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Thu Dec 28, 2017 8:15 pm
Featherstone says...



How does this work in a bird who's brain is so drastically differently developed than a mammal's? Do they have right/left hemispheres as well despite their kind of blobby mass of a brain?

Also, on a completely random note, what would be any good books that you know of to start learning about mammology/herpetology?
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Thu Dec 28, 2017 9:03 pm
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JoeBookman says...



On bird brains:

Well, here's the brain of a zebra finch next to the brain of a human.

Image

Though different, you can see they share an analogous form. This is a great link that goes in depth into bird brain biology, and if you have the time to read it all you'll know far more than I do about the topic.

Something else to note is that bird brains have much greater neuronal densities than mammals, meaning that many birds have comparable neuron count to primates. This is why corvids, parrots etc are able to match or even outcompete what we consider to be some of the most intelligent mammal species.

The study on this can be found here.

But as for brain lateralization in birds, I had to look it up. According to an article hosted by the National Library of Medicine:

The left hemisphere (LH) focuses on cues that reliably separate pertinent stimuli from distracting stimuli (e.g. food from pebbles, odour cues from attractive visual cues, magnetic cues from other cues indicating location), whereas the right hemisphere (RH) has broad attention and is easily distracted by novel stimuli.


You can read the abstract for that article here.

I would have to do more research, but just based on that I would expect to see a difference in foot preferences starkly contrasted between two groups such as birds of prey and parrots.
Have you ever noticed a preference in the birds you work with?


On good books to read:

As far as textbook mammalogy and herpetology, I highly recommend A Manual of Mammalogy and Herpetology: An Introductory of Amphibians and Reptiles.

However, those aren't necessarily the cheapest or easiest means to break into the field. If you're a student (like me), head down to your local bookstore, buy a coffee, and use their books like a library. An actual library works too, but I find that you can really only get the most up-to-date works at a store, and with libraries you have to be careful you're not reading up on outdated taxonomy.

Also try studying one mammalian order or one herpentile family a week. Go on Wikipedia and follow links. Google every term you don't know. Do it at night; your brain likes to mull things over while you sleep.

See if there's a herpetological society near you, too. Chances are there is, and when spring rolls around there's always surveys that need volunteers. They're great learning grounds.
  





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Thu Dec 28, 2017 9:25 pm
Featherstone says...



Not particularly, though in rehab I haven't had much time to get to know a single bird. As a falconer, I'm just getting to know my current bird (less than two weeks into training) and my last one died after only six weeks, so it's hard to tell; however, my first bird seemed to mostly use her right foot as I recall and this one seems to do so similarly, though they both used both a lot.

Thanks for the list of resources, I'll be sure to check them out!

Sorry to be hounding you with endless inquiries, but on a different note, I'm working on creating an ecosystem similar to the African savannah for one of my fantasy worlds. I'd like to incorporate gryphons, but with the knowledge they would be heavy competition to other predators, what kind of affect would you suspect they would have in relation to other species? They hunt solo or in pairs (during breeding season only for the latter) and primarily hunt large game, including zebras and wildebeest. They spook the herd and choose an ideal target before giving chase from the air, similar to how a buteo would pursue furred game; they mostly use their ability to walk/run if they are in an area where flight is not ideal due to weather, cover, or when working as a team with one on the ground and one in the air. Thoughts?
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Thu Dec 28, 2017 10:11 pm
JoeBookman says...



What are some of the other species you're looking to incorporate into the ecosystem?
  





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Mon Jan 01, 2018 4:56 am
Basil says...



Hey Joe, what is some good advice for someone that wants to get into zoology? I want to eventually go to uni, but I want to get a bit of floor work done so I'm not thrown into the deep. Where should I start? What general species is better to start with or is it just down to personal preference?
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Wed Jan 03, 2018 8:01 pm
JoeBookman says...



@Basil

What are your ultimate career goals? Husbandry? Research? Something else?
  





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Sun Jan 07, 2018 9:06 am
Basil says...



To start off with research, and then husbandry. I guess just being in a position where I could work with any animal.
Dorian, are you the one adding all the spices to our food?
Of course I am.
Why?
Because frankly the food here tastes like poorly cooked sawdust. It genuinely tastes how Solas looks.
  





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Mon Jan 15, 2018 9:09 am
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TinkerTwaggy says...



@JoeBookman Congrats on the Squills, as it led me to this page. Been enjoyin' the answers so far, as another random animal lover. Thank you for the wonderful insight so far, m'dear! Fun topic :3


Now, for my question: what information could you provide regarding the pangolin species?

Aside wikis and info pages, I read a few inside articles thanks to journalists that interacted with their species, so to speak, but it seems that general information is severely lacking.
I'm not looking for anything specific, though I might come up with more questions later on. Thanks in advance, m'dear!
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Tue Jan 16, 2018 5:06 am
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JoeBookman says...



@Basil on career paths with animals:

There are dozens, actually hundreds of ways to work with animals and probably a thousand times as many ways to get there. It's hard to spell out any one way to reach all of them, though. If you just want to be a zookeeper, for example, a degree isn't necessary. Experience and volunteerwork at the specific zoo you want to work at is often more important than a formal education (though it absolutely helps). If you want to be a "real scientist" researching more involved and niche topics and you want to publish your findings, you may need to pursue a masters to be taken seriously. But if you want to be a park ranger, you'll just start by pursuing a bachelor's degree in any environmental science, such as ecology, biology, or even geology.

No matter what you think your goals may or may not be, my advice is to get involved in what's happening locally. Volunteer at your local nature center or zoo (trust me- they need you). Join your local herpetological society or birdwatching club and attend their events; familiarity with native flora and fauna is an invaluable skill that will serve you for the rest of your life. Work at a day camp this summer-- that's job experience with kids, education, AND the outdoors. The people you'll meet in these settings are influencers who will be great connections and references for you later. Do NOT underappreciate the value of hands on experience.

Plus, you just may find what impassions you.

However, if your single objective right now is to have as many options available to you as possible, I would absolutely pursue a bachelors in some kind of natural science. Biology, field biology, ecology and related fields are all safe bets. But bear in mind that the reason there are different fields is because there is a ridiculous amount of information out there, and one person simply can't learn all of it. You will need to refine your search at some point.

Feel free to follow up if I didn't answer satisfactorily or you have new thoughts.



@Tortwag on pangolins:

First, pangolins are precious creatures that must be protected at all costs.

For all my readers out there who don't know what a pangolin is, it's this glorious little creature.

Image

If you ever need some kind of reminder, just think of it as the artichoke of the animal kingdom.

Image

Their tongues are longer than they are, rocks in their stomach pulp their food because they don't have teeth to chew with, and, oh, did I mention, they're the world's most trafficked animal?

Forget elephants. Pangolin products comprise approximately 20% of the entire illegal animal trade worldwide. CITES (pronounced sight-eez) has banned trade of any and all pangolin species and their products but still nearly 300 pangolins are killed every day. Their meat is considered delicacy, their blood considered a healing tonic, and people practicing traditional medicines believe that their scales can cure everything from asthma to cancer to hemorrhoids and acne.

In 2015, five tons of dead pangolins were confiscated from a warehouse in Indonesia. Click the spoiler to understand the full gravity of that number.

Spoiler! :
Image


The smuggler found responsible was charged with just five years in prison and a $10,000 fine - the maximum penalty.

Keep in mind that the value of pangolin scales has skyrocketed and the last report I've seen values them at about $1200 a pound, meaning that the single confiscated haul was valued at over two million dollars.

So do pangolins stand a chance?

Right now, things look pretty grim for the pangolin. Every pangolin species in Asia is either endangered or critically endangered, and every species in Africa is vulnerable and approaching threatened as the Asian markets are seeing more demand.

Image

As trade is constricted, value will rise. Even as punitive measures worsen and sanctions tighten, each scale will be worth more and more, and poachers will be willing to risk more to cash out. Unfortunately, this is the pattern to poaching we see time and again.

Three things, and three things only, can help the pangolin:

  • There is a cooperative, international effort to protect them. CITES is a start, but participating nations will need to step up in terms of legislation and enforcement.
  • People are educated on the true properties of pangolins. Their scales are made of keratin - the same material as your nails - and has absolutely no medicinal value, nor does their meat or blood.
  • The above two will be achieved when people have conversations about pangolins. Just a couple of years ago, few people had even heard of these amazing critters. They're starting to gain more awareness. As people learn about pangolins, superstition can be left behind and governments will take greater action to protect them. These elements combined will drive up the risk and reduce reward for poaching pangolins.

I know I've spent almost this whole post talking about conserving pangolins and not about how truly amazing animals they are, but I'm getting a little long here. I'll have to continue later.
  





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Tue Jan 16, 2018 11:19 am
TinkerTwaggy says...



It's fine, m'dear - these are all information I was familiar with, but not necessarily the rest of the site - which is partly why I asked. Another reason being that, well, there's still a lot of unknown about these creatures, and I haven't yet found any sort of research guide to help myself learn more about them.
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And why did I spend my life savings on sunglasses for a whale?
I shall find the answer... to these questions."
  





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Wed Jan 17, 2018 6:09 am
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Carina says...



Not really a question, but more of a request since your responses are very organized and informative. Could you tell me some interesting facts about deep sea creatures? I've always been intrigued with the strange creatures living under crazy pressures in darkness, so I was hoping you could shed some light into things. (Hah, see what I did there?) Special points if you include the internet's favorite deep water fish, the blobfish. :p

I realize my question doesn't involve mammals, so it may be out of your expertise. Still, I'd be interested to know what you know!
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Wed Jan 17, 2018 9:53 am
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JoeBookman says...



@Tortwag for more in depth info on pangolins:

When you posed your question, the first thing that came to mind was taxonomy because they're evolutionarily fascinating. Hopefully I can make this more interesting than my professors.

Image

When many people first look at a pangolin they think it's either some kind of anteater or armadillo. That guess isn't a poor one. Both anteaters and armadillos are members of the superorder Xenarthra. All three share long snouts, reduced dentition, prominent claws, an insectivorous diet, and a notable concave vertebral column. It was a perfect fit, except for a little piece called the xenarthrous process:

Image

Here's what you're looking at: a double jointed spine. Instead of each vertebrae being jointed at one point on each side, they're instead jointed twice on each side. Here's a vertebrae compared to a rabbit, which is not a xenarthran:

Image

Club Xenarthra, membership requirement: xenarthrous process. All others go home.

Pangolins don't have a xenarthous process, an easily verifiable detail that was somehow overlooked until relatively recently. When this literally defining oversight was realized, taxonomists just shuffled pangolins into their own little suborder, Pholidata, plopped it next to Xenarthra and called it good. It wasn't until the early 2000s when genetic testing was done that scientists realized pangolins are a totally different ball game.

Take a second to guess who the pangolin's next three closest relatives. If you know all three I'll personally send you a cookie.

Think about it.

Spoiler! :
Image
Congrats if you guessed the dog, the cat, and the panda. Those genes place Pholidata prestigiously alongside Carnivora


If you can't see the connection, take a look at this extinct critter.

Spoiler! :
Image


That's a Creodont, and it's a missing link so to speak between pangolins and their sister order. As a totally random aside, you can see on this handy google chart that in the early 2000s the Creodont saw quite a lot of attention, which I suspect was related to the complete taxonomic upheaval that was happening at the time.

http://www.writeopinions.com/creodont

Back to pangolins.

The reason I bring all of this up is because, taxonomically speaking, orders are a big deal. They're generally large and extremely diverse, especially when their members are far spread. Order carnivora includes both wolves and raccoons. Order rodentia includes mice and beavers. Order artiodactyla has such members as deer, giraffes, pigs, and- you won't guess this- whales and dolphins.

So how can pangolins have their very own order without such diversity?

It's about 3:30am here so I'll get back to answer that in my next post. Let me know if you have a guess.


@Carina on deep sea creatures:

I like brownie points so I'll start with this.

Image

You may of may not be surprised to learn, though, that's not what blobfish actually look like. That's what dead blobfish, after being pulled up thousands of feet from the depth of the ocean, look like.

Being at such depths, the body has to be extremely dense to withstand the pressure. When they're brought to the surface, the pressure isn't as extreme so the body swells up to match the density of the surrounding air or water. At their natural depth (~2000-4000ft), blobfish look like this:

Image

Image

Image

My expertise is actually more in invertebrates and herpentiles than mammals, but an understanding of biology helps me to contextualize information if I don't know something. It really is getting late so I'll have to come back to this. Do you have any specific loves?
  





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Thu Jan 18, 2018 1:09 am
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Carina says...



Oh wow, I am so used to seeing that adorable blobfish face that I didn't realize that it just looks so normal when it's alive. Brownie points have been awarded!

Right now, a specific animal that has been intriguing me is the octopus. I've read articles that say that octopuses (octopi?) are crazy smart. There was even a story floating around the internet that involved an aquarium, missing fish, confused workers, and a smart octopus that memorized the security's night schedule. (On second thought, it sounds like I'm describing the movie Finding Dory...) I'm not even sure if that story was true or not, but just look at these awesome videos:

phpBB [media]


phpBB [media]


I MEAN. These creatures are using tools and opening jars! (To which the one in the video was like, "The job is done. I have removed the lid. Now I can sit in this jar comfortably.") Everyone knows that apes and dolphins are smart, but not everyone knows that octopuses are smart as well. So I guess my main question is that: what defines 'cleverness' for an animal, and what animal do you think is the cleverest? Aside from dolphin, ape, and octopus, what other animals would you say are also clever?

Oh! And one more random question, though it might be out of your expertise since it has to do with bugs. My apartment is invaded with box elder bugs, and it's super annoying. There's not even a box elder tree nearby, but they still come out when it's sunny outside and the sun is high (even now, in winter!). They mostly come from the outside door, but they still manage to crawl through the window of my room upstairs, which happens to be basically above the main door, facing the same direction. Curiously enough, my next door neighbor (apartment is kind of like a duplex, but with like 6 of them in a row, all attached) doesn't have any. Only we get it, which I found super odd. I've scoured Google for answers to why we're being attacked and what I can do, but Google basically just told me to vacuum them up and kill them with dish soap while they sunbathe on my window. If you happen to know about this, could you tell me why they chose my apartment for war? Is there some hidden nest that I'm missing?
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Sat Jan 27, 2018 1:13 am
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Kale says...



I hope you don't mind me dropping in to answer part of this one, @JoeBookman, but I have a lot of friends who are marine biologists (though I prefer terrestrial animals myself).

Octopi are crazy intelligent, believed to be loosely of an equivalent level as humans, and octopi intelligence is recognized to the point where holding octopi in captivity is recognized as an act of cruelty, and researchers can only keep an individual for study for a few weeks, especially since lot of species of octopus have short lifespans of only a few months.

Octopi are capable of distinguishing between individual humans and reacting accordingly. I've heard stories of researchers having to get reassigned because the octopus being studied hated said researchers.

Octopi are also totally the worst to even try to keep in captivity because they always escape, as anyone who has ever worked at an aquarium that keeps octopi can attest.

I also wouldn't be surprised if the story you heard was true. One of my professors was friends with one researcher who kept an octopus in one tank and the cuttlefish used to feed the octopus in a tank across the hall. The cuttlefish started disappearing, and at first, the researcher thought one of his assistants was accidentally double-feeding the octopus, but when the cuttlefish still kept disappearing after the new method of tracking who last fed the octopus had been put in place, the researcher set up a camera to see what was going on.

The day was completely normal. Octopus was fed according to schedule with no deviations.

That night though, the octopus took off the lid of his tank, walked himself across the hall and over to the cuttlefish tank, opened that tank up, helped himself to the cuttlefish buffet, closed the tank lid after him when he left, walked back across to his own tank, and shut the lid after himself.

They changed the lids after that.
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Sat Jan 27, 2018 2:00 am
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Featherstone says...



Another random story on octopi: at a nearby aquarium, there was an octopus who tried to escape, but whose attempt was foiled by an employee there. Every time she walked past its tank, it'd splash her with water. Eventually she left the aquarium and worked elsewhere. Years later she returned as a visitor, the octopus saw her, and utterly soaked her.

So yes, quite intelligent XD
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The old that is strong does not wither,
Deep roots are not reached by the frost."

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