zoology biology benno meyer rochow florian nock biological light bioluminescence

Biological Light

“switched-on bugs” and other glowing critters

I sometimes tell my students that I once sat in front of my aquarium in a dark room reading a book – the light coming from 3 Indonesian flashlight fish. It’s a fact. Some animals (in case of my fish with the help of bacteria) are able to produce surprisingly bright lights. For example, half a dozen peenie-wallies (as the Jamaicans call their large luminescent click beetle) in a plastic bag will allow you to read a letter and Japanese soldiers during the war are said to have crushed tiny and dried luminescent mussel shrimps between the palms of their hands to study maps at night lest enemy spotter planes might see them from above. —>

Rudimentary Behaviours

Biting Birds and Piloerection

Anybody who knows that the kiwi is foremost and for all a bird (and not a fruit) knows that this New Zealander has no wings – only a few rudimentary bones remain of what were once the winsgs of its ancestors. Whales have no hind limbs, so the entire pubic girdle became vestigial. Certain toes are often superfluous and consequently through the process of selection have diminished in size or disappeared completely as in the horse and other hoofed animals. Teeth, too, as with our so-called wisdom teeth can be vestigial and eye rudiments in cave organism are another example. The anatomical concept of rudimentary organs is therefore easily understood, but we could ask ourselves whether there might not also be something like a rudimentary behaviour or functionally useless action steeped in evolutionary history. Continue reading

mice song biology

Singing Mice

Songsters with a lust for cheese

It is certainly true that unsubstantiated claims of all sorts of unusual animal behaviours have been made in that past either for reasons of sensationalism or simply because of faulty observations and ignorance. Sometimes, however, observations were correct, but sounded incredulous like for example honey-indicator birds in Africa leading humans to the nests of wild bees, beaver mothers carrying their young on their front paws or the Amphiprion clownfish feeding their sea-anemone partners. Another incredible story is that of singing mice and guinea pigs. Known from several reports in the last century, this behaviour apparently became rarer all the time and now may be at the verge of extinction. Continue reading