A male Allen’s Hummingbird, Santa Cruz, California.

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A male Allen’s hummingbird (Selasphorus sasin) near Santa Cruz, CA. Image credit: Shravans14 / CC BY-SA 4.0.
Since the 1830s, ornithologists have assumed that hummingbirds drink by capillary action (wicking), the passive process of a fluid rising into a narrow tube because of forces attracting the liquid to the tube’s solid internal surface.
A new study, led by Dr Alejandro Rico-Guevara from the University of Connecticut, debunks the ‘wicking theory’ and shows that the hummingbird’s tongue actually works as an elastic micropump.
Using high-speed cameras, Dr Rico-Guevara and co-authors filmed the tongue-nectar interaction in 18 hummingbird species, from seven of the nine main hummingbird groups throughout the Americas.
The results were published online today in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences.
“A hummingbird’s tongue, which can be stuck out about the same length as its beak, is tipped with two long skinny tubes, or grooves,” Dr Rico-Guevara explained.
“Rather than wicking, the nectar is drawn into the tongue by the elastic expansion of the grooves after they are squeezed flat by the beak.”
The tongue structure is collapsed during the time it crosses the space between the bill tip and the nectar pool, but once the tip contacts the nectar surface, the supply of fluid allows the collapsed groove to gradually recover to a relaxed cylindrical shape as the nectar fills it.
via Hummingbird Tongues Work Like Elastic Micropumps, Study Shows | Biology | Sci-News.com.

Desert Tawny Owl discovered in Israel.

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Image credit: © Thomas Krumenacker, www.krumenacker.de.
The newly-discovered species, named the Desert Tawny Owl, belongs to the earless owl genus, Strix.
It is a medium-sized owl, 30 to 33 centimeters long, and weighing 140 to 220 grams.
It resembles the Hume’s Owl (Strix butleri) and the Tawny Owl (Strix aluco) in plumage pattern and proportions.
The species’ scientific name, Strix hadorami, honors Israeli ornithologist and writer Hadoram Shirihai.
“It is a special pleasure to name this bird for Hadoram Shirihai, a much-valued colleague and collaborator for 20 years,” Dr Schweizer and his colleagues wrote in a paper in the journal Zootaxa.
“Although Hadoram’s ornithological interests are staggeringly wide-ranging, his name is arguably particularly synonymous with this wonderful owl of wild places in the Middle East.
He discovered, when still a young boy, a live but poisoned specimen (of the Desert Tawny Owl) in En Gedi, which became the first individual to be held in captivity and is now a skeleton in the Tel Aviv University Museum.”
Read on via Desert Tawny Owl: New Species of Bird Discovered | Biology | Sci-News.com.

Why do Fly Swatters have Holes?

il_570xn-411650431_5aw6If you try hitting a horrible fly with something like a swatter without the tiny holes, air doesn’t pass through it, so the fly can feel the air current changing and can fly out of the way.

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Pictured: Louie the Fly became a bit of media star when television came to Australia in the late 1950s. He advertised Mortein Fly Spray of course.
The holes on a fly swatter reduce air resistance so you can swing it faster, and it doesn’t press an air current towards the fly, so hopefully he can’t feel it coming.
Therefore you should kill that fly, if you’re quick enough.
Source: Why do fly swatters have holes

Extinct: Australia’s Marsupial Lion, the Kangaroo Hunter.

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A study, published in 1985, notes that the bones of the marsupial lion are most frequently associated with two genera of kangaroos, Macropus and Sthenurus, including giant kangaroos.
The bones of extinct giant kangaroos bearing marsupial lion toothmarks, found in the Lancefield Swamp in Victoria, suggest that, like the sabretooth cats of the northern hemisphere, it fed largely on the internal organs of its prey.
But all this tells us is that kangaroos featured in its diet. I believe we might be able to go further, and speculate that Thylacoleo carnifex was a highly specialised kangaroo hunter.
Kangaroos, some of which are much bigger and heavier than the marsupial lion, seek to escape by leaping.
An animal that can stand on its hind limbs and reach with its elongated forelimbs has a better chance of grabbing one than an animal that’s strictly quadrupedal.
Because kangaroos are so tall, Thylacoleo couldn’t go straight for the throat. Even standing on its hind paws it wouldn’t have been high enough, especially if it were hunting giant kangaroos.
But what it could have done was to hook onto the kangaroo’s belly or chest and use those tremendous forelimbs to pull itself up.
Attached to a very large, very powerful animal, with no purchase on the ground, the marsupial lion would then find itself in a perilous position.
It had to bring down its prey quickly, or find itself thrown from pillar to post.
The need to deliver sudden death might explain those extraordinary teeth and that powerful bite.
via ‘Like a demon in a medieval book’: is this how the marsupial lion killed prey? theguardian.com.

The delightful Quokka, Rottnest Island.

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The quokka, the only member of the genus Setonix, is a small macropod about the size of a domestic cat. Like other marsupials in the macropod family (such as the kangaroos and wallabies), the quokka is herbivorous and mainly nocturnal.
It can be found on some smaller islands off the coast of Western Australia, in particular on Rottnest Island just off Perth and Bald Island near Albany.
A small mainland colony exists in the protected area of Two Peoples Bay Nature Reserve, where they co-exist with Gilbert’s potoroo.
The quokka was one of the first Australian mammals seen by Europeans. The Dutch mariner Samuel Volckertzoon wrote of sighting “a wild cat” on Rottnest Island in 1658.
In 1696, Willem de Vlamingh mistook them for giant rats and named the island “Rotte nest”, which comes from the Dutch words rattennest meaning “rat nest”.
Rottnest-Island
The word quokka is derived from a Nyungar word, which was probably gwaga.
The quokka weighs 2.5 to 5 kilograms (5.5 to 11.0 lb) and is 40 to 90 centimetres (16 to 35 in) long with a 25 to 30 centimetres (9.8 to 11.8 in)-long tail, which is fairly short for a macropod.
It has a stocky build, rounded ears, and a short, broad head.
Although looking rather like a very small kangaroo, it can climb small trees and shrubs. Its coarse fur is a grizzled brown colour, fading to buff underneath.
The quokka has no fear of humans and it is common for it to approach them closely, particularly on Rottnest Island.
It is, however, illegal for members of the public on Rottnest Island to handle the animals in any way.
They are considered to be a vulnerable species.
via Quokka – Wikipedia

The Emu War of 1932. Australia,

emuThis is perhaps the only formal war where one of the belligerents was not human, but rather avian.
In 1932, the emu population in Australia was growing out of control, with an estimated 20,000 emus running around the Australian desert and causing havoc among crops.
In response, the Australian military sent out a task force of soldiers armed with machine guns to kill the emus and even jokingly declared war on them.
In mid-November they drove out into the desert and proceeded to hunt down any emus they could find.
However, they ran into complications; the emus proved remarkably resilient, even when struck by multiple machine gun bullets they continued to run away, easily outstripping the heavily laden soldiers.
The Emu War lasted for nearly a week before Major Meredith, the commander of the emu-killing task-force gave up in disgust after the soldiers only bagged a fraction of the elusive birds.
War duration: (November 11-18 1932) Seven days.
Casualties: 2,500 emus.
via Top 10 Bizarre Wars — listverse.com.