Extreme Biology Blog » Behavior http://missbakersbiologyclass.com/blog Mon, 06 Jun 2011 15:15:28 +0000enhourly1http://wordpress.org/?v=3.0.5Is Man’s Best Friend a Pessimist? http://missbakersbiologyclass.com/blog/2011/06/06/is-mans-best-friend-a-pessimist/ http://missbakersbiologyclass.com/blog/2011/06/06/is-mans-best-friend-a-pessimist/#commentsMon, 06 Jun 2011 14:04:56 +0000Gabrielahttp://missbakersbiologyclass.com/blog/?p=2465

Menina Dede via Flickr

A study has shown that dogs, like humans, can be pessimistic. If a dog becomes especially anxious when left alone they show signs of pessimism. Like humans, dogs may look at a situation as “the glass half full” or “half empty”.  But how is this possible?

Scientists at the Academy of Bristol took two dogs and taught the dogs when a bowl was placed in one room where the bowl was filled with food; this would be the positive position.  In the other instance, the bowl was placed in another room where the bowl had no food in it; this would be the negative position. After they placed them at ambiguous locations to see the two dog’s reaction, the dogs displayed positive and negative reactions depending on the positive or negative situations.

The dogs that ran to the locations were considered optimistic because they expected a good result. The ones that were a little more hesitant were considered pessimistic. The “pessimistic” dogs were usually the ones that got very anxious when left alone, anxiety would be considered a pessimistic trait. Dog’s emotions cannot be labeled directly because these emotions cannot be told. Essentially, we can assume dogs emotions based on finds of the human emotions.

The study seemed to prove the point that dogs, like people, had different personalities and outlooks on life. Do you think if dogs can be pessimistic they can be depressed? Are there any treatments dogs can receive to cure depression? Is depression in dogs able to be passed down genetically as it is with humans?

The Biology of Music http://missbakersbiologyclass.com/blog/2011/06/06/the-biology-of-music/ http://missbakersbiologyclass.com/blog/2011/06/06/the-biology-of-music/#commentsMon, 06 Jun 2011 13:44:16 +0000Noahttp://missbakersbiologyclass.com/blog/?p=2439

Te55 via Flickr

Everyone loves listening to music and it’s important in our daily lives, but nobody really understands how it affects us. Many researchers do experiments to see how music affects people, and it all has to do with our brains.

A group of researchers from Duke Medical School, led by a professor named Dale Purves, did research that showed different types of music has different affects on people. Dissonance (a minor type of sound) leads to unpleasant emotion while consonant music (major, happy music) leads to pleasure. A minor chord would be the same thing as dissonance, but dissonance can also be harmonies and intervals, not just chords, and the same thing goes for consonance. It’s also been said music copies the way emotions are used in speech, so a minor chord would be sad and a major chord would be happy. An example of a minor song would be Alicia Key’s song “Fallin’”, and a major song would be Jackson 5’s song “ABC”. If you listen to these two songs you could see a difference where “ABC” is much happier and is very upbeat, while “Fallin’” is a bit sadder and is less upbeat. Speech is even said in minor and major ways, so it translates to music. Dale Purves even said “Humans prefer tone combinations that are similar to those found in speech”.

The music tones are all related to how we pronounce words. The harmonies of music are related to vowels, because the harmonic structure of a vowel’s tone is the base of the musical scales. Researches have said that the scales that most appeal to us are the ones that are most alike our series of tones that we speak. All of the notes in the musical scale can be found in all languages one way or another, which connects music and speech together. This proves how music can affect our emotions and why we like which music we do like.

There was also another study that showed most songs whether Western or Classical use the same five to seven scales in most songs, but just in different ways. And these are used because humans use the information provided from them, and one of the first things you do when you’re a baby is cry, and then taught to speak. This helps humans develop an ear for tone and in music we use our abilities and that lies in how we speak. It is much easier to use what you know and those certain scales are familiar to all of us because they are used in our daily life, not just in music.

What are the scales that are most commonly used in music? How do these scales affect us, and why do they affect us?

Survival of the Prettiest http://missbakersbiologyclass.com/blog/2011/03/10/survival-of-the-prettiest/ http://missbakersbiologyclass.com/blog/2011/03/10/survival-of-the-prettiest/#commentsThu, 10 Mar 2011 15:06:56 +0000Ms Bakerhttp://missbakersbiologyclass.com/blog/?p=2388This post was originally published on November 23, 2007.  It has been slightly modified from its original format.

“I’m the aye-aye. According to scientists, my species has survived 60 million years on planet earth. I even play an important role in my ecosystem. But, right now I’m facing extinction from losing my habitat to humans. Some humans think I symbolize death and they kill me on sight, even though there is no scientific basis for this. Many think I’m too ugly to save. What do you think?”

Photo source: JLplusAL

While trying to find a good present for my two nieces I happened upon a website that sells endangered species adoption kits. I remembered several students mentioning you could adopt-a-manatee on a previous post and this website included manatees. It also included favorites such as penguins and polar bears. I immediately recognized it as a fun way to give my nieces a meaningful present.

As I moved through the list of available species, I noticed they were organized in the order of most to least popular. Tigers and pandas were at the top while anteaters and warthogs were at the bottom. The aye-aye was not even on the list.

Tiger is the Most Popular

Like the sympathy pains you feel when seeing the lonely dog at the pet store that no one seems to want, my heart went out to those animals at the bottom of the most popular list. I wanted to adopt those animals, but I didn’t think my nieces would like them as much.

Warthog is one of the Least Popular

This really got me thinking. Are we more likely to try to save animals that are attractive to us?

Better yet, what makes an animal attractive to us in the first place? Why are pandas, cheetahs, and meerkats at the top of our cute list while others are at the bottom?

Finally, with so many species on our planet facing extinction, is it biologically responsible to save only a select few?

Why don't you love me?? Photo source: Arno & Louise Wildlife

The Invisible Predator of the Depth http://missbakersbiologyclass.com/blog/2010/11/01/the-invisible-predator-of-the-depth/ http://missbakersbiologyclass.com/blog/2010/11/01/the-invisible-predator-of-the-depth/#commentsMon, 01 Nov 2010 19:45:03 +0000Monicahttp://missbakersbiologyclass.com/blog/?p=1190

Photo source: Asbjorn Hansen

There have always been conversations about animals with the power of camouflage and now there is even more to talk about.  A certain species of jellyfish can almost make itself ‘invisible.  This meaning that the jellyfish can make itself unknown to the prey it is about to capture.  The full name of this specimen is the Mnemiopsis leidyi, also known as the North American comb jellyfish. The North American comb jellyfish has bright bands of colors that divide the body into eight areas.  The comb jellyfish’s diet consists mainly of copepods, a plank tonic organism.

The following video was created by the Vancouver Aquarium.  It is a simple explanation on the appearance of the North American comb jellyfish.  Please notice the vibrant, exotic colors of the vertical ciliary combs.

This cunning jellyfish has an amazing tactic for survival which is making it not known to predators.  As stated before the main prey of the comb jellyfish is the Copepod.  Copepods are challenging to catch because of their ability to notice the slightest movement in water.  It would have thought to be a problem for the jellies because of their large gelatinous body.  The large body size would raise their chances of encountering prey, but would also decrease the actual amount of prey they catch because the plankton are highly cautious and would be able to detect the movements in the water; but the jellyfish have a certain mechanism that beat the odds.

The process of the voracious comb jellyfish was unknown until just recently when scientists were able to use advanced video technology to study the jellyfish.  It was shown that that the comb jellyfish use microscopic cilia (hairlike organelles) inside the oral lobes.  From there it creates a feeding ‘wave’ that slyly moves water between the lobes.  As the water moves slowly and carefully, it is carried into the jellyfish with the prey.  This technique leaves the prey unalarmed and not suspecting of being captured. By the time the Copepod is aware of what is going on it is too late to even think about escaping.

As you can see, the jellyfish do not literally turn invisible, but it might as well.  The functions of these unique creatures make the study of them so much more fascinating and interesting. What vibrant colors tend to actually light up of the jellyfish?  Also, how long does the process of catching the Copepod last? Soon, with this amazing method, the North American comb jellyfish will be the masters of the sea!

Why Do Fish Swim in Schools? http://missbakersbiologyclass.com/blog/2010/10/28/why-do-fish-swim-in-schools/ http://missbakersbiologyclass.com/blog/2010/10/28/why-do-fish-swim-in-schools/#commentsThu, 28 Oct 2010 15:35:44 +0000Aurorahttp://missbakersbiologyclass.com/blog/?p=1184

Photo source: Len Radin

According to an online article, research in the York Centre for Complex Systems Analysis discovered that fish organize themselves better when they feel under attack.  The more stressed the fish feel, the more they pay attention to each other’s movements.  They believe that the level of synchronization makes it harder for predators to pick out one individual.  In addition, in some cases scientists believe that fish do this to make the predator think that there aren’t hundreds of fish, but one giant fish that is generally larger than the predator itself.

The synchronization in a school of fish is very important.  Scientists recently studied how better synchronization can help improve the survival rate in these schools.  For example, if fish are able to swim in a specific pattern at the same rate and speed, they will have a better success rate when enemies seek to make prey out of them.  In addition, the fish now have an easier time finding food.  Now that they swim in a large group, they have a higher chance of finding food. This, therefore, aids them in their ultimate goal to survive and reproduce.

What is another survival benefit of fish swimming in large schools? Can more than one species of fish swim in the same school? Why or why not?

Can Rhesus Monkeys Recognize Their Own Reflection? http://missbakersbiologyclass.com/blog/2010/10/13/can-rhesus-monkeys-recognize-their-own-reflection/ http://missbakersbiologyclass.com/blog/2010/10/13/can-rhesus-monkeys-recognize-their-own-reflection/#commentsWed, 13 Oct 2010 12:41:38 +0000Emilyhttp://missbakersbiologyclass.com/blog/?p=1087Photo credits: Mor

Photo credits: Mor

Have you ever wondered why your pet doesn’t strike a pose when in front of a mirror? Well, that’s because most animals cannot recognize themselves in a mirror! Recent testing and studies conducted at the University of Wisconsin-Madison have shown that new head implants are able to trigger self-awareness, or the ability to understand that one exists as an individual, in rhesus monkeys. As only certain species, such as humans, some orangutans and chimpanzees, are self-aware, it is completely amazing that this technology has been discovered.

The head implant, which is made of acrylic blocks that attach to the monkey’s hair-thin electrodes, allowed it to pose and “check itself out” in front of a mirror. Recognizing one self in a mirror is believed to be a sign of self-awareness, and the monkey performed several self-directed behaviors while exposed to the mirror. It was hypothesized that the implant allowed the monkey to surmount its gaze aversion inhibition or lack of interest and actually examine itself in the mirror. Before the head implant was inserted, the monkey would try to socially interact with its reflection. He would touch and attempt to communicate with its image in the mirror, even after long exposure and much training.

The mark test, which is the standard test for self-awareness, is quite controversial but is commonly used to test self-awareness in different species. This test includes applying marks to the animal’s face while anesthetized, so that when the monkey wakes it will either touch the marks while in front of the mirror, or it will not. If the animal touches the marks, then it is said to have passed the test. Rhesus monkeys have persisted to fail this test and because of this, are not considered self-aware. However, results from this particular experiment show that the monkeys are able to recognize themselves in front of the mirror with the implant and have some form of self-awareness.

During the experiment, the monkey would move in front of the mirror and would even pick up the mirror and angle it, while it groomed the area around the implant. He would even smell and lick his fingers, which indicated that he understood the area being groomed was his own. The monkey did not attempt to groom his reflection or socialize with the image in the mirror, which is another indicator that he was self-aware.

The experiment is extremely interesting and has revealed much information about self-awareness in monkeys. Although monkeys have failed the mark test, they demonstrated some self-awareness when wearing the head implant. What other animals are self-aware? How have researchers made this discovery?

Do Fish Have Fears? http://missbakersbiologyclass.com/blog/2010/10/06/do-fish-have-fears/ http://missbakersbiologyclass.com/blog/2010/10/06/do-fish-have-fears/#commentsWed, 06 Oct 2010 13:49:26 +0000Mollyhttp://missbakersbiologyclass.com/blog/?p=1058

Photo by Protographer23

Of course, every human has a phobia of some sort, or something that frightens them every time they see, hear, or think about it. Plus, most fears humans have are natural and are subconscious.  On the other hand, goldfish can be trained to be frightened of images or things around them. New research and studies have shown that fish can be conditioned to react a certain way to a stimulus through classical conditioning. The study has created a breakthrough in human phobia research and possible solutions to human fears.

In a previous post on this blog, “Teach a Goldfish New Tricks” by Jeremy, he researched a study observed on goldfish learning simple tricks. He talks about a father and son teaching their pet goldfish how to navigate simple obstacles by luring them through with food. The fish complete several tricks like swimming through a pipe, swimming under a bar and even pushing a miniature soccer ball into a small net. The goldfish learned how to do these tricks because they were conditioned to a reward. This form of conditioning is operant because through trial and error the goldfish learn how to complete tricks in order to receive a reward.

In an article posted recently about a study on goldfish, the fish learned how to become afraid of a certain stimulus by a conditioned result. In the study, conducted by Masayuki Yoshida and Ruriko Hirano, the scientists trained the experimental goldfish to become afraid of a green light. They associated this light with a mild electric shock, so when scientists exposed the fish to the green light their heart rate would immediately slow down, or in other words become scared. The study was done to test if phobias could be controlled or not, and as a result the scientists were able to create a stimulus that the goldfish feared.

After the fish were trained to react to the green light, scientists injected lidocaine (a type of anesthetic) into the goldfishes’ cerebellum before they showed the fish the light. When the green light was shown to the fish with lidocaine in their brains they showed no fear of the green light. Scientists concluded that with a small dosage of lidocaine, the fish would forget their phobia of the green light and react as though they had never been trained to fear it.

This study has proven to be quite important to scientific studies relating to human brain reactivity and behavior because this could advance new technologies that will rid humans of our phobias. Although humans will never inject lidocaine inside our brains, the study proves that there is possibility to train humans to overcome phobias and fears that have haunted us in the past.

Why does a goldfish’s heart rate slows down instead of quickening like a human’s heart rate? Is this a contributing factor to why goldfish were able to be conditioned to be afraid? Finally, was this study useful to scientific research and future studies?