URI students learn about animal behavior by training chickens to perform tasks

Each of the 13 students in URI Assistant Professor Justin Richard’s class is assigned a chicken and is instructed to train it to do several required behaviors, as well as other behaviors the students choose themselves. All train the birds to understand that when they hear a clicker, a food reward will be delivered. They also train the birds to peck at a target. Some students are also training their chickens to get on a scale to be weighed, identify a particular color, or jump through a hoop.

The secret social lives of giant poisonous rats

A new study confirmed that the rabbit-sized rodent sequesters poison from the bark of Acokanthera schimperi, known as the poison arrow tree, into specialized fur for defense. The researchers also discovered an unexpected social life—the rats appear to be monogamous and may even form small family units with their offspring.

Urban gulls adapt foraging schedule to human activity patterns

If you’ve ever seen a seagull snatch some fries or felt their beady eyes on your sandwich in the park, you’d be right to suspect they know exactly when to strike to increase their chances of getting a human snack.

A new study by the University of Bristol is the most in-depth look to date at the foraging behaviours of urban gulls and how they’ve adapted to patterns of human activity in a city.

Mapping Cavefish Brains Leads to Neural Origin of Behavioral Evolution

While studied for nearly a century, little is known about how cavefish brains differ. A study is the first to look inside their brains with millimeter resolution to start to understand how the individual neurons and brain regions that drive complex behaviors, including sleep and feeding have evolved. This work has broad implications for the understanding of how brains evolve in many different animal models and is hoped to be widely used by the scientific community.

Meet the hedge fund managers of avian world

In uncertain times, it makes sense to manage risk in your endeavors — whether it’s investing in money-making opportunities or deciding where to lay your eggs. Brood parasites are birds that are known to lay their eggs in other birds’ nests. Cowbirds and cuckoos are among the most famous examples of this group.

Like Humans, Beluga Whales Form Social Networks Beyond Family Ties

A groundbreaking study is the first to analyze the relationship between group behaviors, group type, group dynamics, and kinship of beluga whales in 10 locations across the Arctic. Results show that not only do beluga whales regularly interact with close kin, including close maternal kin, they also frequently associate with more distantly related and unrelated individuals. Findings will improve the understanding of why some species are social, how individuals learn from group members and how animal cultures emerge.

Can’t Touch This! Video Shows Blacktip Sharks Use Shallow Water to Flee Huge Predators

Aerial drone footage provides the first evidence of adult blacktip sharks using shallow waters as a refuge from a huge predator – the great hammerhead. Before this study, documentation of adult sharks swimming in shallower waters to avoid predation did not exist. Unmanned aerial vehicles enable scientists to unobtrusively observe behaviors in the wild, providing insight into seldom-seen predator-prey interactions. When it comes to sharks, this “hammerhead” time video proves you “can’t touch this.”