Category Archives: Elology for the Masses

MMM FINAL: Harp-ooned

March is over and a new king of the mammals has been crowned – and thankfully it is a mammal and not a feathered dinosaur. Having found himself with the (randomly selected) home-turf advantage the red kangaroo delivered the final blow (literally) of this years MMM and sending the harpy eagle flying to the hills. Proving once again that species from the Red, in fur group are not afraid to resort to violence in order to come out on top

A big nod of congratulations to all of this year’s participants (as well as commentators) – we’ve certainly learnt some cool things! I for one am still recovering from the fact that vampire squid are 1) in fact a thing and 2) are neither squid nor vampire. Looking forward to seeing what MMM2022 has to bring

For a full play by play of the round 1 action check out the summaries (and associated links) see here.

Not sure what MMM is and want to join in and the madness? Have a look at http://mammalssuck.blogspot.com

Whack-A-Squirrel

The results are in for round 1. We had two major upsets, with the 14th seeded Solenodon outwitting the 4th seeded Malagasy Striped Civet in the ‘Tricksy Taxonomy‘ group, and the Crypt-keeper wasp (15th seed) outlasting the Masrasector nanubis (2nd seed) in the ‘Of Myths and Monsters‘ group. Yet the most shocking result comes from the ‘Red, in Fur‘ group.

In a gut-wrenching series of events the Red Hartebeest absolutely flattened the woefully out contested and outsized Red Squirrel. Turning this game from one of winner-takes-it-all to a game of whack-a-squirrel. We’re hoping the head of mammal safety will be looking into these events and that the appropriate actions are taken…

For a full play by play of the round 1 action check out the summaries (and associated links) see here.

Not sure what MMM is and want to join in and the madness? Have a look at http://mammalssuck.blogspot.com

MMM1: Vole-in-One

March Mammal Madness 2021 is finally upon us. We eased into things with a wildcard match-up between the home-field advantaged (and eventual winner) Southern red-backed vole and the Hopi chipmunk. These two ginger critters fought it out for the chance to take on the top seeded red kangaroo in round one.

For a full play by play check out the summaries (and associated links) see here.

Not sure what MMM is and want to join in and the madness? Have a look at http://mammalssuck.blogspot.com

Ecological Fortification

When we think of wolves, and more specifically what they like to eat, the first thing that comes to mind is often the image of a pack tirelessly hunting down large ungulates. It’s a high octane, endurance race to the death – one which also involves some tag teaming.

Well it turns out these endurance specialists are able to trade in their usual cursorial (fancy word for running your prey down) approach to hunting for a more ambush (less fancy word for sitting very still and jumping out on something) style depending on their choice of prey. Researchers found that when wolves turned their eyes to other prey types such as beavers, they adopted a sit-and-wait tactic more commonly seen in cats. They were often even observed waiting downwind so as to avoid the beavers keen sense of smell.

It’s cool to know that we are still learning new things about these charismatic and well studied animals – in this case their ability to ‘activate’ ambush mode should the need arrive.

Tanya Strydom is a PhD student at the Université de Montréal, mostly focusing on how we can use machine learning and artificial intelligence in ecology. Current research interests include (but are not limited to) predicting ecological networks, the role species traits and scale in ecological networks, general computer (and maths) geekiness, and a (seemingly) ever growing list of side projects. Tweets (sometimes related to actual science) can be found @TanyaS_08.

Pandungmonium

When the temperatures start to drop we tend to reach for our warmest coat – but what if we could get away with tricking our body that its not feeling cold?

Thats exactly what pandas do – by rolling in horse manure when the temperatures begin drop. You know how minty things or aloe vera makes us feel cooler or refreshed? Well, the horse manure does something similar but in the opposite direction – it stops the pandas from ‘feeling’ the cold. Researchers found that the horse manure contains compounds that suppress the nerves that tell your body that its feeling cold. By rolling in the manure the pandas expose themselves to these compounds and makes those cold winter nights just a little bit more bearable.

Although I do wonder how the others feel about the associated smell…

Tanya Strydom is a PhD student at the Université de Montréal, mostly focusing on how we can use machine learning and artificial intelligence in ecology. Current research interests include (but are not limited to) predicting ecological networks, the role species traits and scale in ecological networks, general computer (and maths) geekiness, and a (seemingly) ever growing list of side projects. Tweets (sometimes related to actual science) can be found @TanyaS_08.

Sweepstakes

Sometimes you need to pick your battles….

Dwarfism (or skeletal dysplasia) is a genetic condition rarely found in the wild – and observed in giraffes for the first time in 2017 and again (in a different population) in 2020. The fact that these free-ranging individuals have survived to adulthood (something that about only half of giraffe calves manage to do) suggests that they are still able to overcome threats to their survival (e.g. predation) despite their morphological differences. How they do this is of course of particular interest to researchers.

Read More: Mini Giraffes Spotted In Africa For The First Time Ever

Who knows – maybe they do have an advantage when it comes down to a fight….

Tanya Strydom is a PhD student at the Université de Montréal, mostly focusing on how we can use machine learning and artificial intelligence in ecology. Current research interests include (but are not limited to) predicting ecological networks, the role species traits and scale in ecological networks, general computer (and maths) geekiness, and a (seemingly) ever growing list of side projects. Tweets (sometimes related to actual science) can be found @TanyaS_08.

A Lily Treat

Plant pollinators come in all shapes and sizes. There are the stereotypical insects such as butterflies and bees, birds, mammals… and lizards.

Yup, you read that right. They’re not super common, but there are a few species of lizards and geckos who like going against the grain and choose to visit flowers for their daily meal, with about five species being known to act as pollinators. This makes pollination by reptilian visitors an extremely rare and understudied pollination syndrome. Hopefully at some point in the future we will know what the perfect floral bouquet for a lizard looks like!

Tanya Strydom is a PhD student at the Université de Montréal, mostly focusing on how we can use machine learning and artificial intelligence in ecology. Current research interests include (but are not limited to) predicting ecological networks, the role species traits and scale in ecological networks, general computer (and maths) geekiness, and a (seemingly) ever growing list of side projects. Tweets (sometimes related to actual science) can be found @TanyaS_08.

Timewarped

Although virtual conferences have broken down geographic boundaries it has introduced the problem of timezones as well as the dreaded zoom-fatigue. Nothing like a few all nighters in a row to help you dissociate from reality for a while…

Oh and don’t forget the added desk clutter and absolute crumbling of any sense of time management.

Although meeting virtually may never replace a quick chat in the hallway the chance to still meet up with colleagues and learn some cool things along the way makes it worth it!

Tanya Strydom is a PhD student at the Université de Montréal, mostly focusing on how we can use machine learning and artificial intelligence in ecology. Current research interests include (but are not limited to) predicting ecological networks, the role species traits and scale in ecological networks, general computer (and maths) geekiness, and a (seemingly) ever growing list of side projects. Tweets (sometimes related to actual science) can be found @TanyaS_08.

Over-Bearing

The paparazzi are out – and this time no one is safe!

Using photos to identify individuals in a population has long been used for species that have unique markings or patterns – for example Wild Dogs or Orcas. Recent developments have used deep learning and facial recognition to identify individuals of less differentiable species such as brown bears. This allows researchers to ‘follow’ individuals in populations without the need for invasive marking/tagging methods.

Although it remains to be seen if this will pass the ratings of the annual Fat Bear Week…

Tanya Strydom is a PhD student at the Université de Montréal, mostly focusing on how we can use machine learning and artificial intelligence in ecology. Current research interests include (but are not limited to) predicting ecological networks, the role species traits and scale in ecological networks, general computer (and maths) geekiness, and a (seemingly) ever growing list of side projects. Tweets (sometimes related to actual science) can be found @TanyaS_08.

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