Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Bat Brains, New Snakes, and Stupid Humans

The new year brings some fantastic animal news. And, not surprisingly, it also brings some extremely stupid human behavior. But, let's look to the good news first, shall we?

Georgetown University Medical Center just released the article "Bat Brains Parse Sounds for Multitasking," on a study by Georgetown professor and renowned bat researcher Jagmeet Kanwal, PhD. His research, recently published in the European Journal of Neuroscience, reports on bat brain multitasking, showing that, apparently, they process both incoming signals which allow them to navigate via echolocation, while at the same time, they also process a variety of social communication sounds from the other bats. Furthermore, Dr. Kanwal has been able to track this parsing of duties to a single neuron level for the first time.

After having been told off personally by a bat I rescued last year, I am not surprised to hear scientists describing bat communication as similar to humans. The article describes a bit of bat lingo as follows: "Bats make angry sounds such as "back off," warning sounds like "watch out!" and other sounds for communicating messages such as "please don't hurt me," of even "I love you!" " The one I rescued sounded more to me like he was saying, "Up yours!" Anyway, what I was most excited by were some of the similarities found in bat and human brain functions, like a similar lopsided split in the cerebral cortex's wiring to deal with the phenomenon of combination-sensitivity. That's right, I get excited about this kind of stuff.

Photo by Michele Menegon Courtesy of The Science Museum of Trenton/WCS
I'm both excited and dismayed to learn of a new species of snake, Matilda's Horned Viper, discovered in the Tanzanian forest. I'm thrilled to see this new, beautiful species first described in the December Zootaxa journal. I'm dismayed to read Tim Davenport of The Wildlife Conservation Society report that this beautiful new species may be listed as critically endangered in short order. It's forest habitat is already decreased to less than 40 square miles due to deforestation and human encroachment for development. Tanzanian forests are some of the most bio diverse in the world, home to numerous newly discovered species, including the Kimpunji monkey first described in 2005, another species already critically endangered, because their forest home continues to disappear at an alarming rate. 

Last, but not least, the new year brings along more stupid humans doing incredibly stupid things. A woman was filmed at the LA Zoo letting herself into and out of the elephant exhibit last week. She was taken into custody where she admitting to having skipped medication for a number of mental disorders. Let's just hope the elephants won't have to suffer being kept off exhibit due to the questions raised over public safety. I say if someone is stupid enough to cross multiple barriers to get into the elephant exhibit, nobody should complain if they don't make it back out. This particular woman was extremely lucky the elephants didn't take offense to her presence. And furthermore, the question I think people should be asking the LA Zoo is if their elephants are safe from all those crazy humans.

1 comment:

Andi said...

I don't even know what to say about the stupidity of humans. Crikey!

I am sad to learn about the snake and it's habitat, which then causes me to wonder what species we may never know about because of our greedy human ways.