These Sparrows Have Been Singing the Same Songs for 1500 Years

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iStock

Swamp sparrows are creatures of habit—so much so that they’ve been chirping out the same few tunes for more than 1500 years, Science magazine reports.

These findings, published in the journal Nature Communications, resulted from an analysis of the songs of 615 adult male swamp sparrows found in six different areas of the northeastern U.S. Researchers learned that young swamp sparrows pick up these songs from the adults around them and are able to mimic the notes with astounding accuracy.

Here’s what one of their songs sounds like:

“We were able to show that swamp sparrows very rarely make mistakes when they learn their songs, and they don't just learn songs at random; they pick up commoner songs rather than rarer songs,” Robert Lachlan, a biologist at London’s Queen Mary University and the study’s lead author, tells National Geographic.

Put differently, the birds don’t mimic every song their elders crank out. Instead, they memorize the ones they hear most often, and scientists say this form of “conformist bias” was previously thought to be a uniquely human behavior.

Using acoustic analysis software, researchers broke down each individual note of the sparrows’ songs—160 different syllables in total—and discovered that only 2 percent of sparrows deviated from the norm. They then used a statistical method to determine how the songs would have evolved over time. With recordings from 2009 and the 1970s, they were able to estimate that the oldest swamp sparrow songs date back 1537 years on average.

The swamp sparrow’s dedication to accuracy sets the species apart from other songbirds, according to researchers. “Among songbirds, it is clear that some species of birds learn precisely, such as swamp sparrows, while others rarely learn all parts of a demonstrator’s song precisely,” they write.

According to the Audubon Guide to North American Birds, swamp sparrows are similar to other sparrows, like the Lincoln’s sparrow, song sparrow, and chipping sparrow. They’re frequently found in marshes throughout the Northeast and Midwest, as well as much of Canada. They’re known for their piercing call notes and may respond to birders who make loud squeaking sounds in their habitat.

[h/t Science magazine]

How to Tell If Your Dog's Panting is Abnormal

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iStock/Nevena1987

​It's not abnormal for dogs to pant. Whether it's because it's a hot day or they're nervous about something like thunder, there are various and totally normal reasons why our furry friends might breathe a little heavier on occasion. Which makes it difficult to tell when it's normal and when it's something to be concerned about. Here are some reasons why dogs pant and ways to know if the panting is serious, according to ​WebMD.

EXERCISE

If your dog is partaking in some heavy exercise, such as playing with you or another pet, it's normal for them to pant a bit. Dogs normally take between 10 and 30 breaths per minute (depending on the breed), so it's important to take notice just how hard they're really panting. If the panting goes on for longer than you'd expect, and often, it's a smart idea to get them checked out by your vet.

HEAT

If it's particularly hot outside and your dog is panting, it's best to get them water and bring them inside. Dogs do not sweat like humans, and obviously cannot communicate to us with words. Panting is their way of telling you: Let's go back inside. When heat levels are extremely high, it's best to err on the safe side and keep them indoors entirely. And never, ever leave your dog in a hot car—even if it's "just for a minute."

ANXIETY

Your pup's panting could also be the result of nervousness or stress. If you notice your dog excessively panting in the car, for example, it's nothing to get too worked up about. (It could very well be that simply being in the car makes them nervous.) Just make sure the area they're experiencing stress in is kept at a cool temperature, and that they have water nearby. If you know what situations can trigger anxiety in your dog—fireworks, for example—do your best to keep them away from these situations when at all possible.

ILLNESS

Though there are all sorts of normal reasons why your dog might be panting, it can sometimes be indicative of a bigger issue. If you notice your pet excessively panting for no apparent reason, they might be sick. The list of possibilities of what could be wrong is is long and ranges from anywhere to allergies and respiratory disorders to heart failure or ​Cushing's syndrome.

If at any time your dog's panting cannot be explained, or somehow seems "off" to you, definitely take them to the vet ASAP. You know your dog's behaviors best, so if something doesn't seem right, it's best to consult with an expert.

Florida Is Home to 'Skull-Collecting' Ants, Because Florida

Florida’s Formica archboldi ants are not to be messed with. As Newsweek reports, a North Carolina-based researcher recently discovered that the species applies a waxy coat to its body to chemically mimic its intended prey, a kind of trap-jaw ant in the genus Odontomachus. Then, the predator sprays its unsuspecting prey with acid to immobilize it and drags it back to its underground lair, where it dismembers the body and presumably eats everything but the hollowed-out heads.

The Florida ant’s habit of letting the heads pile up in its nest has earned it a pretty grisly nickname: the “skull-collecting ant.” This behavior has been observed since the 1950s. However, scientists have only recently learned how the Florida ant manages to kill trap-jaw ants, which are formidable predators in their own right (they can snap their jaws shut at speeds of over 100 miles an hour).

Researcher Adrian Smith, head of the Evolutionary Biology & Behavior Research Lab at the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences, observed the F. archboldi ants mimicking trap-jaw ants at the chemical level by coating their bodies in the same waxy substance that covers their prey. Smith says they’re probably disguising themselves, but the extent to which they do so isn’t yet known.

The ants were also seen shooting formic acid from their abdomens to render the trap-jaw ants motionless. The new findings were published in the journal Insectes Sociaux, and Smith even captured the gruesome action on camera, which you can check out in the video below.

Smith says he’s been fascinated with the ants—which are also found in parts of Alabama and Georgia—since he was an undergrad student at Florida State.

“They’re one of the most badass ants I know of. That’s why I wanted to study them—they decorate their nests with skulls,” Smith told The Verge. “A lot of other ants do cool things, but these are special to me because they’re from Florida, and I’m from Florida."

[h/t Newsweek]

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