Day: June 4, 2022

USA: ‘Bees are fish!’ Judge issues bizarre animal rights ruling amid row ‘great day for bees’.

A US Judge has ruled that bees can legally be classified as fish, in a bizarre move to protect endangered bees.

‘Bees are fish!’ Judge issues bizarre animal rights ruling amid row ‘great day for bees’ | Science | News |

According to the decision made by a California appeals court, bees in the US can now be legally called a fish. While odd, this move will now allow the government in California to protect endangered bee species, many of which are under threat from climate change. The ruling came on Tuesday after agricultural groups sued California wildlife officials for attempting to list four bumble bee species under the California Endangered Species Act (CESA).

The judge reversed a previous ruling by a lower court, which then noted that threatened or endangered species of bees could be listed under the CESA category of fish as the definition of “fish” is broad and includes invertebrates.

Pamela Flick from Defenders of Wildlife, one of the case’s intervenor defendants said: “It is a great day for California’s bumble bees.

“Today’s decision confirms that California Endangered Species Act protections apply to all of our state’s imperilled native species and is critical to protecting our state’s renowned biodiversity.

“Bees and other pollinators are integral to healthy ecosystems and the crucial pollination services they provide serve all of us, making this decision exponentially more consequential.”

According to Xerces Society, a conservation group, this decision will pave the way for critical protections that are needed for four endangered bumble bee species that occur in California.

It will also allow the Commission to protect other imperilled insects under CESA, which provides protection for some of the most vulnerable plants and animal species in the region, providing a pathway for these species to boost their populations to ensure they don’t go extinct.

CESA rules define an “endangered species” to include a bird, mammal, fish, amphibian, reptile, or plant.

The issue arose when activists pointed out that this definition could leave out a number of other threatened species, such as insects.

Regards Mark

The weird reason dolphins drink each other’s pee.

For dolphins, friendship is a matter of taste.

Dolphins get to know their friends by tasting their pee, a new study finds. By sampling sips of each other’s urine, dolphins demonstrated a type of social recognition that begins with an exchange of whistles that are unique to specific individuals — much like human names. 

Scientists have long known that dolphins identify themselves using so-called signature whistles that are different for each dolphin and that they address one another by imitating such whistles. But researchers were uncertain if this copying showed that dolphins associate signature whistles with individual identity or with a more general concept such as “friend.” 

Recently, scientists learned that not only do bottlenose dolphins demonstrate name recognition, they also replicate this recognition with another sense: taste. 

By tasting each other’s urine and recognizing the source, the dolphins showed that they could keep track of dolphin identities using two types of sensory input. This means the animals could create and store a mental concept of other dolphins, according to the new study.

Flavorful friends

Researchers discovered that dolphins do this kind of identification via pee-tasting while investigating if the animals are truly calling each other by name when they copy whistles. The scientists conducted what is known as a cross-modal study, in which experiments test if an animal can recognize an object or another animal across multiple cues received from different senses. 

Scientists have previously used such experiments in a wide array of animals, including fish and monkeys. But communication systems in most animals lack sounds that are recognizable as labels for individuals, such as dolphins’ signature whistles, the researchers wrote.

However, finding a second sense in dolphins that was testable under laboratory conditions was challenging. Testing dolphin sight or echolocation would “involve moving giant monitors or even the dolphins themselves around, which is impossible,” said lead study author Jason Bruck, a biologist at Stephen F. Austin State University in Texas. But dolphins are known to swim through other dolphins’ urine plumes, mouths agape, and they may do so to get social information “the way a dog sniffs a hydrant,” Bruck told Live Science. 

“Except dolphins would have to do that with taste, not with smell,” as the cetaceans lack olfactory bulbs, he added.

A question of identity

Researchers found that dolphins spent roughly three times as long sampling urine from unfamiliar dolphins as they did from familiar ones. This suggested that the animals could identify known fellows by taste.

To test for persistence of identification across senses, researchers paired recordings of signature whistles with urine from dolphins: in some of the pairings, the urine came from the whistler, while in others it was produced by a different dolphin. The scientists then introduced dolphins to the sound of a whistle and the taste of a urine sample.

Related: This whale-dolphin hybrid is not a ‘wholphin.’ Here’s why.

When the pee matched the whistle, listening dolphins lingered closer to playback speakers. This indicated that the animals recognized the consistency in signals perceived by two senses — taste and hearing — and that both taste and sound came from the same dolphin.

These findings mean that for dolphins, whistles represent the specific dolphin’s identity in other dolphins’ minds, including the taste of that dolphins’ pee.

“We now know that when a dolphin produces that signature whistle, they really are referring to that dolphin they’re copying,” Bruck said. “They are using those whistles in much the same way that we use names.”

Lipid mechanisms?

Future studies could investigate the mechanisms behind this newly discovered dolphin ability, Bruck said. Dolphins’ taste-driven identification may be driven by lipid recognition; if so, dolphin research may reveal a lipid-sensitive taste bud that’s bigger and more robust than the human variety and therefore easier to study. Such a discovery could inform research into obesity in humans, Bruck said.

More fundamentally, these findings could open new avenues of dolphin research, Bruck added. “Transmitting social information from dolphin to dolphin [is] as easy as [using] an underwater speaker” and could offer insights into “how dolphins perceive each other as individuals,” he said.

The findings were published May 18 in the journal Science Advances.

Original article on Live Science.

Regards Mark

What’s the difference between a moth and a butterfly?

Butterflies and moths have numerous behavioral and physical differences.

Say the word “butterfly” and a brilliant, orange-and-black-winged Monarch butterfly may fly through your mind. Say “moth,” meanwhile, and the brain may conjure up an image of a dull, brown-winged pest that nibbles holes through clothing.

But is appearance really the main difference between these two types of winged insects? What exactly is the difference between moths and butterflies?

It turns out the difference is more than wing deep.

Moths and butterflies both belong to the order Lepidoptera, but there are numerous physical and behavioral differences between the two insect types.

Related: How do mosquitoes sniff out humans to bite?

First of all, moths are much more diverse than butterflies. There are about 160,000 species of moths, according to the Smithsonian Institution(opens in new tab), versus about 11,000 of butterflies.

Both types of insects have scales on their wings. But moths tend to have drab, brown or beige wings, while butterflies are typically more brilliantly decorated, Smithsonian Institution notes. 

This coloration difference may in part be due to behavioral differences between the two types of insects. Moths are nocturnal and try to camouflage themselves during the day on dark objects like bark and leaves. 

Butterflies also camouflage themselves in this way, but they are diurnal, meaning they spend the daylight hours flitting from flower to flower sipping nectar. Their brightly colored wings are often an attempt to tell predators that they contain nasty-tasting chemicals, according to Reiman Gardens at Iowa State University(opens in new tab).

Another behavioral difference between the two is that butterflies usually fold their wings back to rest, while moths flatten their wings against their bodies, BBC’s Science Focus reported(opens in new tab).

Their pupal stage (between the larva and adult stages) is slightly different, too. Moths make cocoons wrapped in silk. Butterflies, on the other hand, form chrysalises, which are hard, smooth and silkless, according to the Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden(opens in new tab) in Henrico, Virginia.

Other physical differences abound. Butterfly antennae are thin with club-shaped tips, compared with the feathery or comb-like antennae of moths. 

In addition to the difference in wing coloration, with butterflies sporting more vibrant colors, moth wings, unlike butterfly wings, have a structure called a frenulum, which joins the forewing to the hind wing.

Though these various traits usually distinguish a butterfly from a moth, there are numerous exceptions to these rules. The comet moth or Madagascan moon moth (Argema mittrei) sports brilliant yellow wings dotted with bright red spots and is active during the day, according to the National History Museum(opens in new tab) in London. And the endangered Schaus swallowtail (Heraclides aristodemus ponceanus), which lives in Florida’s swamps, has rather boring brown coloration, speckled with some white spots, according to the University of Florida(opens in new tab).

Regards Mark