Wild Things: Wildcats, Pigeons and More...
Cleaner wrasse fish, black widow spiders and even bananas made the news recently as part of the latest wildlife research
- By T.A. Frail, Laura Helmuth, Julie Mianecki, Jesse Rhodes and Erin Wayman
- Smithsonian magazine, September 2011
Feral Pigeon (Columba livia) flock in flight ()
To V? Flying in the V formation, as geese do, can be more aerodynamic than solo flight, helping each bird save energy.
Or Not To V? But some birds, like pigeons, fly in what is known as a “cluster flock.” In such disorganized groups, says a study from the University of London, each pigeon flaps its wings more often and less completely than when alone, using more energy.
The Question: What’s the upside? That “is currently unclear,” say the researchers, but the less energy-efficient wing strokes may allow for better control within a dense flock, and flocking may help birds find food or deter predators.
“Saving threatened species in Afghanistan: snow leopards in the Wakhan Corridor,” Anthony Simms et al., International Journal of Environmental Studies, June 30, 2011
“Flying in a flock comes at a cost in pigeons,” James R. Usherwood et al., Nature, June 22, 2011
“Male black widows court well-fed females more than starved females: silken cues indicate sexual cannibalism risk,” J. Chadwick Johnson et al., Animal Behaviour, August 2011
“Cleaner Wrasses Labroides dimidiatus Are More Cooperative in the Presence of an Audience,” Ana Pinto et al., Current Biology, June 23, 2011
“Multidisciplinary perspectives on banana (Musa spp.) domestication,” Xavier Perrier et al., PNAS, July 12, 2011