Honeybees are some of nature’s finest mathematicians. Not only can they calculate angles and comprehend the roundness of the earth, these smart insects build and live in one of the most mathematically efficient architectural designs around: the beehive. Zack Patterson and Andy Peterson delve into the very smart geometry behind the honeybee’s home.
One “dog year” supposedly equals seven human years. But does one year feel like seven years to a dog? Evidence suggests that distinct species do indeed experience passing time on different scales. A recent study in Animal Behavior reveals that body mass and metabolic rate determine how animals of different species perceive time.
Time perception depends on how rapidly an animal's nervous system processes sensory information. To test this ability, researchers show animals a rapidly flashing light. If the light flashes quickly enough, animals (and humans) perceive it as a solid, unblinking light. The animal's behavior or its brain activity, as measured by electrodes, reveals the highest frequency at which each species perceives the light as flashing. Animals that can detect the blinking at higher frequencies are perceiving time at a finer resolution. In other words, movements and events will appear to unfold more slowly to them—think slow-motion bullet dodging in an action movie.
The scientists who ran the new study gathered data from previous experiments on the rate at which visual information is processed in 34 vertebrates, including lizards, birds, fish and mammals. The scientists hypothesized that the ability to detect incoming sights at a high rate would be advantageous for animals that must perform the equivalent of bullet dodging—responding to visual stimuli very quickly to catch elusive prey or escape predators, for instance. These animals tend to be lighter and have faster metabolisms. The data bore out the hypothesis: species that perceived time at the finest resolutions tended to be smaller and have faster metabolisms.
These findings show that differences in how a mouse and an elephant sense time are not arbitrary but rather are finely tuned by interactions with their surroundings. A link between time perception, body structure and physiology suggests that different nervous systems have developed to balance pressures from the natural environment with energy conservation. Rapid perception might be essential for a hawk but would waste a whale's precious energy. As for Fido, a year really does seem longer to him than it does to you, but probably not by a factor of seven. Dogs can take in visual information at least 25 percent faster than humans—just enough to make a television show look like a series of flickering images.
Photographer Michael Sutton spent hours getting up close and personal with a hive of honey bees at Hillside Apiaries in New Hampshire. He got stung three times. But he also got this gorgeous slo-mo footage of honey bees in flight.
Mantis shrimp possess an amazingly keen visual system and are able to discern ultraviolet light, which humans aren’t capable of seeing. A new study conducted by Michael Bok at the University of Maryland indicates that mantis shrimp use amino acids that are normally found as a natural sunscreen in animal skin in order to see UV light.
Social animals often develop relationships with other group members to reduce aggression and gain access to scarce resources. In wild chacma baboons the strategy for grooming activities shows a certain pattern across the day.
Katie Langin in National Geographic: According to a study published Tuesday in the journal Biology Letters, common red ants (Myrmica rubra) that were prevented from removing their nestmates' corpses died more frequently than those allowed to bring...
It's hard to study intelligence in humans — our cultures are incredibly complex, and what counts as "smart" is defined as much by our societies as it is by our genes. So some researchers have turned to chimpanzees to understand what actually gives rise to intelligence in the brain.