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Animal Behavior

July 21, 2007 | Amber Dance, Times Staff Writer
A queen bee needs to keep her subjects calm and quiet, and she does so by secreting a scent that prevents worker bees from learning, according to new research. The study, published Thursday in the journal Science, found that a component in the queen's pheromone inhibits the sterile worker bees' ability to learn from negative experiences. The active scent element is similar to the brain compound dopamine, which is involved in learning and memory in humans and insects.
July 7, 2007 | Amber Dance, Times Staff Writer
They may have bird brains, but feathered flycatchers can and do learn, even from their competitors, according to research released Thursday. Every spring, pied and collared flycatchers arrive in the forests of Europe, looking for a good place to lay their eggs. Not knowing the territory well, they often look to resident birds for the best places to breed. "When in Rome, do as the Romans do," said study author Janne-Tuomas Seppanen of the University of Jyvaskyla in Finland.
June 30, 2007 | Amber Dance, Times Staff Writer
A good man is hard to find -- and for female Galapagos iguanas, the search for the sexiest mate is so exhausting that it may actually threaten their ability to survive, according to a study published Wednesday. Female iguanas on the equatorial island of Santa Fe spend about a month checking out the available males, some of whom maintain almost constant displays of masculine prowess.
June 29, 2007 | Pete Thomas
The dolphin didn't stand a chance once it had been separated from its pod. The killer whales overwhelmed the smaller mammal. They hurled their massive bodies out of the water and splashed down on top of it, grabbing it with their teeth and tossing it through the air. "They were playing with it just like a cat plays with a mouse," Tyler Elzig, captain of the fishing boat Sea Horse, said of what he witnessed Sunday. "It was the most intense thing I've seen in my entire life on the water."
June 11, 2007 | From the Associated Press
Training her binoculars on a dark patch of seaweed swaying in the shallows, Gena Bentall gasped. After searching for sea otters all day, the research biologist had spotted one: a mother with a pup on her belly, a mauled face dripping blood and a male pursuer hot on her tail. Female sea otters often have scars on their noses, the price of breeding with clumsy, sharp-toothed partners.
May 18, 2007 | John M. Glionna and Steve Chawkins, Times Staff Writers
With hundreds of cars parking in a rutted field and a horde of camera-toting spectators slathering themselves with suntan lotion, a mile-long levee outside Sacramento could as easily have been the entrance to a county fair Thursday. Instead, it was a gathering spot for folks intent on eyeballing the elaborate rescue effort launched to turn around two injured, wrong-way whales that have cruised 70 miles inland from the Pacific.
May 17, 2007 | John M. Glionna, Times Staff Writer
Two lost humpback whales continued their four-day odyssey up a busy delta river channel Wednesday as hundreds looked on with amusement and concern. The mother and calf apparently suffered wounds inflicted by a boat propeller, scientists said at a packed news conference. They said the injuries occurred after the pair entered the Sacramento River Delta on Sunday and do not explain why the whales veered into inland waters.
March 18, 2007 | From the Associated Press
A migrating gray whale has been in the harbor here for days, and officials don't know why it hasn't moved on. The 15-foot whale showed up Monday at the harbor entrance and has been swimming 100 to 500 yards offshore. "It's unusual for one to just stay there. They go from Baja to Alaska at this time of year," Santa Barbara Harbor Patrol Officer Monica Broumand said. "We don't know why he's hanging out. He doesn't seem to be trapped," Broumand said. "There are no apparent injuries."
March 10, 2007 | From Times Wire Reports
A study of spiders' copulation techniques found that males leave part of their sex organ inside females as a sort of "chastity belt" to deter rivals. "Males can reduce sperm competition and thereby increase their paternity success," Bonn University researchers wrote in the journal Behavioral Ecology. A male only has only seconds to have sex before the larger female kills him. In more than 80% of cases, the tip of the male's genital organ breaks off inside the female.
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