Viral Science: New Caledonian Crow – Not So Bird Brained

Viral Science: New Caledonian Crow – Not So Bird Brained

Behavioural Ecology Research Group © Simon Walker

The New Caledonian Crow is a remarkably smart species of bird. They are the “only non-human species with a record of inventing new tools by modifying existing ones, then passing these innovations to other individuals in the cultural group”

This weeks viral science video part of research carried out by the Behavioural Ecology Research group in Oxford . This video below is the first time these birds were presented with this challenge:

p.s. apologies for the lack of posts recently, I shall return to regular blogging shortly.

Research Quote of the Week: Alcohol, Nudity & Himalayan Bears

Research Quote of the Week: Alcohol, Nudity & Himalayan Bears

As a bit of a new theme I am going to each week post up an odd or fascinating quote from a peer reviewed research article. I hope that this will show how awesome science can be and publicise research is not in mainstream consciousness.

This week the quote is:

“We had no logical explanation for the fact that he was found naked in the cage”

This sentence came from an unusual piece of research  detailing what happened when a Serbian man got drunk and decided to climb inside an enclosure with some Black Himalayan Bears. He was found, naked and half eaten the next day.

The research mainly concerned itself with the unusual way in which the bears attacked the individual. In the wild their normal focus of attack is the face but, in this instance it was the individuals torso and legs that appeared to have taken the brunt of the attack.  As well as this, it was found that the bears had consumed a proportion of the individual which is not typical bear attack behaviour. They theorised that the differences in behaviour may be due to living in captivity in a major city (Belgrade).

Would you like to see what happened to the man? Well due to the rather gruesome nature of the photos, I felt I should have them a little hidden. If you want to see, click on the image of the bear below:

Click on the image to see the effects of the attack

Mihailovic Z, Savic S, Damjanjuk I, Stanojevic A, & Milosevic M (2011). A Case of a Fatal Himalayan Black Bear Attack in the Zoo. Journal of forensic sciences PMID: 21361947

Top 5 Science Fails – 5: David Lyall, Tibbles and the Stephens Island Wren

Science has done a lot for us as a society, without it we would be still be in the middle ages, I would not be sat here able to write this and could possibly be considered to be a wise old man approaching the end of his life! However, despite the advances, there have been a few faux pas and amusing accidents along the way and I am gong to write a top 5 and post up one each day. I should first of all say that I am only considering science that was originally intended to be beneficial and failed and am not intending to demean or trivialise any of the serious mistakes science has made ( e.g. biological warfare, the nuclear bomb etc.).  So here we go……

5: David Lyall, Tibbles and the Stephens Island Wren

Now this story is disputed, some claim it to be hearsay and legend, whilst others stick to it faithfully. However, evidence seems to indicate that it is true to a certain extent. So I am going to tell the story as, if it is true, it definately deserves a place on this list.

In 1894 a light house was constructed on Stephens Island (part of New Zealand). The story goes that a cat named ‘Tibbles’ travelled to the Island along with the construction crew and David Lyall who was to be the lighthouse keeper and was also a keen biologist.

After some time on the Island Lyall noticed that Tibbles was bringing back small birds to the light house. He sent off a few samples to a friend in London to find out what the bird was as he did not recognise it. It was discovered to be a new species, and the only flightless perching bird in the world. They began to prepare for publication in a popular journal and Lyall sent off more of Tibbles’ hunt to eminent scientists.

However, one day there were no more birds being deposited at the lighthouse. Tibbles had wiped out the entire species. It is the only recorded case in history of a single organism causing the extinction of a whole species.

Of the 15 recorded specimens of the bird, 3 currently reside in the Natural History Museum in London, whilst the whereabouts of 5 are currently unknown.

An artists impression of the Stephens Island Wren

Tomorrow I will post up number 4……


QI Series 2 Episode 2