Generosity among crows, new research


This 2014 video is called Crows: Documentary on The Intelligent World of Crows (Full Documentary).

From the University of Vienna in Austria:

Social life as a driving factor of birds’ generosity

October 22, 2020

Taking a look at generosity within the crow family reveals parallels with human evolution. Working together to raise offspring and increased tolerance towards group members contribute to the emergence of generous behavior among ravens, crows, magpies and company. Biologists found that the social life of corvids is a crucial factor for whether the birds act generously or not.

Ravens, crows, magpies and their relatives are known for their exceptional intelligence, which allows them to solve complex problems, use tools or outsmart their conspecifics. One capability, however, that we humans value highly, seems to be missing from their behavioral repertoire: generosity. Only very few species within the crow family have so far been found to act generously in experimental paradigms, while the highly intelligent ravens, for example, have demonstrated their egoistic tendencies in multiple studies. Lisa Horn of the of the Department of Behavioral and Cognitive Biology of the University of Vienna could now demonstrate, together with Jorg Massen of Utrecht University and an international team of researchers, that the social life of corvids is a crucial factor for whether the birds benefit their group members or not.

“Spontaneous generosity, without immediately expecting something in return, is a cornerstone of human society whose evolutionary foundations are still not fully understood. One hypothesis postulates that raising offspring cooperatively may have promoted the emergence of a tendency to willingly benefit group members in early human groups. Another hypothesis speculates that only increased tolerance towards group members and a reduced level of aggression made such generous behavior possible. While researchers found evidence for both hypotheses when investigating other non-human primates, results from other animal taxa have so far been missing,” explains lead author Lisa Horn.

That is why Horn and her colleagues tested generous behavior in multiple species from the crow family. Some of the tested species raise their offspring cooperatively, while others do not. Additionally, some of the species nest in close proximity with their conspecifics, thereby demonstrating their high levels of tolerance, while other species jealously guard their territories against other members of their own species. In the experiment, the birds operated a seesaw mechanism by landing on a perch, which brought food into reach of their group members. If the birds wanted to grab the food themselves, they would have had to leave the perch and the seesaw would tilt back, thereby moving the food out of reach again. Since the birds thus could not get anything for themselves the authors argued that only truly generous birds would continue to deliver food to their group members throughout multiple experimental sessions.

Raising offspring cooperatively and high tolerance as driving factors for generosity

It became evident that this behavior was displayed most strongly by these corvid species that work together to raise their offspring cooperatively. Among male birds, the researchers also found evidence for the hypothesis that high tolerance towards conspecifics is important for the emergence of generous behavior. Males from species that commonly nest in very close proximity to each other were particularly generous. These results seem to support the hypotheses that raising offspring cooperatively and increased levels of tolerance may have promoted the emergence of generous tendencies not only in humans, but also in other animals. “What fascinates me the most is that in animals that are so different from us evolutionary mechanisms very similar to the ones in our human ancestors seem to have promoted the emergence of generous behavior,” concludes Horn. More studies with different bird species, like the similarly intelligent parrots, or other animal taxa are, however, needed to further investigate these connections.

LoveCramps punk live in Ukrainian women’s prison


LoveCramps Candy Man EP

This is the cover of the 7-inch vinyl single by ‘pop punk’ band LoveCramps from Leiden in the Netherlands. The title track Candy Man is not the same song as the 1986 Siouxsie and the Banshees song of (almost) that name: in this video.

This January 17th 1992 live music video shows LoveCramps playing in the women’s prison in Kharkov/Kharkiv, the second-largest city in Ukraine.

Their line-up then was Stijn Minneboo (guitar, only male member), Jeannette Molenwijk vocals, Renée Stevense bass, Francien de Zanger guitar, Syama de Jong drums.

A police van brought the band from the Kharkiv railway station. After some sightseeing, it arrived at the local women’s prison to play for the inmates. Officially, dancing (standing) was not allowed. But it happened anyway during this great concert!

LoveCramps had started in 1988 with an all-women line-up. Their first concert was in January 1989 supporting the UK Subs in Paradiso in Amsterdam. Soon after, playing in Mevrouw Latenstaan squat venue in Zoetermeer. On 13 September 1993 they played in Venray in Dutch Limburg province.

The first line-up was Karin Klebe (synthesizer), Meinie Nicolai (bass), Vera van der Poel (vocals), Francine de Zanger (guitar), Syama de Jong (drums).

In 1981, Francine and Syama (aka Saskia aka Sascha) had been founding members of all-girl Leiden band Miami Beach Girls.

After 1984, Francine had been in 10 Girls Ago with ex-Miami Beach Girls and ex-Cheap ‘n’ Nasty bass player Heleen.

Syama had been a founder member of the Lou’s. The first punk band and the first all-women rock band in any genre in France. They played with the Clash and Public Image Limited. In 1979, Syama and other ex-Lou Raphaelle (later in Cheap ‘n’ Nasty) played many Rock Against Racism gigs in London in the band Verdict.

Snakes during the night, new research


This 6 September 2020 video says about itself:

12 Most Beautiful Snakes in the World

With over 3,000 snake species known to humans, it’s no surprise they come in all sorts of shapes, colors, and patterns. If you too think we spend a little too much time fearing these slithering creatures instead of admiring their natural beauty, then stick around, because today we’re bringing you The 12 Most Beautiful Snakes in the World. Seriously, #2 is so gorgeous, it’ll leave you wondering how you could ever fear one of these majestic creatures again. Okay, probably not––but you get the point.

Anyhow, strap yourselves in and let’s take a look at some of these magnificent snakes.

From the University of Houston in Texas in the USA:

How do snakes ‘see’ in the dark? Researchers have an answer

New insights explain how snakes convert infrared radiation into electrical signals

October 21, 2020

Certain species of snake — think pit vipers, boa constrictors and pythons, among others — are able to find and capture prey with uncanny accuracy, even in total darkness. Now scientists have discovered how these creatures are able to convert the heat from organisms that are warmer than their ambient surroundings into electrical signals, allowing them to “see” in the dark.

The work, published in the journal Matter, provides a new explanation for how that process works, building upon the researchers’ previous work to induce pyroelectric qualities in soft materials, allowing them to generate an electric charge in response to mechanical stress.

Researchers have known electrical activity was likely to be involved in allowing the snakes to detect prey with such exceptional skill, said Pradeep Sharma, M.D. Anderson Chair Professor of mechanical engineering at the University of Houston and corresponding author for the paper. But naturally occurring pyroelectric materials are rare, and they are usually hard and brittle. The cells in the pit organ — a hollow chamber enclosed by a thin membrane, known to play a key role in allowing snakes to detect even small temperature variations — aren’t pyroelectric materials, said Sharma, who also is chairman of the Department of Mechanical Engineering at UH.

But when he and colleagues last year reported producing pyroelectric effects in a soft, rubbery material, something clicked.

“We realized that there is a mystery going on in the snake world,” he said. “Some snakes can see in total darkness. It would be easily explained if the snakes had a pyroelectric material in their bodies, but they do not. We realized that the principle behind the soft material we had modeled probably explains it.”

Not all snakes have the ability to produce a thermal image in the dark. But those with a pit organ are able to use it as an antenna of sorts to detect the infrared radiation emanating from organisms or objects that are warmer than the surrounding atmosphere. They then process the infrared radiation to form a thermal image, although the mechanism by which that happened hasn’t been clear.

Sharma and his colleagues determined that the cells inside the pit organ membrane have the ability to function as a pyroelectric material, drawing upon the electrical voltage that is found in most cells. Through modeling, they used their proposed mechanism to explain previous experimental findings related to the process.

“The fact that these cells can act like a pyroelectric material, that’s the missing connection to explain their vision,” Sharma said.

This work was part of the Ph.D. dissertation of Faezeh Darbaniyan, first author on the paper. Additional researchers on the project include Kosar Mozaffari, a student at UH, and Professor Liping Liu of Rutgers University.

The work explains the mechanism by which the cells are able to take on pyroelectric properties, although questions remain, including how the proposed mechanism is related to the role played by the increased number of ion channels found in TRPA1 proteins. TRPA1 proteins are more abundant in the cells of pit-organ snakes than in non-pit snakes.

“Our mechanism is very robust and simple. It explains quite a lot,” Sharma said. “At the same time, it is undeniable these channels play a role as well, and we are not yet sure of the connection.”