and other bizarre animals stories
BY AUGUSTUS BROWN
ADAPTED FROM THE BOOK "WHY PANDAS DO HANDSTANDS"
The more we know about animals, the more they surprise us. For example, female songbirds learn faster than males. Llamas communicate mostly by humming. Owls hoot less when it rains. Researchers constantly are discovering new facts about the funny, quirky - and very human - side of animals. Here are some more fascinating insights into their world:
"HOT CHICKS" RULE
Chickens have been tested to see how they react to human faces. The ones they prefer are consistent with human sexual preferences. In other words, chickens like beautiful people best.
EXTREME MAKEOVER: BIRD EDITION
Most females find messy males unattractive, and the female know-tying weaverbird is not exception: She will refuse to mate with a male who has built a shoddy nest. If spurned, the male must take apart the next and rebuild it to win the female's affections.
LINE UP, BOYS
Male southern right whales may be the best-behaved suitors in the animal world. but they have to be: A female will mate with up to seven males - but only, it was discovered, if they form an orderly queue.
PICKY, PICKY, PICKY
the pickiest creatures of all may well be female California fiddler crabs: A study found that htey inspected an average of 23 male crabs' burrows before choosing a mate. One unattached female looked at 106 before he was satisfied.
NAME THAT TUNE
Monkey have the ability to remember children's songs. Among the 12 melodies they recognized when performed: "Happy Birthday," "Old MacDonald Had a Farm," "Row, Row, Row Your Boat" and "Ring Around the Rosey."
HAMSTERS GET THE WINTER BLUES
Researchers found that hamsters who spent their younger days in less daylight were more inclined to be anxious and depressed than those who saw more sun.
CAUTION: HUMANS APPROACHING
Prairie dogs have a highly developed language, including special "words" to warn against threats. Scientists are Northern Arizona University decoded the rodents' calls and found they ha da sound to sign "hawk ahead," "coyote alert" - and one to indicate "human approaching."
The fingerprints of koalas are almost identical to humans. Their fings have the same complete combination of loops, whirls and arches and are more similar to ours than are the prints of chimpanzees.
HE HAS BITE BUT NO BARK
the basenji is teh only breed of dog that doesn't bark (because it has an unusually shaped larynx). It does, however, make a variety of sounds, including crowing, chortling, howling, growling and yodeling. Most of these sounds signal that it is happy.
ELEPHANTS EAT TREES TO INDUCE LABOR
When pregnant elephants in East Africa are ready to give birth, they make a special journey to eat a small tree. One such animal, heavily pregnant, walked 17 miles to eat the boraginaceae tree, which didn't grow in her habitat. She returned home and gave birth within days. Local women who want to induce labor make a tea using the tree's leaves.
WALRUSES ARE "RIGHTIES"
In a study of walruses digging for clams in the waters off Greenland, researchers found that the animals used their right flipper 89 percent of the time.
the little re-breasted European robin is highly confrontational and often gets in battles over territory. Ornithologists believe that one in 10 robins dies from a fractured skull after losing a fight. They also have been observed harassing hedge sparrows for no obvious reason.
Several breeds of dogs can get acne. Those with short coats - boxers, bulldogs, Doberman pinschers - are most susceptible. As with humans, it normally appears on the face and most often on the chin.
FINALLY...A GOOD WORD FOR WASPS
Small parasitic wasps can be trained to sniff out drugs and explosives. Unlike dogs, which take years to be readied for the job, the wasps learn the task in half an hour.