A news site about animals

Squirrel’s Eye View

A squirrel POV video has been very popular this week, of a squirrel stealing a GoPro camera up into a tree with him. If you haven’t seen it, here it is:

What most people haven’t seen, is this “behind the scenes” video, of how the videographer (youtube username: Viva Frei) was able to get the squirrel to take the camera in the first place, to make this awesome video. So, here’s your answer:



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Rodents Show Empathy for Loved Ones

Intelligent animals are known to show empathy for loved ones. Now, according to new research published in the journal Science, consoling behavior has been observed in a rodent as well: the prairie vole.

Meet the Prairie Vole, found in central North America.

“Consolation behavior promotes stress reduction of one by another. We know that consolation occurs in humans and apes. Burkett et al. observed that within a pair of monogamous prairie voles, an unstressed partner increased its grooming of a stressed partner. Furthermore, the unstressed partner matched the stressed partner in its stress hormone response. Thus, consolation may be more common than assumed in animals, and prairie voles may prove a useful model for understanding the physical and neural mechanisms underlying consolation behavior.” -Science, Vol 351, Issue 6271, p. 375


Prairie Voles are monogamous, and mate for life.


Researchers say the findings, published Thursday, could help scientists better understand human disorders such as autism and schizophrenia, in which a person’s ability to sense the emotions of others is disrupted.


The secret to empathetic behavior is in the hormone oxytocin, which promotes maternal bonding and feelings of love. Scientists at the Yerkes National Primate Research Center at Emory University, in Atlanta, Gergia, created an experiment in which they isolated prairie voles from others they knew. These rodents were an ideal candidate for the experiment, as they mate in long-term monogamous pairs and raise their offspring together.

Then they gave one prairie voles a series of mild shocks before returning it to its loved one. Once reunited, the unaffected rodents swiftly began to lick and groom the fur of the animals that were in distress after the shocks.

They “licked the stressed voles sooner and for longer duration, compared to a control scenario where individuals were separated but neither was exposed to a stressor,” said a statement from Emory University.

Consoling behavior was also not seen in prairie voles that were unfamiliar with each other before being separated.

Knowing that the receptor for oxytocin is associated with empathy, researchers decided to block this neurotransmitter in the brains of some of the animals. They found that blocking oxytocin caused the animals to stop consoling each other.

“Many complex human traits have their roots in fundamental brain processes that are shared among many other species,” said co-author Larry Young, director of the Silvio O. Conte Center for Oxytocin and Social Cognition at Emory University.


Love the Prairie Vole <3

Young said his research points to a potential role for oxytocin in the treatment of autism spectrum disorder, though more work is needed.

“We now have the opportunity to explore in detail the neural mechanisms underlying empathetic responses in a laboratory rodent with clear implications for humans.”


May this research someday help the countless people afflicted by human disorders such as autism and schizophrenia, and may their ability to sense the emotions of others be no longer disrupted.


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Crazy Times

It’s been ten days since my last blog post. So much is changing and happening. I’ve changed jobs, and have been/will be traveling much more, and I”ll be moving too. Phew! Life is crazy. How crazy is it? Crazy as a rabbit crushing soda cans… with his tongue sticking out.



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Beavers Born to Britain

Beavers being born in Britain may not sound like news, but beavers haven’t been found in England- let alone this bank on the Otter River in East Devon, in hundreds of years, and no one knows exactly where these blokes have come from.


Wildlife experts there are taking extra precautions that the beavers are healthy, with the beavers’ welfare in mind.  The return of the beaver to England would be a welcome boom to their riparian (river)  ecosystems.



Also, the accents in this are wonderful, especially the farmer!


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The Squirrels of New York City

Most longtime New Yorkers have adopted habits to cope with life in a city of more than eight million people.  A new stud finds that even the city’s squirrels have made adjustments in order to better co-exist with people- in fact, they barely seem to notice them at all. Compared to rural squirrels, city squirrels allow pedestrians to come relatively close, and only move away when they feel people’s eyes intently watching them. This suggests that they can clearly discriminate between threatening and nonthreatening behavior.

“Some animal species never behaviorally adapt to humans- they always run when they see them,” Bill Bateman, a biologist at Curtin University in Australia, who led the study, said this in an email: “if an animal runs when it sees a human, it is because it sees the human as a and is prepared to stop doing what it is doing to escape. It pays a cost of stopping eating, or courting, but that is better than possibly being caught.”


In rural areas, most country squirrels view humans as potential predators. They become cautious and alert around people, keeping their distance, whether or not the human is looking directly at them. Bateman observed Eastern gray squirrels in a residential area in Manhattan’s highly populated and extremely busy Lower East Side. He dropped colored pins on the ground to measure the squirrels’ “alert distance,” or the distance between a squirrel and an observer once the squirrel was aware it was being watched. Bateman also measured the “distance fled,” or how far the squirrel distanced itself from the observer.


Ninety percent of the squirrels moved out of the way when they noticed humans walking on a footpath, while only 5 percent stopped, froze and showed signs of being alert and vigilant, like a deer in headlights. Bateman said city squirrels are aware that humans are everywhere and that they can’t run away all the time as a country squirrel would.


“In the city, the squirrels have honed this reaction down to tiny cues: Are the humans looking at me? That indicates higher risk than them ignoring me,” Bateman said.


Animals should still be sensitive to the potential threat of humans, but to be able to live freely in the presence of humans is one of the key behavioral traits of a successful urban adapter. Bateman and his co-author wrote in their study, published June 12 in the Journal of Zoology, that these animals don’t see humans quite as predators. In fact, humans might become “predation-free predators,” the researchers said, and so the animals ignore people, rather than react fearfully. Armed with this lack of fear, the animals are in a better position to thrive and persist in the urban environment.


As urban areas continue to grow around the world, more wildlife may need to adapt to city life. In the future, Bateman would like to explore the behavior of birds, mammals and reptiles in Australia that thrive in urban areas full of human activity.

Follow Jillian Rose Lim @jillroselim Google+. Follow us@livescienceFacebook Google+. Original article on Live Science.


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