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Archive for January 27th, 2010

There is so much cool stuff going on in the science news today that I’m giving myself a break and not going anywhere near the flap over face veils in France and the UK. Not that I don’t have an opinion or twelve. I’d simply so much rather focus on little tiny hairs in bat ears and such.

For a population of animals known for acute hearing, the bats in my jack fruit tree have been raising a ruckus audible to an aging rocker with major ear damage, but these, of course, are fruit batsPteropus seychellensis seychellensis, locally known as sousouri … not their smaller insectivorous cousins.

Since fruit tends to hang around rather than flit furtively, sousouri haven’t been working on their echolocation skills, but it’s looking like a couple of parallel universes have managed convergent evolution.

Scientists have found a striking similarity in the DNA that enables some bats and dolphins to echolocate.

A key gene that gives their ears the ability to detect high-frequency sound has undergone the exact same changes over time in both creatures.

The researchers report their findings in the journal Current Biology.

It may be the first time that identical genetics has been shown to underpin the evolution of similar characteristics in very different organisms.

And how cool is that?

Although most of us would find a sudden gift of echolocation more than a bit distracting, the hearing we do have comes in very handy, even when what we’re listening to is a load of bollocks.

Seems a tendency to keep it short is an evolutionary choice made by many primates, and although the article is flawed, it is interesting.

Scientists found that macaques use short calls far more often than lengthier vocalisations.

Humans also do this: the words that we use most often, such as “a”, “of” and “the”, do not take long to say.

The fact that we both share this vocal trait could shed more light on the origin of human language, the team writes in the journal Biology Letters.

Although the report on the study must oversimplify … and with the research credited to Dr. Semple, I suppose that makes sense … I will assume that the work went much deeper and resulted in more less-obvious science than is written by the BBC.

For a new turn on the old “monkey see, monkey do”, take a look at what happens when monkey shoots.

The world’s first film shot entirely by chimpanzees is to be broadcast by the BBC as part of a natural history documentary.

The apes created the movie using a specially designed chimp-proof camera given to them by primatologists.

The film-making exercise is part of a scientific study into how chimpanzees perceive the world and each other.

My hat is off to whoever managed to make a chimp-proof camera!

And just because common wisdom says that sex sells … and I do like drawing readers to the blog … I’ll end with the world’s most promiscuous bird, proving size really doesn’t matter …

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