Wild Things: Life as We Know It

Octopuses, Dinosaurs, Pandas and More…

Panda Bear
Jessie Cohen / NZP, SI

Mating Calls

Giant pandas
(Jessie Cohen / NZP, SI)
Giant pandas live rather solitary lives. When it's time to mate, males and females locate one another through scent. Then the female makes chirping noises. Now researchers in China have found the chirps are longer and harsher when the females are most fertile. Males may have an ear for such bleats and time mating attempts accordingly.

Learn more about the giant panda at the Encyclopedia of Life.

Travel Shell

Veined octopuses
(Roger Steene)
Veined octopuses hide in discarded coconut shells, scientists in Indonesia discovered. An octopus may even carry multiple shells for future use, stacking them like bowls, spreading its arms around the shells and "stilt-walking" with the shells wedged within its eight arms. Hermit crabs use seashells for shelter, but because these octopuses carry their shells for later use, they are the first invertebrates known to use tools.

Learn more about the veined octopus at the Encyclopedia of Life.

Evolution By Bird Feeder

Blackcap birds
(Mike Wilkes / NPL / Minden Pictures)
Blackcap birds that breed in Central Europe in the summer traditionally fly to Spain for the winter. But in the past 50 years, some have started wintering in Britain, lured by seed and suet in bird feeders. Significantly, the birds tend to mate with others that wintered in the same area. Now researchers from Germany and elsewhere have observed that the two blackcap groups differ in wing shape, beak width and feather color—evidence of evolution in action.

Learn more about the blackcap at the Encyclopedia of Life.

Invasive Species

Tawa hallae
(Jorge Gonzalez)
Paleontologists in New Mexico say fossils of the newly discovered 10-foot-tall Tawa hallae shed new light on dinosaur origins. The 213-million-year-old remains—old even for a dinosaur—were found alongside fossils of other early meat eaters. But the closest relatives of those species lived in South America, where the first dinosaurs may have evolved. The find suggests several waves of dinosaurs colonized North America when the two continents were in greater contact as part of the landmass called Pangea.

For more on Tawa hallae check out our "Dinosaur Tracking" blog.

Observed

Impatiens pallida
(Bill Beatty / Animals Animals - Earth Scenes)
Name: Impatiens pallida, a forest plant found in eastern North America.
In The Dark: Like some other plants, I. pallida can tell with its roots whether a neighboring plant is its sibling.
In The Light: With unrelated neighbors, I. pallida grows short, leafy stalks. With sibling neighbors, it grows taller stalks with fewer leaves, thus sharing the sunlight, says a study from McMaster University in Ontario.
Under Scrutiny: Other plant species have been shown to take up fewer nutrients through their roots when siblings are growing nearby, but this is the first time a plant has been shown to conspire with kin above ground.

Learn more about Impatiens pallida at the Encyclopedia of Life.