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Birds of a feather talk together

The Australian Museum’s Search and Discover desk, which offers a free service to identify species, has received numerous reports of encounters with talkative birds in the wild from mystified citizens who thought they were hearing voices. Martyn Robinson, a naturalist who works at the desk, explains that occasionally a pet cockatoo escapes or is let loose, and “if it manages to survive long enough to join a wild flock, [other birds] will learn from it.”Birds mimic each otherAs well as learning from humans directly, “the birds will mimic each other,” says Jaynia Sladek, from the Museum’s ornithology department. “There’s no reason why, if one comes into the flock with words, [then] another member of the flock wouldn’t pick it up as well.” ‘Hello cockie’ is the most common phrase, though there have been a few cases of foul-mouthed feathered friends using expletives which we can’t repeat here. The evolution of language could well be passed on through the generations, says Martyn. “If the parents are talkers and they produce chicks, their chicks are likely to pick up some of that,” he says. This phenomenon is not unique; some lyrebirds in southern Australia still reproduce the sounds of axes and old shutter-box cameras their ancestors once learnt.

via Birds of a feather talk together – Australian Geographic#.ToDqYhpDQsM.facebook#.ToDqYhpDQsM.facebook#.ToDqYhpDQsM.facebook.

Living cells out of metal?

Fascinating Science Article:

“Scientists trying to create artificial life generally work under the assumption that life must be carbon-based, but what if a living thing could be made from another element?

“One British researcher may have proven that theory, potentially rewriting the book of life. Lee Cronin of the University of Glasgow has created lifelike cells from metal — a feat few believed feasible. The discovery opens the door to the possibility that there may be life forms in the universe not based on carbon, reports New Scientist.

“Even more remarkable, Cronin has hinted that the metal-based cells may be replicating themselves and evolving.
“I am 100 percent positive that we can get evolution to work outside organic biology,” he said.
“The high-functioning “cells” that Cronin has built are constructed from large polyoxometalates derived from a range of metal atoms, like tungsten. He gets them to assemble in bubbly spheres by mixing them in a specialized saline solution, and calls the resultant cell-like structures “inorganic chemical cells,” or iCHELLs.”

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Dinosaur Feathers discovered in Amber!

dinosaur feathers in amber

dinosaur feathers

“The most diverse, amber-preserved, fossilized feather collection ever found – unearthed in the prairies of southeastern Alberta – is shedding new insight into the evolution of dinosaur and bird feathers.

“The fossils were recovered from pits once used to store tailings from coal mining near Grassy Lake, a hamlet about an hour’s drive east of Lethbridge.

“The region is a treasure trove of remnants from the dinosaur age. A team of scientists from the University of Alberta believes the feathers, 11 in total, are from the Late Cretaceous period, which spanned 99 million to 66 million years ago.

“In the world of fossil hunting, a specimen encased in amber is a precious and rare find. Tough and translucent, amber offers unparalleled preservation and an extraordinarily detailed window to the past.

“Veteran paleontologist Brian Chatterton, co-author of a research paper on the Alberta feathers published Thursday in the journal Science, said these fossilized feathers are significant because they offer the most comprehensive snapshot of the structure, colour and shape of early feathers.

“It’s the first discovery of three-dimensional dinosaur feathers,” added Dr. Chatterton, professor emeritus at the University of Alberta. “The only previous ones occur in China and they’re all compression fossils, basically carbonized films on shale.”

“What is also remarkable is the range of feathers found. The work of combing through about 4,000 tiny pieces of amber, which were no larger than a centimetre and were collected over the past decade by scientists and amateur fossil hunters, fell largely to paleontologist Ryan McKellar. With the aid of a dissecting microscope, it took three weeks to screen the entire sample for feathers.

“The Alberta amber collection represents four distinct stages of feather evolution, including primitive single-filament protofeathers – fuzz, really, which scientists believe belonged to non-flying dinosaurs such as mighty tyrannosaurids – and complex structures with side branches that resemble feathers of modern diving birds…”

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