Wild Things: Piranhas, Nazca Boobies, Glowing Millipedes
Elephant Seals, Neanderthal evolution and more news from the world of science
- By T.A. Frail, Joseph Stromberg, Abigail Tucker, Erin Wayman and Sarah Zielinski
- Smithsonian magazine, December 2011
Red Bellied Piranha showing teeth, Brazil. (Tom Brakefield / Photoshot)
Barks: When confronting another piranha face to face.
Drums: When circling another piranha for a fight, especially over food.
Snaps: Its jaws shut loudly when it tries to bite its prey or a foe. So says a study by researchers at the University of Liège in Belgium, the first to determine how the Amazonian freshwater fish makes sounds and what they signify. The barking and drumming come from an organ called the swim bladder; the snapping noise is done with a firm bite. The researchers studied piranha in a tank (and got their fingers nipped). Now they want to know whether piranha vocalize while mating.
“The effects of distal limb segment shortening on locomotor efficiency in sloped terrain: Implications for Neandertal locomotor behavior,” Ryan W. Higgins and Christopher B. Ruff, American Journal of Physical Anthropology, November 2011
“Sex at sea: alternative mating system in an extremely polygynous mammal,” P.J.N. de Bruyn et al., Animal Behaviour, September 1, 2011
“Maltreated nestlings exhibit correlated maltreatment as adults: Evidence of a "cycle of violence" in Nazca boobies (Sula granti),” Martina S. Muller et al., The Auk
“Sound production in red-bellied piranhas (Pygocentrus nattereri, Kner): an acoustical, behavioural and morphofunctional study,” Sandie Millot et al., Journal of Experimental Biology, November 1, 2011
“Bioluminescent aposematism in millipedes,” Paul Marek et al., Current Biology, September 27, 2011