strange behaviors

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    Every Creeping Thing: True Tales of Faintly Repulsive Wildlife: “Conniff is a splendid writer–fresh, clear, uncondescending, and with never a false step; one can’t resist quoting him.” (NY Times Book Review)

    The Species Seekers:  Heroes, Fools, and the Mad Pursuit of Life on Earth by Richard Conniff is “a swashbuckling romp” that “brilliantly evokes that just-before Darwin era” (BBC Focus) and “an enduring story bursting at the seams with intriguing, fantastical and disturbing anecdotes” (New Scientist). “This beautifully written book has the verve of an adventure story” (Wall St. Journal)

    Swimming with Piranhas at Feeding Time by Richard Conniff  is “Hilariously informative…This book will remind you why you always wanted to be a naturalist.” (Outside magazine) “Field naturalist Conniff’s animal adventures … are so amusing and full color that they burst right off the page …  a quick and intensely pleasurable read.” (Seed magazine) “Conniff’s poetic accounts of giraffes drifting past like sail boats, and his feeble attempts to educate Vervet monkeys on the wonders of tissue paper will leave your heart and sides aching.  An excellent read.” (BBC Focus magazine)

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These Migrating Birds Take Turns at the Hard Work of Windbreaking

Posted by Richard Conniff on February 1, 2015

A flock of Northern bald ibis over the Adriatic Sea during their migration. (Photo: A.G. Schmalstieg)

A flock of Northern bald ibis over the Adriatic Sea during their migration.
(Photo: A.G. Schmalstieg)

When flying in formation, the lead bird does the aerodynamic heavy lifting, and everybody else benefits by following in the aerodynamically sheltered path of another bird.  So why does the lead bird do it? And do they take turns? A new study of Northern Bald Ibises tests that question with multiple observations of migrating flocks.

They find that these birds travel in stable flocks, often including many related individuals. So they know each other and have ample motive for reciprocation. The result is that they do indeed take turns, following certain character patterns of shifting position. The authors conclude: “The V-formation flight of Northern bald ibis does not only provide a convincing example for reciprocal altruism in animals, but it also delivers hints for the conditions that might have favored its evolution.”

Check out the full article in PNAS here.

Biologists and foster parents with hand-raised Northern bald ibis at the ultralight paraplane used in the study. (Photo: Johannes Fritz)

Biologists and foster parents with hand-raised Northern bald ibis at the ultralight paraplane used in the study. (Photo: Johannes Fritz)

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