How do birds manage?
Central Canada's current heat wave no doubt has readers wondering how birds stand it, especially our friends the pigeons. Brian Palmer reports some of the strategies for Slate.com:
- "In the first place, small animals don't have to work very hard at keeping cool. They have a higher surface-to-mass ratio, so they radiate heat more efficiently."
- Pigeons can tolerate a greater internal temperature range than people. A pigeon's core temperature hovers around 42 C under normal circumstances, and sparrows top 43 C, so an ordinary heat wave doesn't bother them.
- Pigeons don't perspire at all. They employ a variation of panting called "gular fluttering," vibrating their throats. Some species of birds even urinate on their legs to evaporate the heat away.
- "Birds turn their bodies to face the sun, which exposes less surface area to the radiant heat."
Getting ready to rumble
"Birds show greater 'solidarity' when preparing for conflict with rival groups," research by the University of Bristol in England shows, The Independent reports. A study suggests birds may be capable of anticipation and future planning - a trait that was until recently considered to be the preserve of humans and other primates. "Dr. Andy Radford, from the university's school of biological sciences, studied a population of green wood hoopoes, common forest-dwelling birds in southern Africa, for the research. Green wood hoopoes, which live in groups of up to 12 individuals, frequently preen each other to promote social cohesion within the group. The new research, published on Wednesday in Biology Letters, found dominant group members increase their preening of subordinate members when moving into areas where clashes with other groups are likely. 'It's a case of scratching your back if you cover mine,' Dr. Radford said."
Worth it, no doubt
"Even though the gap between executive and entry-level worker pay has shrunk ever so slightly in the past couple of years," Douglas McIntyre writes for Dailyfinance.com, "it's still not unusual for the CEO of a large public company to earn more per day than some of his employees earn over the course of an entire year."
Our future best friend?
"Horses inherently understand people better than most other animals do, displaying tremendous sensitivity to even the most subtle eye and body movements, new research suggests," Jennifer Viegas reports for Discovery News. "According to the study, published in the latest issue of Animal Behaviour, horses are able to decipher certain types of human-given visual and auditory cues. Dogs, however, appear to be far more adept than any other species at figuring out what we are trying to communicate, especially when we're attempting to direct an animal's attention to an external object. … In the past, horses were mostly valued for their size, beauty, strength and other qualities not always associated with behaviour. Dogs, while bred for those traits too, were also selected for companionship characteristics. Depending on how horses are domesticated and trained in future, they may have the potential to catch up with dogs as being man's best understanding friend."
"Low-denomination U.S. bank notes change hands until they fall apart here in Africa, and the bills are routinely carried in underwear and shoes through crime-ridden slums," Associated Press reports. "Some have become almost too smelly to handle, so Zimbabweans have taken to putting their $1 bills through the spin cycle and hanging them up to dry with clothespins alongside sheets and items of clothing. … Zimbabweans say the U.S. notes do best with gentle hand-washing in warm water. But at a laundry and dry cleaner in eastern Harare, a machine cycle does little harm either to the cotton-weave type of paper. Locals say chemical dry-cleaning is not recommended - it fades the colour of the famed greenback."
Solve more clues
"Struggling with four across and eight down on your crossword? Then take a nap, a study suggests," Richard Alleyne reports for The Daily Telegraph. "Scientists have discovered that getting 40 winks improves your memory and helps you make links between loosely related facts. Feeling refreshed after a full night's rest is also a great aid to 'prospective memory' - being able to remember to do something in the future. … Dr. Mark McDaniel, a psychologist at Washington University in St. Louis …, said: "We found that sleep benefits prospective memory by strengthening the weak associations in the brain, and that hasn't been shown before." The study is published in the journal Psychological Science.
Thought du jour
"The study of history is a powerful antidote to contemporary arrogance. It is humbling to discover how many of our glib assumptions, which seem to us novel and plausible, have been tested before, not once but many times and in innumerable guises; and discovered to be, at great human cost, wholly false."
- Paul Johnson
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