Science 

Ants care for wounded comrades by licking their wounds clean

“Lie still, this won’t hurt a bit”Erik T. Frank By Jasmin Fox-Skelly A species of ant has become the first known non-human animal to tend the wounds of its fellows. “Nurse” ants lick the wounds of fallen comrades, and this helps them survive. Matabele ants (Megaponera analis) live dangerous lives. Several times a day, parties of 200-600 soldier ants set out to hunt termites, dragging them from their nests and carrying them home. The termites fight back, and their powerful jaws can administer lethal bites, so Matabele ants frequently lose…

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Science 

Birds ‘dream sing’ by moving their vocal muscles in their sleep

They don’t just sing while they’re awakeArco Images GmbH / Alamy Stock Photo By Chris Baraniuk Practice, they say, makes perfect. Zebra finches are such dedicated musicians that they appear to rehearse their songs during sleep. It has been known for some time that, while zebra finches sleep, their brains spontaneously reproduce the activation patterns they make when they sing during the day. Now it seems the birds’ vocal muscles actually move in response to these neural signals. Gabriel Mindlin of the University of Buenos Aires and his colleagues surgically…

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Science 

How besieged ants decide when it’s time to abandon their nests

Alex Wild/alexanderwild.com By Joshua Rapp Learn Colonies of turtle ants behave as if they are playing a game of Risk. They spread out their forces to control more resources, but also retreat if their position is not defensible. “They’re sensitive to changes in the environment. They can change the allocation of their defenses in response to that,” says Matina Donaldson-Matasci at Harvey Mudd College in California. Cephalotes rohweri is a species of turtle ant that lives in trees in the Sonoran Desert of Mexico and Arizona. Each colony can hold a few…

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Science 

After crows fight they touch and preen each other to make up

Francois Gohier/ardea.com Crows may sound unpleasant and represent a living symbol of death, but it seems a murder of crows has a soft side – even when it is made up of relative strangers. Crows belong to a group of birds called corvids, known for their intelligence. They are loyal birds, forming long-lasting social relationships with specific individuals. To find out how they form new relationships, Miriam Sima at the Max Planck Institute for Ornithology in Germany, and her coauthors studied crows that were unfamiliar to each other. They wanted…

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Science 

Great tits avoid bad food after seeing grossed-out friends

BIOSPHOTO/Alamy Stock Photo Great tits that exhibit disgust when they eat a horrible meal may inadvertently be driving their prey to evolve. Many prey animals have evolved deterrents so that predators will be reluctant to eat them: they may have an unpalatable taste or even be poisonous. They often signal this with bright and contrasting colours, like the yellow and black stripes of a wasp. But it’s not clear how these “aposematic” signals evolved. “Predators need to first learn the signal before they avoid it, but until they do these…

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Science 

Macho, macho monkey: female monkeys gaze more at masculine faces

Take a good long lookRosenfield, Semple et al By Alice Klein Female monkeys spend more time staring at males with strong masculine facial features. But it’s not clear why their gaze lingers like this. Face structure often varies between male and female members of a species. In humans, men tend to have heavier brows, squarer jaws, deeper-set eyes and thinner lips than women. Some researchers believe that facial masculinity signals mate quality, but this is hotly contested. To find out, Kevin Rosenfield, who was at Roehampton University in the UK…

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Top Stories World 

It’s not just you: Scientists finally admit pets have distinct personalities

Until recently, science has been reluctant to embrace the idea that animals have emotions — an observable fait accompli for anyone with a companion animal. But scientists have also ignored how non-human animals feel and express their emotions through mood and personality. Why is science arriving so late to the notion that humans aren’t unique in our emotional responses and individual personalities? Unconscious bias certainly played a role, as scientists betrayed a desire for human-animal towards difference, if not outright superiority. None of us are immune to this confusion, not…

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Science 

Huge dose of brain chemical dopamine may have made us smart

Tiziana Fabi/AFP/Getty Images By Andy Coghlan We may owe some of our unique intelligence to a generous supply of a signalling chemical called dopamine in brain regions that help us think and plan. Our brains produce far more dopamine in these regions than the brains of other primates like apes. Dopamine is a brain signalling chemical that is vital for our control of movement. It is  depleted in people with Parkinson’s disease, leading to mobility problems, tremors and speech impairments. But it also plays a pivotal role in many cognitive abilities at…

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Science 

Sheep learn to recognise celebrity faces from different angles

There are sheep who can recognise Barack ObamaAhmet Izgi/Anatolia News Agency/AFP Photo/Getty By Andy Coghlan They’re looking at ewe. Sheep have shown an unexpected capacity to recognise straight mugshots of four celebrities, but then to identify those same megastars in side profiles they’d not seen before. Humans and monkeys are the only other creatures known to do this from two-dimensional images. The eight sheep that took part were trained to familiarise themselves with straight mugshots of four celebrities: former US president Barack Obama, UK newsreader Fiona Bruce, and actors Emma…

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