Happy valentine’s!

14 02 2015

For more click here (thanks to Andrea for this great find).

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Give me your biscuits

13 02 2015

“conscientious people score high on affection toward their pets”

13 02 2015

Just found this free paper in my spam filter.

It’s pretty interesting, and some of it really resonates… though the authors do claim that cat people are less agreeable than dog people (to which I say “piss off, idiots!”)

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Canada says yes to assisted suicide

8 02 2015

Very good news from the Canadian supreme court. Personally, I had thought we’d retire to England when we’re old, but if the UK continues to dither on this basic human right, maybe staying here’s best after all.

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Something fishy going on in Michigan

8 02 2015

Here is a very attractive rainbow trout: one of Andrea‘s positive stimuli, being used by her to assess exploration (to infer boredom-like states; we want to see if these decrease when mink are given enrichment).


And here is what was supposed to be a very scary predator model. Though I think it’s quite frightening, that bullet-proof little mustelid is merely intrigued.


Hat-stealing owl

6 02 2015

Excellent related find from Maria, who says: even though owls might not be crows or parrots, when I saw the below today I couldn’t help thinking: innovative use of nesting materials in extreme cold winters??? 😉


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Louis Lefebvre’s seminar

6 02 2015

Nice write up from Maria of a seminar I sadly missed this week (Louis has given Heather some nice data on parrot innovations for her PhD work):

On Wednesday, as part of the Integrative Biology seminar series, McGill’s Dr. Louis Lefebvre spoke on “Feeding innovations: an integrated approach to avian cognition”. Having read a few of his papers, I was really looking forward to it. He gave a broad sweep of his and related research showing how rates of feeding innovation and tool use in wild bird species correlate with larger brain cortices (similar to what has been found for primates). To determine these feeding innovation rates, his lab performs large literature searches in ornithologists’ journals to look for reports of novel feeding behaviours, and then classify them according to different degrees of novelty. It seemed really tedious work, but given that their field research station is in Barbados, I didn’t feel too sorry for those grad students.

He was aware that cortical volumes are a crude measure, and explained how now they are trying to dig deeper in the brain by looking at neural gene expression in specific areas (e.g. hippocampus). I liked his willingness to re-analyse everything as they get better quality data (they have already done this a couple of times), as well as his acknowledgement of the correlational nature of his findings. I wish he would have talked a bit more about the costs associated with “big brains” and the relationship between these, tool use and colonization success (though he did mention briefly Daniel Sol‘s research, and the fact that this has also been found for hominids). I also wanted more about within species individual differences and their relationships to reproductive success (which again he mentioned in passing at the species level). Maybe next time.