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Animals

— Good Thinking

Orangutans using iPads at zoos - soon to use Skype

Turns out we aren't that different from other apes after all. Our primate cousins at a handful of zoos love to use iPads to combat boredom just as much as humans. Zookeepers say that the device is perfect for orangutans, and many have been taking part in guided touchscreen interactions with all sorts of apps, including music, games, movies, cartoons, art, painting, drawing, photos and videos. The orangutans have been playing with the iPads for the past several months, and now a U.S. charity is hoping to round up more of the tablets so the apes can Skype with orangutans at other zoos. Read More
— Science

Camera trap app sends shots of random wild critters to your iPhone

Why do ecotourists travel thousands of miles to catch glimpses of rare, exotic animals, when they could get long, lingering looks at them just by turning on their TV? Well, partly because it’s fun to travel. Also, however, it’s a lot more exciting when you never know what you’re going to see, or when, or where. While it’s not quite as epic as trekking through the African Savannah, the Zoological Society of London’s Instant Wild App is bringing that same sort of wilderness-lottery-like excitement to the iPhone. Users can subscribe to feeds from camera traps located in several areas of the world, and will receive photos of the animals that trigger those traps, as they’re triggered. While that might be neat enough in and of itself, users can then proceed to help conservationists protect those creatures. Read More
— Science

New facial recognition software designed for study of wild apes

When studying wild animals such as gorillas and chimpanzees, it's not uncommon to use photo or video traps - unmanned cameras that are triggered to capture images when creatures pass in front of them. Scientists can then retrieve the cameras and review the footage, to get an estimate of the numbers of a certain species within a given area, and to see what those animals have been up to. One of the problems with this approach, however, is that it's often hard to tell one animal from another - are you looking at several shots of several different apes, or is it the same individual every time? German scientists are developing wild primate-devoted facial recognition software, in order to answer such questions. Read More
— Good Thinking

Cows check in for meals using electronic ear tags

With diseases such as Foot and Mouth, TB, and of course Mad Cow still presenting a danger to cattle, it’s of the utmost importance that farmers monitor the health of their animals, and immediately proceed to isolate any that might be showing symptoms. If you have a herd of over 500 cows, however, keeping track of individuals can be rather tricky. That’s why scientists at England’s Newcastle University have developed electronic ears tags, that they’re trying out on a herd of test cattle. Read More
— Science

Pluripotent stem cells generated from horses

For the first time ever, scientists from the University of Montreal and Mount Sinai Hospital have generated pluripotent stem cells from horses. Pluripotency refers to a cell's ability to become any of the various other types of cells found within the body, and the ability to be able to grow such cells in a laboratory setting has great implications for the field of regenerative medicine. Not only does this latest accomplishment potentially mean big things for sick or injured horses, but it could also pave the way for lab-based human stem cell treatments. Read More
— Science

LCD projector used to control tiny organisms

Genetically engineered remote controlled animals ... what the? Using inexpensive and widely available technology combined with the latest techniques in optogenetics, researchers at Georgia Tech have created exactly that. Optogenetics is a mix of optical and genetic techniques that has allowed scientists to gain control over brain circuits in laboratory animals. Mary Shelly would be proud – or totally freaked out. But don't expect remote controlled poodles or parrots in your nearest pet store by Christmas, this might be a few years off. Read More
— Science

Does your turkey look happy? Quantifying farm animals' feelings

It’s well known that happy workers of the human variety are also productive workers, and farmers know that the same holds true for animals. However, because animals aren’t likely to reveal their emotional state on a psychiatrist’s couch, the current methods to measure animals’ wellbeing has largely focused on biological indicators of stress via blood tests or through studies of animal behavior. Now researchers are looking to use cognitive principles based on human psychological theories to assess animal emotions. Read More
— Science

Scientists shake up fluid dynamics of wet dogs

What does a labrador and a clothes washer have in common? Not much you might say. Think again. A team of researchers from the Georgia Institute of Technology, Atlanta, have unlocked the secrets behind how animals such as dogs, mice and even brown bears dry themselves and the key is all in the spin cycle. Much like your household washing machine these animals use resonant frequencies to shed water and given the results of their research, graduate student Andrew Dickerson and his advisor, professor David Hu, are now looking at how they can apply their results. Read More
— Good Thinking

DeerDeter promises to lessen deer-vehicle collisions

There’s a stretch of highway in Utah, where over 300 carcasses of car-struck deer were found in a single year. It’s not surprising, therefore, that the Utah Department of Transportation (UDOT) has chosen part of that area to try out the DeerDeter Wildlife Crossing Guard. As you might have guessed from its name, the roadside device is designed to keep deer from wandering out onto nighttime roads as cars are approaching. When it detects oncoming headlights, the DeerDeter’s strobe lights and audio alarm system are activated, causing deer and other animals in its vicinity to keep their distance. Read More
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