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Isn't nature beautiful? A tiger jumps in slow motion!

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Isn't nature beautiful?


Love is a strange thing. Everyone can come up with at least a brief list of things they find attractive in a mate, but sometimes we find ourselves drawn to people for totally unexplainable reasons. But the same isn’t necessarily true for other members of the animal kingdom, and butterflies, for example, seem to have streamlined things quite a bit.


Authors of a new research paper published in PLOS took a close look at Colombian butterflies in order to get a better idea of how they choose who to reproduce with. What they found was that when it comes to the search for a mate, butterflies are really just looking for themselves.


The scientists observed the courtship rituals of two common species of the same genus of butterfly. The two species have distinct wing patterns but can still mate with each other, creating a hybrid of the two species. However, such a thing is quite rare and now we know why.


To determine how the two species interact in terms of mating, the researchers introduced male butterflies to females of both species. They then observed the interactions and scored them based on the amount of interest the males showed in each female. They also introduced hybrid butterflies to the mix to see which species they would be drawn to.


What the team discovered was that the butterflies were usually drawn to the potential mates that looked the most like themselves. Whatever markings were present on the male butterflies, it’s those same markings that each individual male ended up being most attracted to. The researchers concluded that the area of the insects’ genome responsible for their own markings also seems to control their sexual preference.


“It explains why hybrid butterflies are so rare—there is a strong genetic preference for similar partners which mostly stops inter-species breeding,” Richard Merrill, a co-author of the study, said in a statement. “This genetic structure promotes long-term evolution of new species by reducing intermixing with others.”


We often presume that opposites attract, but butterflies clearly don’t feel the same way.


Bees apparently have a grasp of basic math, including addition and subtraction, a new study has discovered.


The study, published in Science Advances, reveals that bees have incredibly powerful brains for their size and suggests that more animals than we thought can do math.


Scientists trained individual honeybees to recognize colors as plus or minus symbols — and armed with this knowledge, they went on to solve basic mathematical problems set by the scientists.


The bees completed the tasks with a success rate of up to 75 percent.


So what’s the point of this new discovery? Understanding how a tiny bee brain can do arithmetic could lead to better artificial intelligence (AI) systems, according to the Australian and French team.


The study’s author, professor Adrian Dyer from RMIT University in Australia, said: “Our findings suggest that advanced numerical cognition may be found much more widely in nature among non-human animals than previously suspected.


“If math doesn’t require a massive brain, there might also be new ways for us to incorporate interactions of both long-term rules and working memory into designs to improve rapid AI learning of new problems.”


The 14 bees taking part in the study were trained to enter a Y-shaped maze consisting of a tunnel with two exits.


At the entrance, the bees were shown various shapes — a square, diamond, circle or triangle — colored either yellow or blue.


The number of elements — from one to five — was randomly altered throughout the trials.


Each color represented a different mathematical operation — blue for “add one” and yellow for “subtract one.”


Once inside the maze, the bees entered a “decision chamber” where they had to choose whether to take the left or right fork of the “Y.”


More shapes presented at the mouth of each fork represented the correct and incorrect answer to the problem.


If two blue shapes were displayed at the entrance, for instance, the “correct” arm of the “Y” was the one marked by three symbols.


In this case, the bees had to work out that two plus one equals three.


If the bees were initially greeted by two yellow shapes, it meant they had to fly into the arm marked by one symbol (the correct answer to the sum two minus one).


Right answers were rewarded with a tasty drink of sugar water while making a mistake was “punished” with bitter quinine solution.


Training took place over 100 trials, during which the bees made random choices until they learned how to crack the problem.


It took up to seven hours for them to learn that blue meant “plus one” and yellow meant “minus one.”


Each bee was then given four tests involving two addition and two subtraction operations.


The bees chose the correct option between 60 percent and 75 percent of the time.


They pointed out that solving even basic math problems required the mental ability to understand abstract rules and an efficient short-term working memory.


“You need to be able to hold the rules around adding and subtracting in your long-term memory, while mentally manipulating a set of given numbers in your short-term memory,” said Dyer.


Scientists report that a fish can pass a standard test of recognizing itself in a mirror — and they raise a question about what that means.


Does this decades-old test, designed to show self-awareness in animals, really do that?


Since the mirror test was introduced in 1970, scientists have found that relatively few animals can pass it. Most humans can by age 18 to 24 months and so can chimps and orangutans, says the test’s inventor, evolutionary psychologist Gordon Gallup Jr. of Albany College in New York.


Outside of ape species, many researchers say there’s also good evidence for passing the test in bottlenose dolphins, Asian elephants and European magpies, although Gallup is skeptical of those results.


The test exposes animals to a mirror and looks for reactions that indicate some recognition of themselves. For example, do the animals do unusual things to see if the image copies them? Do they appear to use the mirror to explore their own bodies? And if researchers mark an animal in a place the creature can observe only in the mirror, does the animal try to remove it?


Passing the test suggests an animal can “become the object of its own attention,” and if it does, it should be able to use its own experience to infer what others know, want or intend to do, said Gallup, who did not participate in the fish study.


The new paper released Thursday by PLOS Biology subjected up to 10 fish to various parts of the test.


Alex Jordan, who’s at the Max Planck Institute for Ornithology in Konstanz, Germany, and colleagues observed a reef-dwelling species called the cleaner wrasse doing odd behaviors like swimming upside-down by the mirror. When four fish were injected with a tag that left a visible brown mark under their throats, three scraped that part of their bodies against a rock or the sandy bottom of the tank, as if trying to remove it.


In all, the researchers concluded that the fish had passed the test.


But Jordan says his fish could have succeeded without possessing true self-awareness.


They may have matched the reflection to parts of their own bodies, but he said that less-sophisticated mental talent doesn’t require self-awareness, which includes talents like distinguishing their own bodies from those of other fish or recognizing their own territory or possessions. Nor does it imply self-consciousness, which means thinking about oneself and one’s own behavior in relation to how others act, he said in an email.


Gallup said he believes the experimental procedure was flawed, so the fish can’t really be said to have passed the test.


Frans de Waal, an expert on ape and monkey behavior at Emory University’s Yerkes National Primate Research Center in Atlanta, said he found the fish results to be inconclusive.


In a journal commentary, de Waal also said it’s better to think of different animals having varying degrees of self-awareness, rather than considering it an all-or-nothing trait possessed by just a few species.


“To explore self-awareness further we should stop looking at responses to the mirror as the litmus test” and turn to other means of evaluation, he said.

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