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Star Gazers

When animals use celestial cues to navigate

In recent years there have been some spectacular astro-physical successes with the Cassini probe, the comet visit by Rosetta, the Pluto flyby etc. coming to mind. Successes, which were so fantastic that almost everyone must have heard of them. We do look at the stars and are fascinated by the world beyond our own. But animals, too, look at the heavens and see the stars, the sun and the moon – and many species actually make use of what they see up there. —>

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Pain in Insects?

Compared with them, we humans are terrible wimps

Children -and a few adults as well- are known to have sometimes plucked off the wings of flies, heaven knows why. Housewives do not hesitate emptying spray cans of insecticide over ants in the kitchen and gardeners can go berserk over aphids on their precious rose bushes and would try to annihilate the pest with all the chemical weaponry available. Isn’t that cruel? Are the insects not suffering pain and distress? Let us examine. —>

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The Race of Life and death

Life is a continuous struggle – is there anyone who’d disagree? Life is a race, a race of the fittest to survive as Herbert Spencer observed 150 years ago after reading Charles Darwin’s “On the Origin of Species” opus. And it starts with the sperm. In most animal species the male gametes, also known as spermatozoa or spermatozoons, vastly outnumber the eggs and often the ratio is millions to one. It is therefore only an incredibly tiny percentage of sperm that are successful and meet, enter, and fuse with the egg cell nucleus to start a new individual. —>