Creature Feature: Titi monkeys

If you ever visit the dense jungles of South and Central America, you may be lucky enough to encounter an elusive titi monkey (Callicebus spp.). Titi monkeys are small-bodied, monogamous New World primates that mate for life1. There are over thirty species of titi monkeys, but all share some unique characteristics. For instance, they have…

Sunday Sketch: Reindeer Games

Did you know? Reindeer are the only deer species where both males and females grow antlers. Though the males shed their antlers in late autumn after mating season, the females retain theirs throughout the winter pregnancy to defend scarce food patches. It is likely then, that Rudolph was in fact a female rather than a…

Field Fiasco Friday: The Lonely Male – Bentley

  It was nearly daybreak. In the twilight of the dry-forests of Costa Rica, I sat silent at the base of a giant tree along the trail. As everything around me slowly came into focus, the trees started to stir. At the top of the tree under which I sat, monkeys began to wake up…

5 Ways to be a Sensitive Animal

Animals, just like humans, can have personalities. Too bad, that unlike us, they can’t take online personality quizzes! Instead, scientists measure personality traits using behavioral assays.  For example, we can test the “shyness” of an individual cricket by putting him in a box in a new space and see how long it takes him to…

Creature Feature: Loggerhead shrike

Imagine a little songbird, with black feathers encircling its eyes, a sleek gray body, whistling a high-pitched tweet toot-toot. The kind of bird that on first glance, you might mistake for a miniature mockingbird. “Aww,” you might think, “what a darling tweety bird!” Well, you’d be mistaken. Much like the “killer rabbit” of Monty Python fame,…

Sunday Sketch: Flying Mammals

Did you know? Bats are the only mammals that can fly! Other “flying” mammals like sugar gliders, flying squirrels, and colugos cannot truly fly: they can only glide for short distances. Bats, however, are capable of powered flight for long durations. For more information on the evolution of bat flight: Zhang, G., Cowled, C., Shi,…

Field Fiasco Friday: Chupacabra Attack!

Field Fiasco Friday is a weekly segment highlighting the follies, foibles, farces, and failures that accompany any successful field season. Through this segment, we’ll share the stories of scientific data collection that don’t always make their way into the published results.     In early January of 2016, my colleagues and I headed out to South…

Like a Moth to Flame

How humans have accidentally hacked the light-loving instincts of animals (and how animal behavior can save them). Arguably one of humans’ most conspicuous behavioral traits is our unparalleled predilection for engineering the habitats we settle upon. As we shape the world around us, some species may be drawn towards our settlements – into what they…

Buggin’ Out

It’s a hot summer night in Davis, one of the rare few where the delta breeze fails to bring relief from the scorching daytime highs. Tossing and turning in bed, you decide the effort is futile and you might as well engage in a little nocturnal foraging bout. You drag yourself from bed, bleary-eyed, and…

Udderly brilliant: Chewing for cognition

If you’ve ever walked past a dairy farm, you’ve probably seen a cow or calf doing something pretty similar to this picture below. While it looks like this calf is just sticking its tongue out at you, in person it certainly looks like the animal is a little bit crazy. In motion, it looks like…

Bowels and Movements

It’s a classic scene: a majestic humpback whale breaches, thrusting its mass into the air. Its pectoral fins wave as it turns to land with a splash. It disappears into the depths before resurfacing, exhaling a spout of steam from its blowhole. We watch in awe, but there’s something missing in this description that may…

The Traveling Sales-Monkey

There is a famous problem in the field of computer science called the Traveling Salesman Problem (TSP for short). It goes something like this: you are a salesperson who needs to travel to some specific set of cities, and you want to travel the shortest distance possible. What is the shortest route such that you…