Two dwarf giraffes in separate populations in Uganda and Namibia have been photographed in the wild by researchers

by GrrlScientist for Forbes | Twitter

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Male dwarf giraffe, Nigel (right), and a normal-sized adult male giraffe (left) in Namibia. March 2018. (Credit: Emma Wells, Giraffe Conservation Foundation)

Two dwarf giraffes have recently been found in Africa as the result of standard photographic surveys used by researchers to track the animals’ population dynamics. One dwarf giraffe was found in Murchison Falls National Park in Uganda, and the other was found on a private farm in central Namibia. This is the first time that dwarf giraffes have ever been spotted in the wild.

Both giraffes appear to be affected by skeletal dysplasia, a rare collection of genetic disorders that cause dwarfism and other developmental disorders. Skeletal dysplasias affect the development and growth of cartilage, bones and joints, causing abnormally shaped bones, especially in the head, spine and long bones of the arms and legs. …


Captive-bred parrots may develop a different dialect from their wild relatives and this could prevent them from being able to communicate effectively with their wild peers after they’re released

by GrrlScientist for Forbes | Twitter

NOTE: This piece was a Forbes Editors’ Pick. Originally published under the title: Can Parrots That Speak Different Dialects Understand Each Other?

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A captive-bred Puerto Rican parrot, or Iguaca (Amazona vittata), is released into the wild after it has been radio-tagged. (Credit: jpzool@yahoo.com, image courtesy of Tanya Martinez)

Puerto Rico’s endangered parrots may be facing a new challenge to their long-term survival: dialects. Conservation efforts have apparently allowed these iconic parrots to develop different dialects from their wild relatives. …


Prominent paleoanthropologist, Meave Leakey, provides an excellent overview of how we know what we know about human evolution as revealed by her research career and life in Kenya

by GrrlScientist for Forbes | Twitter

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The Sediments of Time (2020) by Meave Leakey and Samira Leakey. Book jacket by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

Meave Leakey is a real-life Indiana Jones. Her life has been filled with adventure, struggle, and discovery after amazing discovery that are detailed in her riveting autobiography, The Sediments of Time: My Lifelong Search For The Past (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2020: Amazon US / Amazon UK).

The author’s story begins with her birth during the middle of the London Blitz in 1942, then quickly moves on to her unconventional youth and to her dream to become a marine biologist, an unusual ambition for a woman in the early 1960s. Only after being repeatedly denied a place on a research vessel because these ships lacked facilities for female scientists (!!) did she begin looking around for other scientific opportunities. As luck would have it, she was invited to interview with Louis Leakey to care for his colony of live monkeys in Kenya. Soon after arriving on site, she entered another male-dominated scientific field when she began digging hominid fossils alongside Louis and Mary Leakey, contributing to the work they began almost 100 years ago. …


A tiny Northern saw-whet owl was discovered huddled inside the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree that had been transported to Manhattan

by GrrlScientist for Forbes | Twitter

This piece was a Forbes Editor’s Choice.

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The Northern saw-whet owl (Aegolius acadicus) is one of the smallest owl species in North America. (Credit: Kameron Perensovich / CC BY-SA 2.0)

Imagine your surprise if you are awakened in the middle of the night, when you and your entire bedroom are bundled up tightly and transported from a small rural town to New York City.

This is exactly what happened to a Northern saw-whet owl who was trapped for three days in a 75 foot (23 meter), 11-ton Norway spruce tree that now stands in Rockefeller Center. …


An epic coming-of-age story that interweaves science, birds, politics and romance whilst confronting some of today’s most important environmental issues

by GrrlScientist for Forbes | Twitter

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Accidentals (Torrey House, 2020: Amazon US / Amazon UK) is a lovely story narrated by Gabriel, the 23-year-old son of a naturalized American who suddenly decides to leave California after residing there for more than 30 years to return to her native Uruguay. After some cajoling, Gabe leaves his high-paying but boring data analysis job to help his mother realize her dream to grow organic vegetables on the family’s abandoned estancia.

“You’ll like the estancia,” Mom said. I hadn’t even looked at her but she knew she was getting to me. “It’ll be spring, summer. If you don’t want to help with the farm, you can go exploring. Borrow a horse, or go hiking and birding.” (P. …


A gripping fast-paced mystery where our hero is seeking one of her students that disappeared in China, and quickly becomes involved with the theft of ancient Chinese jade sculptures

by GrrlScientist for Forbes | Twitter

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This gripping novel, The Chemical Reaction (Point Blank, 2020: Amazon US / Amazon UK) by Fiona Erskine is the second instalment in the Jaqueline “Jaq” Silver series and it starts, literally, with a BOOM. It picks up where the first novel, The Chemical Detective (my review), ended with our fearless hero, globe-trotting chemical engineer, Dr Jaqueline Silver, sailing the yacht, Good Ship Frankium, on the Black Sea with her lover, Giovanni. That yacht, which promptly sinks, was owned by her former boss, Frank Good, a ruthless corporate player who has trapped Jaq in a watertight contract that demands repayment for the cost of the boat, regardless of the fact — a minor detail? — that it was not seaworthy. …


An extremely rare bird with half its body looking like a male and the other half like a female was captured recently at a nature reserve in southwestern Pennsylvania

by GrrlScientist for Forbes | Twitter

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A gynandromorph rose-breasted grosbeak (Pheucticus ludovicianus) was recently captured and banded during autumn migration at Powdermill Nature Reserve in Pennsylvania. This particular individual has male markings on its right side and female markings on its left side. (Credit: Annie Lindsay, Powdermill Nature Reserve / Carnegie Museum of Natural History)

One of the most enjoyable aspects of birding is that I never know what I’ll find. Oh sure, I have a good idea what to expect, but I never know what I’ll see until I get out there and look.

Such was the situation for a team of bird banders working at Powdermill Avian Research Center (PARC) located in the Laurel Highlands of southwestern Pennsylvania, 55 miles southeast of Pittsburgh. This facility, which is part of the Carnegie Museum of Natural History’s biological research station at Powdermill Nature Reserve, comprises 10 hectares of fields, hedgerows, ponds, wetlands, and streams, providing many opportunities for research with wild birds. PARC scientists conduct bio-acoustic research, evaluate avian perceptions of glass in an experimental flight tunnel to learn how to reduce bird-window collisions, and they operate a bird banding station. …


Five unwanted Congo African grey parrots recently rehomed to a British wildlife park have been regaling human visitors with their extensive vocabularies of swear words

by GrrlScientist for Forbes | Twitter

NOTE: This piece was a Forbes Editor’s pick.

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One of the five Congo African grey parrots that swear at human visitors at the Lincolnshire Wildlife Park. (Credit: Lincolnshire Wildlife Park)

Over the past few days, five homeless Congo African grey parrots, Psittacus erithacus, that were taken in six weeks ago by the Lincolnshire Wildlife Park in Britain have been memeing their way across international news services. Why? …


The dramatic reduction in automobile traffic noise in San Francisco during the COVID-19 lockdown has allowed a common songbird to sing softer, more elaborate songs that are more appealing to the ladies

by GrrlScientist for Forbes | Twitter

NOTE: This piece was a Forbes Editor’s pick.

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Adult white-crowned sparrow (Zonotrichia leucophrys) (Credit: Steve Ryan / CC BY-SA 2.0)

The coronavirus pandemic response has been an unmitigated disaster for people living in the United States, but how has it affected wild birds? …


Feather microstructures can remarkably change the appearance of red plumage without any corresponding changes in either pigment concentration or molecule types

by GrrlScientist for Forbes | Twitter

NOTE: This piece was a Forbes Editor’s pick.

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Adult male Brazilian tanager (Ramphocelus bresilius) is a member of a sexually dimorphic genus of tanagers that have enlarged shiny whitish or bluish-grey lower mandibles, which are pointed upwards in courtship. (Credit: Dario Sanches / CC BY-SA 2.0)

Many birds have brilliant plumage colors, but why? There are several non-exclusive hypotheses may explain the reason(s) that birds invest so much energy into obtaining colorful pigments and creating ornamental plumages:

  1. coloration may help species identify each other, so they can avoid producing hybrids, which are often sterile, thereby preventing a waste of time and energy (ref).
  2. beautiful ornaments may reflect arbitrary aesthetic preferences in the choosing sex (usually the female) (ref), and may either be maintained through a runaway evolutionary process (ref), or may occur as a side effect of selection on another trait such as foraging, which is known as “sensory bias”…

About

𝐆𝐫𝐫𝐥𝐒𝐜𝐢𝐞𝐧𝐭𝐢𝐬𝐭, scientist & writer

PhD evolutionary ecology/ornithology. Psittacophile. scicomm Forbes, previously Guardian. always Ravenclaw. discarded scientist & writer, now an angry house elf

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