Fly Away Home: How Birds Evolve with Automobile Traffic

Those that learn, earn their place. It seems that even birds are taking this survival of the fittest motto to heart in a new unique way. A study has recently yielded that birds may be learning from each other about our speed demon tendencies. The truth is, I vaguely remember the last time I saw roadkill on the highway during my commute to work. Even so, reportedly:

An estimated 80 million birds are killed by colliding with vehicles on U. S. roads each year, and millions more die annually in Europe and elsewhere.

Yes, those numbers do seem ridiculously high, but there may be hope for our little companions that fly near our speedy death machines. Researchers Charles R. Brown and Mary Bomberger Brown in Nebraska found that although the swallow population increased over their 30 year study period, the death by vehicle fatality of swallows sharply decreased from 1983 to 2012. Swallows tend to learn from their neighbors, which is a trait shared by many animals, and natural instinct may be evolving in species to guide them away from human dangers.

The study also mentions that the birds living near highways have, through a possible natural selection, evolved to have smaller wingspans for quicker movements vertically in the air allowing for a zippy escape from oncoming traffic. If a bird with a larger wingspan decided to fly into traffic, it would have a harder time flying directly up and away from danger than its smaller counterpart because of the lower wing loading of longer wings.

What does it all mean? Is mother nature preparing against human interaction? Have we affected our animal neighbors so much that they have to develop an internal mechanism to evolve with our advancing technology? What happens when we start hovering from place to place? Will the animals adapt to our flight? Or will we simply find more animals mourning each other’s deaths as humans continue to evolve?

At least it is nice to know that humans get the respect they deserve. I wonder what else we can passively bend to our will!

 

Research:

Where Has Roadkill Gone

Wing Loading

Wondergressive – Cannabis Cures Cancer

Wondergressive – Birds Mourn Death

Wondergressive – Blimps are the Future!

Wondergressive – The Folly of High Speed Rail in America

Them Cows is Sweet

 

In the most startling cow news I’ve heard this week, I learned that farm cow’s feed is coming from an unexpected source.

Due to the vast drought ravaging America, cow feed has become incredibly expensive or completely unavailable. Because of this the cows are being fed other things. Hungry cows are eating discarded food products no longer okay for humans to consume. Not so bad I guess, considering they usually eat things we humans can’t, or so I thought. That was until I read what they’re being fed! Gummy worms, cookies, marshmallows and other comestibles that can replace the sugars from corn are apparently the new mainstays of these cows’ diets.

So why are cows eating gummy worms? They’re eating gummy worms because they’re hungry and it’s the cheapest food source. Is it acceptable for humans to feed cows discarded junk food when corn prices sky-rocket out of the range of the farmer’s budget? I’ll let you answer that one.

 

Did you answer it? Now let me tell you this isn’t new. Check out this paper for an in-depth look at how it’s been happening since the ’90’s.  Cows have been eating candy, feathers, blood meal and other really disgusting  fare for years. It’s gotten worse this year because of the drought, but it’s only farmers expanding on an already in place system.

Them Cows is Sweet: Cows Fed Human Junk Food to Save Money

In the most startling cow news I’ve heard this week, I learned that farm cow feed is coming from an unexpected source.

Due to the vast drought ravaging America, cow feed has become incredibly expensive or completely unavailable. Because of this the cows are being fed alternative grub. Hungry cows are eating discarded food products no longer okay for humans to consume. Not so bad I guess, considering they usually eat things we humans can’t, or so I thought. That was until I read what they’re being fed! Gummy worms, cookies, marshmallows and other comestibles that can replace the sugars from corn are apparently the new mainstays of these cows’ diets.

So why are cows eating gummy worms? They’re eating gummy worms because they’re hungry and it’s the cheapest food source. Is it acceptable for humans to feed cows discarded junk food when corn prices sky-rocket out of the range of the farmer’s budget? I’ll let you answer that one.

Did you answer it? Now let me tell you this isn’t new. Check out this paper on By-Product Feedstuffs in Dairy Cattle Diets in the Upper Midwest for an in-depth look at how it’s been happening since the ’90’s.  Cows have been eating candy, feathers, blood meal and other really disgusting  fare for years. It’s gotten worse this year because of the drought, but it’s only farmers expanding on an already in place system.

 

Sources:

Reuters- Sweet times for cows as gummy worms replace costly corn feed

University of Wisconsin -Madison: By-Product Feedstuffs in Dairy Cattle Diets in the Upper Midwest

Morality In Animals

Morality in Animals is a TED talk that documents some very interesting findings regarding how animals exhibit what we think of as morality.

It is so interesting seeing animals behave in ways that philosophers have always imagined to be strictly ‘human.’ This information may help end the sordid ways we treat other species, and our own.

Why do we have zoos again?

*Update*
Here is another article continuing the discussion of morality in animals.  It also remarks that “chimpanzees, who cannot swim, have drowned in zoo moats trying to save others. Given the chance to get food by pulling a chain that would also deliver an electric shock to a companion, rhesus monkeys will starve themselves for several days.”

These animals sound even more moral than many humans I know.

Morality In Animals: Chimpanzees That Risk Their Own Lives

morality

opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com

Morality in Animals is a TED talk by Frans de Waal that documents some very interesting findings regarding how animals exhibit what we think of as morality.

It is so interesting seeing animals behave in ways that philosophers have always imagined to be strictly ‘human.’ This information may help end the sordid ways we treat other species, and our own.

An article from The New York TImes continues the discussion of morality in animals with their article on primate behavior.  It also remarks that

chimpanzees, who cannot swim, have drowned in zoo moats trying to save others. Given the chance to get food by pulling a chain that would also deliver an electric shock to a companion, rhesus monkeys  will starve themselves for several days.

These animals sound even more moral than most humans I know.

 

Why do we have zoos again?

 

Sources and Resources for Morality in Animals:

TED talk: Moral Behavior in Animals

Living Links Center for the Advanced Study of Ape and Human Evolution

The New York Times: Scientists Find the Beginning of Morality in Primate Behavior

Biology and Philosophy: Wild Justice and Fair Play: Cooperation, Forgiveness, and Morality in Animals