Quirks & Quarks

Jun 4: Baby parrot babbling, a supernova stone, buzzing bats mimic hornets and more…

Scallops attracted by disco lights and why mushrooms are ‘world makers’

Scallops attracted by disco lights and why mushrooms are ‘world makers’

The greater moused-eared bat can mimic hornets and wasps in order to avoid being preyed on by owls (Marco Scalisi)

On this week's episode of Quirks & Quarks with Bob McDonald:

Why wild baby parrots babble like human babies

Researchers working at a unique wildlife preserve in Venezuela have made unprecedented recordings of newly hatched parrots babbling in their nests. The chicks are mostly mimicking their parents, who have an extensive repertoire of vocalizations, but the sounds are in a nonsensical order. The study in Proceedings of the Royal Society: B was co-led by Karl Berg, who thinks this might give some insight into how human babies learn and practice language as well.

Green baby parrots, snuggled together in their artificial nest.
Wild green-rumped parrotlets seen nesting in the specially designed research tubes in Venezuela. (Submitted by Karl Berg)

A mysterious stone found in the Egyptian desert is made of supernova stuff

Researchers have determined that the Hypatia stone, a small rock fragment found associated with extraterrestrial impact debris in Egypt, was likely formed from the remains of a rare 1-A supernova that occurred before our solar system formed. A team including Georgy Belyanin, a geochemist from the University of Johannesburg, concluded that the stones' unique proportions of chemical isotopes could only be from this type of supernova. The research was published in the journal Icarus.

Buzzing bats mimic hornets to deter predatory owls

For the first time a mammal has been discovered imitating the sound of an insect to discourage predation. Danilo Russo, from the Wildlife Research Unit at the University of Naples, Federico Secundo, studied mouse-eared bats, which they determined mimicked the buzzing sound of hornets and wasps in order to frighten off predatory owls. His research was published in Current Biology. 

Scallops will 'go into the light'

An accidental discovery that scallops are attracted to bright LED lights could be a game changer for the scallop fishing industry. Rob Enever and his colleagues at Fishtek Marine in England were experimenting with the use of battery-powered lights in lobster and crab pots, and found to their surprise that the lights attracted scallops into the traps in impressive numbers. They hope this may result in new techniques for harvesting that are less damaging than traditional dredging. The study was published in the Journal of Fisheries Research.

VIDEO: Scallops responding to LED lights underwater

A Canadian researcher makes the case for admiring the mighty mushroom

Anthropologist Michael Hathaway thinks we've paid far too little attention to the critical role fungi play on our planet, and that we should recognize them as "world-makers" as significant as plants and animals. But he's particularly fascinated with one culturally and culinarily influential species, the Matsutake. Hathaway tells their story in his new book What A Mushroom Lives For: Matsutake and the Worlds They Make.


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