Honeybees can count to six


This 2014 video says about itself:

Honeybee‘s Counting Book Volume 6. Jeanette Vuuren

This is the audiobook for HONEYBEE’S COUNTING BOOK, Volume 6 of the Honeybee Series and consists of approximately 55 pages which include honeybee words, phrases, sentences and full-color illustrations. It is an educational book for ages 3 to 5, and provides the opportunity for readers to learn the basic honeybee words, at the same time practicing numbers names and symbols from one to ten. This book also includes extra practice for counting from one to ten, as well as Honeybee’s Silly Rhyme which includes the basic information about honeybees.

From the University of Cologne in Germany:

Bees recognize that six is more than four

March 2, 2020

Summary: A new study at the University of Cologne proves that insects can perform basic numerical cognition tasks. Their neuronal network can also be used to perform successful machine learning.

Writing in iScience, zoologists have shown that insects have the cognitive abilities to perform so-called numerosity estimation, allowing them to solve simple mathematical problems. Zoologist Professor Dr Martin Paul Nawrot and doctoral student Hannes Rapp from the ‘Computational Systems Neuroscience’ research group at the University of Cologne demonstrated these abilities in a computational model inspired by the honeybee.

‘Experiments showed that insects such as honeybees can actually “count” up to a certain number of objects. For example, bees were able to compare sets of objects and evaluate whether they were the same size or whether one set was larger than the other’, said Hannes Rapp, explaining the underlying question of what is known as numerical cognition. For example, the bee recognized that six diamonds are more than four circles.

So far, it has been unclear how the neuronal network for this cognitive ability is constructed. Earlier theoretical models had assumed a firmly implemented circular circuit with four involved neurons for the four arithmetical operations ‘equal to’, ‘zero’, ‘more than’ and ‘less than’, explained Professor Nawrot. ‘However, our computer model showed that not four, but only one neuron is sufficient. The action potential of a single neuron varies depending on the math problem — and this can be trained on the neuron. As a result, the researchers identified a comparatively simple model with which a neural network can learn to solve numerical cognition tasks.

According to Nawrot, this model also helps the neural networks of an artificial intelligence to learn: ‘A lot of money has already been invested into training artificial neural networks to visually recognize the number of objects. Deep learning methods in particular enable counting by the explicit or implicit recognition of several relevant objects within a static scene’, Nawrot added. ‘However, these model classes are expensive because they usually have to be trained on a very large number of patterns in the millions and often require cloud computing clusters. Our honeybee-inspired approach with a simple model and learning algorithm reduces this effort many times over.’

Many cities are introducing green areas to protect their fauna. Amongst such measures are flower strips, which provide support to flower-visiting insects, insect- and seed-eating birds. According to the first quantitative assessment of the speed and distance over which urban flower strips attract wild bees, one-year-old flower strips attract 1/3 of the 232 species recorded from Munich since 1997: here.

African monarch butterflies, new research


This 2012 video says about itself:

Danaus chrysippus, known as the Plain Tiger or African Monarch, is a common butterfly which is widespread in Asia and Africa. It belongs to the Danainae (“Milkweed butterflies”) subfamily of the brush-footed butterfly family, Nymphalidae. It is a medium-sized, non-edible butterfly, which is mimicked by multiple species.

The Plain Tiger is believed to be one of the first butterflies to be used in art. A 3500-year-old Egyptian fresco in Luxor features the oldest illustration of this species.

The Plain Tiger can be considered the archetypical danaine of India. Accordingly, this species has been studied in greater detail than other members of its subfamily occurring in India. The Plain Tiger is a medium-sized butterfly with a wingspan of about 7–8 cm. The body is black with many white spots. The wings are tawny the upper side being brighter and richer than the underside. The apical half of the fore wing is black with a white band. The hind wing has 3 black spots around the center. The hind wing has a thin border of black enclosing a series of semicircular white spots.

Background color and extent of white on the forewings varies somewhat across the wide range.

The male Plain Tiger is smaller than the female, but more brightly colored. In addition, male danaines have a number of secondary sexual characteristics. In the case of the Plain Tiger, these are:

The male has a pouch on the hindwing. This spot is white with a thick black border and bulges slightly. It is a cluster of specialised scent scales used to attract females.

The males possess two brush-like organs which can be pushed out of the tip of the abdomen.

Distribution

The range of the Plain Tiger extends from Africa and southern Europe, eastwards via Sri Lanka, India, and Myanmar to China and Sulawesi.

This picture shows butterflies on an ancient Egyptian fresco

This picture shows butterflies on an ancient Egyptian fresco.

From PLOS:

Male-killing bacteria linked to butterfly color changes

February 28, 2020

Like many poisonous animals, the African monarch butterfly’s orange, white and black pattern warns predators that it is toxic. Warning patterns like this are usually consistent across individuals to help predators learn to avoid them. However, a recent study, published February 27 in the open-access journal PLOS Biology, shows how a population of African monarch butterflies (Danaus chrysippus) breaks this rule and has highly variable warning patterns. The study, by Simon Martin of the University of Edinburgh, UK and colleagues shows that the unlikely answer lies in the interaction with a bacterium that specifically kills male butterflies.

Previous research had shown that all female butterflies in this East African population have two unusual features: Firstly, they have a new arrangement of their chromosomes where the chromosome containing genes that control color patterns is fused to their one of their sex chromosomes (called the W chromosome). This new chromosome is called the neo-W. Secondly, they are all infected with a bacterium called Spiroplasma that kills all of their sons. What was not clear, however, was whether these two features were linked, and whether they could explain the highly variable color patterns that changed from season to season.

To answer this, the researchers analyzed the entire DNA sequence of the bacteria and the female butterflies’ chromosomes. This showed that the neo-W chromosome alters color patterns and has spread rapidly through the population, aided by the male-killing bacteria. However, because the bacterium only allows female offspring, it promotes the survival of one particular color pattern gene that is always passed from mother to daughter. This left one puzzle for the scientists still to solve — if the females all carried the same color gene, then why was the East African population so variable?

The study found that this female color gene has only a weak effect that is overridden by color genes from the father. Therefore, fathers with different patterns will produce daughters with different patterns. Seasonal fluctuations in wind patterns are thought to affect which subspecies of male immigrants end up in this region, leading to seasonal changes in female color patterns. Even though they always resemble their father, the infected hybrid daughters, unable to produce sons, represent a genetic dead-end for fathers, whose color pattern genes only survive for one generation before being wiped out.

Dr. Simon Martin said, “The relatively fast emergence and spread of a new chromosome, combined with the short life cycle of the butterfly, allows us to study how the microbe is altering the evolution of the butterfly, almost in real-time. We are continually discovering new ways in which microbes manipulate their hosts, and male-killing is just one example of this. It makes you wonder to what extent the evolution of other organisms — even humans — is affected by such unseen forces.”

Real Neat Blog Award, congratulations, eighteen nominees!


Real Neat Blog Award

Late in 2014, I made this new award: the Real Neat Blog Award. There are so many bloggers whose blogs deserve more attention. So, I will try to do something about that 🙂

It is the first award that I ever made. I did some computer graphics years ago, before I started blogging; but my computer drawing had become rusty 🙂

The ‘rules’ of the Real Neat Blog Award are: (feel free not to act upon them if you don’t have time; or don’t accept awards; etc.):

1. Put the award logo on your blog.

2. Answer 7 questions asked by the person who nominated you.

3. Thank the people who nominated you, linking to their blogs.

4. Nominate any number of bloggers you like, linking to their blogs; and asking them seven questions.

5. Let them know you nominated them (by commenting on their blog etc.)

My seven questions are:

1. Where do most visits to your blog come from?

2. What is your favourite sport?

3. What has been a special moment for you so far in 2020?

4. What is your favourite quote?

5. What was your favourite class when still at school?

6. Anything you had wished to have learned earlier?

7. What musical instrument have you tried to play?

My nominees are:

1. Aowapress24

2. Rachana Dhaka

3. Poesía y Pensamientos

4. The Everyday Life Of An Average Girl

5. Divinity Rae

6. Yessy Reviews

7. A Lovebug’s Adventures

8. NANMYKEL.COM

9. My Adventures in Africa

10. OCB

11. deventuretime

12. www.wordpress.daliejane.com

13. Nunu web fashion

14. Life is Precious

15. Supernatural Hippie

16. MYMonkey MIND

17. Robert Petrecca

18. Anime as a cup of tea

Deep-sea coral discovery off Western Australia


This 27 February 2020 video says about itself:

Perth Canyon 4K ROV Highlights

Over the course of a month, the “Great Australian Deep-Sea Coral and Canyon Adventure” research team explored and visited never-before-seen areas of submarine canyon systems off South West Australia, including in the Perth Canyon. Watch some of the amazing scenery and beautiful animal life they encountered in this 4K highlight video.

From the Schmidt Ocean Institute:

Deep-sea coral gardens discovered in the submarine canyons off south Western Australia

February 28, 2020

Summary: Stunning ‘gardens’ of deep-sea corals have been discovered in the Bremer Canyon Marine Park by Australian and international scientists during an oceanographic expedition.

Bremer Canyon Marine Park is already known as a biodiversity hotspot for marine species such as whales and dolphins, however, a recent expedition focused on the deep sea has now revealed rich and diverse ecosystems inhabiting the cold waters deep within the canyon. Led by researchers from the University of Western Australia (UWA), these discoveries were only made possible by the philanthropic Schmidt Ocean Institute’s (SOI) deep-sea remotely operated vehicle, SuBastian, which is capable of sampling depths to 4,500 meters.

The team strategically collected deep-sea corals, associated fauna, seawater, and geological samples from the abyssal depths (~4,000 meters) to the continental shelf (~200 meters). “We have already made a number of remarkable discoveries from the Bremer Canyon”, said Dr Julie Trotter, the Chief Scientist from UWA who led the expedition. “The vertical cliffs and ridges support a stunning array of deep-sea corals that often host a range of organisms and form numerous mini-ecosystems.”

These new discoveries are being integrated into a comprehensive package of biological, geological, and bathymetric data. Such rare records of these deep-sea habitats are a new and very important contribution to the Marine Parks, which will help managers as well as the broader community to better understand and protect these previously unknown ecosystems.

This 27 February 2020 video shows some of the discoveries.

The deeper waters in the three oceans that surround Australia, including the world’s largest barrier reef and submarine canyons, are largely unexplored. The expedition explored the Bremer, Leeuwin and Perth canyons, all of which have extensive fossil coral deposits, with the Leeuwin especially notable for a massive pedestal-like coral graveyard.

“This has global implications given these waters originate from around Antarctica which feed all of the major oceans and regulate our climate system”, said Professor Malcolm McCulloch from UWA.

Australia has only one oceanographic vessel available for scientific research and no supporting deep-sea underwater robots, which makes this expedition so important and rare.

Facing the Southern Ocean, the Bremer Canyon provides important information on the recent and past histories of climate change and ocean conditions in this region, as well as global scale events. Because the Southern Ocean completely encircles Antarctica, it is the main driver of the global climate engine and regulates the supply of heat and nutrient-rich waters to the major oceans. “A particular species of solitary cup coral was found during the expedition. This is significant because we are working on the same coral in the Ross Sea on the Antarctic shelf, in much colder waters,” said collaborator and co-Chief Scientist Dr Paolo Montagna from the Institute of Polar Sciences in Italy. “This is an important connection between disparate sites across the Southern Ocean, which helps us trace changes in water masses forming around Antarctica and dispersing northward into the Indian and other oceans.”