Biologists can get a bit flustered when they hear the slur “bird brain,” meant to insult a person’s intelligence. Birds are capable of doing amazing things, like using tools or making nests that withstand water. Yet, because birds have evolved on a different track than those of mammals and particularly humans, birds have gotten the short end of the stick. However, a recent study conducted may give birds the respect for their intelligence that they deserve.
The Malaysian Orchid Mantis and its beautiful camouflage
Top image by Alex Hyde
Bottom two images by Francesco Tomasinelli
Even the ‘easy’ etymologies can be complicated: there is a family of birds native to the southern regions of Africa known as the musophagidae, or banana eaters. Word purists will tell you that proper word formation won’t mix Latin and Greek roots, but in this case, well, it’s even more complicated. Musa is a Late Latinization of the Arabic mauz (موز), which was introduced to European sensibilities in book form with the publication of the 11th century Arabic encyclopedia The Canon of Medicine, which was translated to Latin. The -phagous suffix comes from the Greek word meaning eater of, from phagein meaning to eat, literally to have a share of food. Turacos (such as the one pictured) are medium sized colorful birds-although they have been placed with cuckoo birds in the Cuculiformes order, recent research has lead away from this, and they may be reassigned to a different order.
Image of a Guinea Turaco, aka Green Turaco (Tauraco persa),South Africa, by Ian Wilson.
After being nearly exterminated in many of their ranges, a few carnivores are prowling the periphery of human habitation in North America for the first time in decades.
Image 1: Gray Wolves
Image 2: Cougar (aka Puma)
Common Name: Koala (not a bear). Latin Name: Phascolarctos cinereus. Distribution: Australian Continent, east and south coasts. Absent from WA and Tasmania. IUCN Status: Least Concern. Habitat and Ecology: Feed and occur almost exclusively on Eucalyptus spp. and are able to persist in sparsely populated forest sometimes even single trees for long periods. They exhibit regional preference for food trees and may live up to 18 years (normal range 10-14years). Threats: Habitat fragmentation since European settlement has led to a diminished original range. This fragmentation leaves Koalas travelling on the ground between forest patches open to danger from traffic strikes and dog predation. This is particularly relevant in the Redlands near Brisbane where numbers have plummeted on the Koala coast. Conservation efforts: Still numerous in protected areas such as hinterlands on the east coast where a high density of Eucalyptus spp. still remain. As yet the National Strategy for Conservation of the Koala is still in draft form. (IUCN Redlist http://www.iucnredlist.org/apps/redlist/details/16892/0).