Archive by category | Animal Behavior Society

ABS: Tracking prion disease in the wild

A new project is aiming to predict the potential spread of the world’s only prion disease found in wild animals. The research aims to second-guess the effects of chronic wasting disease (CWD), a fatal condition similar to mad cow disease that affects several species of deer. Given the conservation implications of the deadly disease for the deer, and the uncertainty over whether it can be spread to humans, it’s a timely research effort.  Read more

ABS: chimps in a world of their own?

One of the most thought-provoking discussions at the meeting has been on the welfare of captive non-human primates. We share an undeniably close kinship with these animals, particularly in the case of chimps, but interpreting their behaviour and trying to act in their best interests seems as thorny as ever. Some experts argue that, if we give them the chance, the chimps will tell us exacty what they want. But the problem is that in learning to communicate with us, the chimps must necessarily adopt a more human lifestyle than they would otherwise have.  Read more

ABS: Rats can smell your relatives

Rats can smell whether two people are related or not, according to new research. The discovery underlines the fact that a person’s natural smell can depend on their genes, and that odour similarities between related people are significant enough to be detected by the sensitive nose of a rat.  Read more

ABS: Watch out, here comes Robo-squirrel

Scientists have a new ally in their battle to understand animal behaviour – a robotically animated dead squirrel. Designed by Aaron Rundus of the University of California, Davis, it is helping to show how California ground squirrels protect their pups from rattlesnakes.  Read more

ABS: The squirrels that smell like snakes

It might not put Chanel out of business, but for ground squirrels it’s the must-have fragrance of the season. Researchers have discovered that several species of ground squirrel coat themselves in rattlesnake scent to confuse their slithering enemies. The wily squirrels splash on the ‘eau de rattlesnake’ by chewing on the shed skins of snakes and then licking their own fur, giving themselves a coating of snake scent that disguises them from the predators, reports Barbara Clucas of the University of California, Davis.  Read more

ABS: The power of personality

Every research field has its buzzwords. And for those who study animal behaviour, the latest one is ‘behavioural syndromes’. It’s kind of like personality profiling for animals, and the concept’s originators hope it will offer more realistic ways to think about their behaviour. And as some researchers point out, it could even shine a light on that most infuriatingly complex of animals, humans.  Read more