Creature Feature: Pin-tailed whydah

This parasitic bird has moved across the world to the Hollywood hills with dreams of making it big in Los Angeles. But will it succeed, and will it threaten native species?

Sunday Sketch: Are You a Squitter?

Spotted hyenas are no quitters, but they are squitters! A squitter is the annoying, grating sound a spotted hyena cub makes when it wants its mother to let it nurse. This sound is just one of about a dozen distinct vocalizations in the spotted hyena repertoire. Other calls in include “whooping”, “giggling”, “lowing”, and “alarm…

Field Frame Friday: Pandas aren’t the only bamboo eaters around here!

Bamboo lemurs, like the northern bamboo lemur pictured here (Hapalemur occidentalis), are most well known for their specialist diet on bamboo. Some groups of the genus, however, are known to eat other grasses. [Photo and caption by Meredith Lutz] Eppley, T. M., Verjans, E., & Donati, G. (2011). Coping with low-quality diets: a first account…

Sunday Sketch: Interrupt Much?

Meerkats use a variety of vocalizations to communicate in their tightly knit social groups, but all that talking takes coordination. And that coordination takes skill. Meerkats are particularly fond of communicating when they are “sunning”, which is pretty much exactly what it sounds like. Meerkats’ “sunning calls” are a special vocalization that only occurs during…

Field Frame Friday: Eavesdropping to survive

Although they aren’t particularly vocal themselves, Malagasy spiny-tailed iguanas (Oplurus cuvieri) have learned to distinguish the predator alarm calls of their forest coinhabitants – including from those animals’ normal vocalisations. This “eavesdropping” allows the iguanas to get away before they become a tasty snack to local birds of prey. [Photo and caption by Meredith Lutz]…

Creature Feature: The kelp forest—an underwater housing crisis

Let’s take a dip into the dark, chilly waters of northern California, where upwelling supplies nutrients to a forest canopy of slick, bulbous kelp tendrils, tangles of verdant sea grasses, and richly iridescent seaweeds. Kelps are considered “ecosystem engineers” as they provide habitat structure and modulate nutrient dynamics for a diverse host of tenants.

Sunday Sketch: A whole snake? Piece of cake!

Snakes can eat a wide variety of animals due to their many feeding adaptations that allow them to consume animals that are bulkier and larger than what would seem possible at first glance. Snakes often eat other animals with elongated body plans such as other snakes, eels, and lizards. Still, they certainly can’t eat anything…

Field Frame Friday: That’s not your kettle. It’s a Pigeon Guillemot!

During the breeding season, Pigeon Guillemots (Cepphus columba) can often be heard making high-pitched vocalizations to one another. Whistles may be used by males to attract a mate, while trills are utilized between pairs. This particular bird, located on Southeast Farallon Island, had just finished trilling over a long distance to their mate. [Photo and…

Field Frame Friday: Lemur sleep holes

Although sportive lemurs, like the red-tailed sportive lemur (Lepilemur ruficaudatus) seen here are nocturnal, they can sometimes be spotted in their sleep holes during the day (Rakotomalala et al., 2017). Reference: Rakotomalala, E. J., Rakotodraparany, F., Perofsky, A. C., & Lewis, R. J. (2017). Characterization of the tree holes used by Lepilemur ruficaudatus in the dry,…

Ethogram Statement of Solidarity

We stand in solidarity with the Black members of our community whose paths within academia and society have been challenged by structural racism and oppression. We see and vehemently oppose the blatant acts of ongoing police brutality. More broadly, we condemn the systemic and structural racism that allows for the excessive use of force and the lack…

Sunday Sketch: Gentle Giants

Whale sharks (Rhincodon typus) are the largest fish on the planet and can grow up to 18 meters in length! Now if you’ve seen Jaws, you must be wondering: Can it eat me? If so, why haven’t I heard of these sharks before? Well, whale sharks are filter-feeders and feed on plankton (very small crustaceans and fish) so they hardly make the news. More…

Field Frame Friday: Crowded Colony Life

Common Murres (Uria aalge) live in some close quarters! These tightly packed colonies, called “loomeries,” allow for Common Murres to practice allopreening (grooming one another). In addition to reducing parasite loads, allopreening may also play an important social role. Mates groom mates and neighbors groom neighbors! [Photo and caption by Lindsey Broadus] Lewis, S. Roberts,…

Creature Feature: Sulphur-crested cockatoo

Since Snowball the sulphur-crested cockatoo went viral with his dance moves, plenty of cockatoos and other parrot species have been observed boogieing to their favorite jams. What makes these birds such good dancers? The leading hypothesis is that their innate vocal learning ability has equipped them with the special perceptual and cognitive tools that allow them to feel the rhythm and move to a beat.

Sunday Sketch: Aquatic Landscapers keep coral reefs tidy and thriving

Coral reefs & algae have a symbiotic relationship, where single-celled algae (called zoozanthellae) living inside corals provide energy to build the intricate calcium-carbonate structures that host an entire underwater ecosystem (for more on reef-building corals check out this Creature Feature). However, as with most things in life, too much of a good thing can turn bad; too…

Field Frame Friday: You know what they say about long tails..

Although all Paradise flycatcher (Terpsiphone mutata) females are red, males come in multiple colors, including red/blue, white/blue, and intermediate patterns as shown here. Males sport long tails almost the length of their body, which may help them gain mating advantages as they compete for females.  [Photo and caption by Meredith Lutz] Sinclair, I., & Langrand,…

Sunday Sketch: Shrimp Make Good Moms and Dads

Peppermint shrimp (Lysmata boggessi) are a common ornamental salt water aquarium invertebrate species beloved by many hobbyists for their bright candy cane stripes and lively behaviors. What most people don’t know is that these shrimp are considered protandric simultaneous hermaphrodites. When they first reach adulthood they have male reproductive organs, but as they get bigger they…

Field Frame Friday: Cat Call via Crab Claw?

“Hey there, wanna check out my burrow?” Fiddler crabs (genus: Uca) have sexual dimorphism, meaning that males and females have different characteristics aside from their sexual organs. This male thick-legged fiddler crab (Uca crassipes) has a claw that is much larger than the female (on the right) and can be used for communication, courtship, and…

Field Notes: Research in the time of COVID-19

COVID19 has been a tough pill to swallow for everyone, from teachers, to parents, to everyday employees. The global pandemic has caused unprecedented impacts not only on the workforce and economy, but everyday life as well. Academic research has both suffered and flourished in new and surprising ways under the heel of COVID19. Last month, as we were all adapting to stay-at-home orders, we highlighted some of our animal behavior researchers’ pandemic version of “the field.” For this month’s field notes, we are checking in with them to find out just how the pandemic has impacted their research for worse, or for better.

Sunday Sketch: Make me crabby and I’ll get jabby

Lybia edmondsoni, also known as the “boxer crab” or “pom pom crab”, employs a rather unique anti predator defense. With the aid of minute sea anemones in each claw, these crabs can attack oncoming predators by delivering a jab and electric shock. This relationship is mutualistic, meaning that the anemones get something in exchange for…

Field Frame Friday: Incoming sea gull! Take (algae) cover!

Sea urchins, including this purple sea urchin (Strongylocentrotus purpuratus) will use their tiny tube feet to grab and cover themselves in pieces of algae, small rocks or shells. It is thought that this behavior protects urchins from drying out in tidepools, getting eaten by seagulls, or being damaged by the sun’s ultraviolet rays. [Photo and…

Creature Feature: Fat-tailed dwarf lemur

A primate that hibernates? Check out this week’s Creature Feature to learn more about the fat-tailed dwarf lemur, a nocturnal, hibernating primate from Madagascar!

Field Frame Friday: Fossa need some floss-a

The Malagasy civet (Fossa fossana) is a small terrestrial carnivore from Madagascar’s rain forests. Contrary to their name, they are not closely related to civets, but rather a part of the endemic family Eupleridae. They have a diverse diet including crabs, frogs, snakes, millipedes, rodents, and tenrecs. This photo was captured using camera-traps, a type…

Sunday Sketch: Daddy Day Care

Titi monkeys (Callicebus cupreus) are studied not only for their monogamy, but also because fathers are actually the primary caretakers of the babies! Mothers will provide nourishment through nursing, but most of the time you’ll see the baby titi monkey clinging to their father for the first few months of their life. However, for families…

Field Frame Friday: Webbed-toes and ringed tails

Ring tailed mongooses (Galidia elegans) have webbing in between their toes, which allows them to more easily run around the unstable forests that they call home. This adaptation can even allow them to swim! [Photo and caption by Meredith Lutz] Goodman et al. (2012) Les Carnivora de Madagascar. Association Vahatra Guides Dur La Diverstié Biologique…

Creature Feature: Tongue-eating louse

“Hey Mr. Fish, Cat got your tongue?” Nope! Actually, it’s the parasite Cymothoa exigua, commonly known as the tongue-eating louse. Despite their louse-y nickname, C. exigua are actually isopods (a type of crustacean like crabs or shrimp). And as you probably guessed from their common name, they do some pretty freaky stuff! Tongue-eating lice are…

Sunday Sketch: Monarch Conservation

Monarch butterflies (Danaus plexippus), shown in caterpillar form above, are experiencing dramatic declines in population numbers. One method to help conserve species in decline is to rear and release captive individuals into the wild. Of course, this plan of action only works if captive-reared individuals are as capable as their wild counterparts. In a study…

Field Frame Friday: Silky, elusive, and endangered

Silky sifaka (Propithecus candidus) are among the worlds most endangered primates, with less than 1000 remaining in the wild. Native to the steep, mountainous rainforests of northeastern Madagascar, silkies, as they are often called, make ‘zzuss’ vocializations. Sounding like a combination of a sneeze, a lip smack, and sifaka, these calls act as both alarm…

Newsroom: Improving Wildlife Welfare

Check out this week’s newsroom, featuring Karli Chudeau and her recent publication on how enrichment influences seal behavior and its importance for the reintroduction success of rehabilitated animals.

Science & Culture: Opening the Door to the Cell

What are cell membranes? Every human is composed of billions of cells. Cells perform a multitude of important activities, like making energy, digesting nutrients, and managing our immune system. To operate these processes without interference, each cell protects itself with an outer shell called a cell membrane. These shells do a plethora of activities for…

Sunday Sketch: Lamprey Immunity

Suddenly we are all spending a lot more time thinking about our immune systems—but what about the immune systems of the animals around us? For a long time it was thought that only animals with jaws and vertebrates had lymphocytes, but research with sea lampreys suggests otherwise. Researchers found lymphocyte-like cells in the gut of these charming…

Field Frame(s) Friday: COVID-19 Edition

COVID-19 Edition: While navigating through uncharted waters of a pandemic, scientists are dealing with physical isolation, the inability to run lab experiments, the uncertain fates of upcoming field seasons, and learning how to work from home! In the upcoming weeks, unable to resist our scientific endeavors, we will be sprinkling in how animal behavior researchers at UC Davis continue research in the “field.”

Creature feature: Common poorwill

At a time when people are encouraged to isolate themselves and remain indoors to slow the spread of the 2019 coronavirus, many of us are feeling antsy or idle. But sitting inactive for long periods of time is the name of the game for the common poorwill. These birds are a member of the nightjar…

Sunday Sketch: Social Distancing

We are all adjusting to a new normal, but for some animals social distancing is a way of life. Take the slow loris for example. These guys are happiest hanging out at home by them selves. One study found that these guys only spend 3% of their time in association with other slow lorises and…

Sunday Sketch: International Day of the Seal!

Did you know that March 22 is the International Day of the Seal? Seals are a part of the phylogenetic suborder Pinnipedia that consist of seals, sea lions, and walruses. Seals (Family: Phocidae) live in both the northern and southern hemispheres of our planet, from the cold, polar regions of the arctic and antarctic, to the…

Newsroom: What’s in a Song?

Our newest piece features Allison Lau, who investigates individuality in singing titi monkeys!
@AllisonRLau @BalesLab

Creature Feature: Ringneck snake

To readers with ophidiophobia, or the fear of snakes, Ireland should be high on your vacation destination list. Popular legend attributes the Emerald Isle’s lack of legless reptiles to the actions of St. Patrick. He is said to have banished all snakes from Ireland in the 5th century AD after the serpentine critters attempted to…

Field Notes: The Inconvenient Truth (about field work)

Hello Ethogrammers! Maggie and Karli here, your editors who work behind the scenes with all the wonderful Field Notes writers each month. For many of us, field seasons are fast approaching, and while Field Notes gives you the glamorous, adventurous parts of our contributors’ science adventures, there is a lesser-known but equally important part of…