Birds do it. Chimps do it. Humans do it. We all booze. Some get tipsy, others don’t. Find out why in my latest story here at BBC Earth and if you make it to the end, you might even be rewarded with a smile. Now, I’ll drink to that.
If you like it, share it. The story I mean (and maybe a drink, but please don’t drink and fly).
These Indian dancing frogs are named for the antics males get up to when they want to grab the attention of a female.
Perched on a wet rock in a noisy, fast-flowing stream, a male sings and waves to the females. He lifts and stretches a leg to flag his white, webbed toe.
Any rival males on the territory are literally kicked out by the singing-and-dancing male.
It now turns out that this foot-waving, which was observed in nine species of the genus Micrixalus, is not the only bizarre trait that runs in the family. For the first time, researchers have found the tadpoles of a dancing frog, specifically the Kallar dancing frog (Micrixalus herrei).
Unlike most tadpoles, which live in water, they live underground until they develop into froglets.
One new genus and five new species of fan-throated lizards have been found in the drier parts of India.
Fan-throated lizards are small ground dwellers. The males flaunt a multihued, fan-shaped fold of skin on their throats during the breeding season.
Because they live in dry and barren soils, when the midday heat starts to get to them they skitter about on their rear legs. Fan-throated lizards are restricted to parts of South Asia. Little has been known about them since the first species was reported in 1829 from India. After this, only six more species have been found: three from Nepal, two from Sri Lanka and one from India.
This ant weaves a nest out of tree leaves high up in the canopy. To build one, a group of workers forms live ant bridges to bring the leaves together, while another fetches larvae from an existing ant nest.
Worker ants hold these larvae in their jaws and squeeze them while moving along the leaf edges. On squeezing, the weaver ant larva produces a fine silk fibre that glues the leaves. As more and more leaves are pulled along, a lump of fresh green leaves lined with a white silk mat is formed.
In a dry, open field in New Mexico, US, a hungry lizard spots a brightly-coloured, hairy insect scurrying across the sandy soil. Thinking it has found a meal, the lizard sprints to catch the insect. But once it has the insect in its mouth, it finds it is too hard to chew.
The lizard then moves the insect around to find a softer chewing angle but gets nowhere. Meanwhile the insect starts to squeak and finally stings the luckless lizard in its mouth. Alarmed, the lizard spits it out.
The insect, still squeaking, gets away unscathed. The lizard is left with nothing but a sore mouth and a foul taste.
This sturdy insect is a female velvet ant. These females have an arsenal of defences unmatched by their male partners, or any other insect. The question is, what terrifying predator forced the females to evolve so many defences? And if they are in such dire threat from predators, why are they brightly coloured?
Birds prepare their eggs for the worst, whether the risk comes from predators or just the location of their nests. This Easter I wrote about some of these amazing eggs for BBC Earth. Here’s one of the birds eggs I highlighted in my piece for their sheer camouflage (besides their beauty):
If her eggs have only a faint pattern, the female chooses a site that matches their colour. But if they have a strong pattern, she goes for a site that blends with it, and which hides the contour of the egg. This means the female must know the pattern of her own eggs.
To read about other wonderful bird eggs, click here!
A pair of phorid flies hovers over a wounded ant. While the male hangs back, the female lands and walks around the ant, examining it and poking it. Then she hops onto it and rips its head off. Finally, the female drags her trophy across the forest floor to an isolated, safe place, and eats it.
This never-before-seen behaviour is performed by an insect called Dohrniphora longirostrata. It belongs to a group of insects called phorid flies or scuttle flies, or sometimes “coffin flies”.
Several phorid flies have been nicknamed “ant-decapitating” flies because they, well, decapitate ants. But in every known case, the decapitation was incidental. For instance, fire ant decapitating flies lay eggs inside healthy fire ants. When the larvae hatch, they head straight for the ant’s head and feast on its contents. Eventually the head pops off the ant’s body, which is left behind twitching like a zombie.
D. longirostrata is the first phorid fly known to actively cut off an ant’s head before eating it. The discovery has been published in Biodiversity Data Journal.
Nine new species of bush frog have been discovered in the Western Ghats, a mountainous region in southern India that is a hotspot of biodiversity.
Bush frogs are tiny animals, found mainly in South and South-East Asia, some of which can fit onto a 20 pence coin. Beginning in 2008, S. P. Vijayakumar, then at the Indian Institute of Science in Bangalore, has been scouring the Western Ghats to find them. The new species he has found all belong to the genus Raorchestes, and he has identified them based on their appearance and genetics. Vijayakumar and his colleagues have published their findings in Zootaxa.
The Western Ghats is home to many species of frog, including the 14 dancing frogs discovered earlier this year. That’s because it is a fragmented landscape, with hills, valleys and plateaus. This means populations of frogs can easily wind up evolving in isolation.