, has three thousand razor-sharp teeth, a top speed of 40kmph and can detect a single drop of blood in 100 litres of water. A true apex predator, […]