Creature Feature: Acorn Woodpecker

“It takes a village to raise a child”, goes the old proverb. The acorn woodpecker (Melanerpes formicivorus) seemingly takes this advice to heart.  This California native species fits well into the state’s ecological, and political, landscape.  These birds lead secret lives of free love and communal values, à la hippie communes of the 1960s and…

Sunday Sketch: Badger’s Buddy

North America’s coyote and badger species are regularly found hunting together as a team. As they employ different hunting methods for driving out the same prey, one will dig up the quarry while the other gives chase- allowing them to capture three times as much food. Happy Year of the Dog! Sketch and fact contributed…

Field Fiasco: Gibbon Tease

When working in Sabah, Malaysia, I encountered some of the most frustrating primates I’ve ever worked with. That’s really saying something, considering that I now work with the very mischievous Rhesus macaques. To this day I still remember this frustrating group of gibbons, which I called the “office group.” During my 2015 field season, I…

Beyond the Scientific Bubble: The Inequity Dilemma in Field Research

As animal behaviorists, we often conduct fieldwork in very different regions of the world. We might find ourselves carrying out studies in the cold Arctic tundra, lush tropical forests of Madagascar, or even in a parking lot in the California Central Valley. Most biologists will tell you their motivations stem from a need to understand…

Creature Feature: Peacock Spider

Everyone knows the classic example of a flashy male peacock showing off its flamboyant feathers to attract a female counterpart. These traits are considered the epitome of the products of sexual selection1. However, few are aware of an equally impressive example, the Australian peacock spider. There are 48 described species of peacock spiders of the…

Sunday Sketch: Galentines Day

Still looking for the perfect date for Valentine’s Day? Maybe this is the year to take a leaf from the female Komodo dragon’s book. When there are no males around,  female Komodo dragons can still produce fertile eggs! When scientists first documented this they thought that they were storing sperm from previous interactions with males…

Field Fiasco: Fossa Follies

Before my trip to Madagascar last summer, I was guaranteed a fossa sighting— a must-see on my Madagascar bucket list. Fossa are Madagascar’s largest endemic carnivores, and these nocturnal animals are closely related to the mongoose. During previous field seasons in the rainforest of Madagascar, we had caught pictures of fossa on our camera traps (cameras…

Creature Feature: Florida Apple Snail

Have you ever noticed mysterious clusters of smooth pea-shaped spheroids—often white- or pink-colored—stuck to the stems of aquatic plants or debris? More than likely, these are the eggs of an aquatic snail. If you ever find yourself paddling through the Florida everglades, the egg clumps you see may be laid by the beautiful Florida apple…

Sunday Sketch: Weather Bee

Did you know? In honor of groundhog day, here’s an animal that can really predict the weather! Sensing drops in barometric pressure, as well as other changes in the environment, a honeybee hive puts in extra work in before a rain. Sketch and fact contributed by Victor Santiago Source: Xujiang, He & Tian, Liu-Qing &…

Field Fiasco: Adversity in the Arctic

  Many field fiascos recount the terrors of tropical clines, from bugs frightening in both size and number, to the various forms “Rain” can take.  This week, our stories come from the opposite end of the earth: the snow-covered Arctic circle. Dr. Jesse Krause, a post-doctoral scholar in the lab of Dr. John Wingfield, has…

Creature Feature: Axolotl

Imagine a creature with translucent skin, a headdress made of feathery membranes that it uses to breathe underwater, elusive in its natural habitat of subterranean or cavern pools.  Sounds like science fiction, but fact is often stranger than fantasy. The axolotl, Ambystoma mexicanum, is a species of salamander originating in the cenotes of southern Mexico…