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Posts Tagged ‘fruit bats’

House, n.  A hollow edifice erected for the habitation of human, rat, mouse, beetle, cockroach, fly, mosquito, flea, bacillus, and microbe.  ~ Ambrose Bierce, The Devil’s Dictionary

Life is all around!

Life is all around!

Ah … tropical island life! So green and lush and moist and warm, so full of life.

Unlike other parts of Africa we have no giraffes loping gracefully over open plains, nor do we have open plains. You won’t find lions lounging in prides in the shade under acacias, even though we do have acacias. The huge saltwater crocodiles that once inhabited this island have been extinct for two centuries, so the only predator species filling the top spot is Homo sapiens and we’re far from indigenous.

Still, everywhere your eye might rest there are critters, some of which are autochthonous like our fruit bats that have become their own unique version of chiroptera. The list of endemic reptiles includes thirteen types of lizard, two snake species, and of course the Aldabra Giant Tortoise, which visitors are far more likely to see than either our wolf snake or house snake. (In my twenty-plus years here I have seen ONE live snake. A few dead ones, unfortunately, since although the animals are completely harmless and could, if allowed, take a toll on the rat population, Seychellois are terribly ophiophobic.)

Every house has geckos; entertaining little critters that chirp like birds and scamper over seemingly impossible surfaces as they

Sweet little baby gecko!

Sweet little baby gecko!

munch on bugs. Tourists not accustomed to sharing space with lizards sometimes freak out and no few have alerted hotel staff to the “baby crocodiles on the ceiling” … really.

Birds are everywhere: mynas, fodies, doves, blue pigeons, bulbuls and such are common and spend time on verandas. Beautiful kestrels are rarer, but can be seen if you’re lucky.

A myna likes to bathe in the dogs' water bowl.

A myna likes to bathe in the dogs’ water bowl.

Sea birds are less common on Mahé, but legion on some of the islands. A trip to Bird Island delivers just what the name promises with over 700,000 pairs of sooty terns nesting. (For diehard birders … “another phenomena especially in October to December, arises from the geographical location of Bird Island on the northern edge of the Seychelles Bank. This means it is the first landfall for migratory Euarasian birds …” )

And like everywhere else in the world, we have a lot of bugs.

It is estimated that at any given moment, Earth is home to a billion billion insects. Spread out evenly over the land surface, this would be nearly 8,000 insects per square meter!

Yep. Creepy crawlies abound, although if you try to learn what’s here through Wikipedia you’ll come up short. Some, like bees, are helpful. Some (centipedes come to mind) are horrible. Spiders the size of a kid’s hand aren’t everyone’s cup of tea. We have ants that are yellow and crazy, mean sand flies and … sigh … mosquitos. Not the type that vector malaria, thankfully, but bite and itch and can transmit dengue fever, a miserable illness I can personally attest to the misery of … twice. I’m so not a fan of these asshole insects that global eradication would be just fine with me. And I’m not alone in this …

“it’s difficult to see what the downside would be to removal, except for collateral damage”, says insect ecologist Steven Juliano, of Illinois State University.

Fun with a Rhinoceros Beetle.

Fun with a Rhinoceros Beetle.

On the bug front, however, we also have a very cool Rhinoceros Beetle, and since coconut plantations no longer support the country I’m okay with them. They’re big enough to be considered more like a dog than a bug, as is evidenced by their presence in the pet trade. Thankfully I get to play with them for free.

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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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