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Some Deep-Sea Squid Moms Hold Their Eggs in Their Arms

Making babies is a complicated yet essential endeavor for every animal species on Earth. And many animals—especially those in extreme environments like deserts, glaciers, or the deep sea—have gotten pretty creative about the way they pass on their genes. The female squid shown in the video above from the Monterey Bay Area Research Institute (MBARI) laid a bubble wrap-like sheet of eggs and is carrying it with her.

Spotting this behavior was a big deal for MBARI biologists. Reproduction in cephalopods (a family that includes octopuses, squid, and cuttlefish) varies quite a bit from species to species. Many octopus mothers lay their eggs in a den or cave and stay there to guard them, blowing fresh water over the young to keep them clean and safe. During this time, the female octopus will not eat, and protecting her offspring like this may be last thing she does.

Squid are much less careful with their babies—or so scientists believed. Shallow-water species typically glue their eggs to something sturdy on the sea floor, then take off. Farther out to sea, with no obvious receptacle for offspring, open-water squid parents just squirt their young directly into the water column, hoping that the sheer quantity of babies ensures that a few make it past the jaws of predators.

Very little is known about the reproduction of deep-sea squid, mostly because very little is known about the deep sea, period. Until the last few decades, it’s been impossible for people to get down there to check it out. Remotely operated vehicles (ROVs) have made exploration possible, and much of what we’ve found has been pretty amazing.

Just look at the Bathyteuthis berryi in the above video. After mating, this wallet-sized squid lays a sheet of babies, with each squid kid safe in its own little capsule. She is literally putting all of her eggs in one blanket and carrying it with her.

B. berryi is only the second known deep-sea species to behave this way, but we still have a lot more to learn.

Header image from YouTube // MBARI

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Pigeons Are Secretly Brilliant Birds That Understand Space and Time, Study Finds
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Of all the birds in the world, the pigeon draws the most ire. Despite their reputation as brainless “rats with wings,” though, they’re actually pretty brilliant (and beautiful) animals. A new study adds more evidence that the family of birds known as pigeons are some of the smartest birds around, as Quartz alerts us.

In addition to being able to distinguish English vocabulary from nonsense words, spot cancer, and tell a Monet from a Picasso, pigeons can understand abstract concepts like space and time, according to the new study published in Current Biology. Their brains just do it in a slightly different way than humans’ do.

Researchers at the University of Iowa set up an experiment where they showed pigeons a computer screen featuring a static horizontal line. The birds were supposed to evaluate the length of the line (either 6 centimeters or 24 centimeters) or the amount of time they saw it (either 2 or 8 seconds). The birds perceived "the longer lines to have longer duration, and lines longer in duration to also be longer in length," according to a press release. This suggests that the concepts are processed in the same region of the brain—as they are in the brains of humans and other primates.

But that abstract thinking doesn’t occur in the same way in bird brains as it does in ours. In humans, perceiving space and time is linked to a region of the brain called the parietal cortex, which the pigeon brains lack entirely. So their brains have to have some other way of processing the concepts.

The study didn’t determine how, exactly, pigeons achieve this cognitive feat, but it’s clear that some other aspect of the central nervous system must be controlling it. That also opens up the possibility that other non-mammal animals can perceive space and time, too, expanding how we think of other animals’ cognitive capabilities.

[h/t Quartz]

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The Queen's Racing Pigeons Are in Danger, Due to an Increase in Peregrine Falcons
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Queen Elizabeth is famous for her love of corgis and horses, but her pet pigeons don't get as much press. The monarch owns nearly 200 racing pigeons, which she houses in a luxury loft at her country estate, Sandringham House, in Norfolk, England. But thanks to a recent boom in the region’s peregrine falcon population, the Queen’s swift birds may no longer be able to safely soar around the countryside, according to The Telegraph.

Once endangered, recent conservation efforts have boosted the peregrine falcon’s numbers. In certain parts of England, like Norfolk and the city of Salisbury in Wiltshire, the creatures can even find shelter inside boxes installed at local churches and cathedrals, which are designed to protect potential eggs.

There’s just one problem: Peregrine falcons are birds of prey, and local pigeon racers claim these nesting nooks are located along racing routes. Due to this unfortunate coincidence, some pigeons are failing to return to their owners.

Pigeon racing enthusiasts are upset, but Richard Salt of Salisbury Cathedral says it's simply a case of nature taking its course. "It's all just part of the natural process,” Salt told The Telegraph. "The peregrines came here on their own account—we didn't put a sign out saying 'room for peregrines to let.' Obviously we feel quite sorry for the pigeons, but the peregrines would be there anyway."

In the meantime, the Queen might want to keep a close eye on her birds (or hire someone who will), or consider taking advantage of Sandringham House's vast open spaces for a little indoor fly-time.

[h/t The Telegraph]

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