Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Miss Behavior’s Picks of 2013

Image from

2013 is quickly drawing to a close and we find ourselves in a time of reflection and reminiscences of the last twelve months. Science blogging continues to grow and our many talented and experienced science writers are finding themselves joined by a new cohort of young energetic writers bringing new perspectives. This is an exciting international community of passionate thinkers, debaters, and science communicators. These are my picks for The Top 5 Animal Physiology and Behavior Blog Posts of 2013 (not including The Scorpion and the Frog posts and in no particular order).

On the new blog, Viruses 101, Julia Paoli, a high school student and talented science writer discusses a scientific estimate of how many unknown viruses lurk within our fellow mammals in Mammals Harbor At Least 320,000 Undiscovered Viruses.

Natalie Wolchover at Quanta Magazine pondered the value of partial honesty among animals from a game theory perspective in Hunger Game: Is Honesty Between Animals Always the Best Policy?

We all carry communities of microbes within our bodies that have now been found to be involved in our health and behavior in ways we never previously imagined. In Inspiring Science, Sedeer el-Showk talks about research linking differences in our microbiomes to hormone levels and disease resistance in Sex, Hormones, and the Microbiome.

On EveryONE by PLOS Blogs, Alex Theg tells the story of a jumping spider species that uses multiple deceptive tactics. Read about the spiders that use visual mimicry to trick predator spiders and chemical mimicry to trick predator wasps in Ant-Mimicking Spider Relies on a “Double-Deception” Strategy to Fool Different Audiences.

Felicity Muth discusses animal homosexuality in her blog, Not Bad Science. Check out her article Homosexuality in Female Beetles, and What We Can Learn from It.

Merry Christmas and stay curious!

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

What Does the Fox Say?

Image by Rotfuchs at Wikimedia.
In early September, two brothers that host a popular late-night talk show in Norway released a music video to promote their show’s season premiere. Those brothers form the comedic duo called Ylvis, and the song: “What Does the Fox Say?”. A complete surprise to the YlvisÃ¥ker brothers (their last name), who designed their video as a comedic music video flop, their video went viral. It spent three consecutive weeks as number 6 on Billboard Hot 100 and is quickly approaching 300 million views in just over three months!

The premise of the song is that there are a number of animals whose sounds everyone knows, but the fox stumps us. As their lyrics go:

Dog goes woof, cat goes meow.
Bird goes tweet, and mouse goes squeak.
Cow goes moo. Frog goes croak, and the elephant goes toot.
Ducks say quack and fish go blub, and the seal goes ow ow ow.
But there's one sound that no one knows...

…And then it gets weird as they propose their thoughts on what sounds foxes make:

The funny thing is, it’s not that hard to find out what sounds foxes really make. Although they may not be among the common farm and zoo animals that make it into our children’s toys and books to teach us all about the world of animals, fox vocalizations have been studied by scientists for years. Strangely enough, our comedic duo was not that far off with their “Jacha-chacha-chacha-chow!” guess, which is similar to the fox gekkering call used in aggressive interations.

“The Fox” video (as it has come to be known) has spawned countless spoofs in the last few months. As with most internet spoofs, most are pretty lame, but there are a few gems. My favorite, created by some talented Harvard Medical School students, addresses the equally perplexing question “What Does the Spleen Do?” (Which we also know the answer to. Check out the end of the video for the true answer).

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Personality and the Spread of Disease

This image was provided by the CDC and the Partnership, Inc.
Available at Wikimedia Commons.
Studies of the spread of infectious diseases have shown that behavior plays a strong role in which individuals are more likely to be infected and which ones aren't. For example, sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) are more commonly diagnosed in people that have more sexual partners. But despite our understanding of how diseases are spread among people, we know very little about the spread of diseases among wild animals. Do their personalities play a role in the spread of wildlife diseases?

This week at Accumulating Glitches I talk about personalities in deer mice and the role they play in the spread of hantavirus. Check it out here.

And to learn more, check this out:

Dizney L, & Dearing MD (2013). The role of behavioural heterogeneity on infection patterns: implications for pathogen transmission. Animal behaviour, 86 (5) PMID: 24319292

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

The Scorpion and the Frog’s 100th Post!

Fireworks image by Liz Noffsinger at

We have reached a major milestone: This is officially The Scorpion and the Frog’s 100th post! Not bad for a weekly science blog, eh? In celebration of this momentous occasion, I thought I would share with you some of the things you can find in these 100 posts:

1. Articles: The heart and soul of The Scorpion and the Frog lies in the articles on animal physiology and behavior. Some articles, like Thanks Dad!, explain a concept. Others, like Mind-Manipulating Slave-Making Ants!, describe research I found interesting. If there is an animal physiology or behavior topic you would like to learn more about, I also take requests for future articles.

2. Guest posts: I am not the only one that writes articles for The Scorpion and the Frog. A number of Guest Science Writers have contributed fantastic articles on everything from the neurobiology of love to how parrots speak human language to the odd relationship between sea cucumbers and the fish that live in their butts. They are a talented group of writers with a range of perspectives and interests.

3. Biology music videos: This series highlights videos mostly made by scientist- musicians to celebrate, poke fun of and teach about science and the life of a scientist. My personal favorite is Science Beat.

4. The How to Get Into an Animal Behavior Graduate Program guide: Although the title of this guide is specific to animal behavior programs, the advice in it holds true for most any graduate program in the sciences. There are a series of links within it to provide more detailed advice and I continue to add to it.

5. Where the Wild Things Are: Amazing Animal Watching Vacations is a series that explores things you can do on your own or with family and friends. It highlights zoos, aquariums, and wildlife vacations. Find a summary of activities here.

I hope you enjoy exploring everything we have in this blog as much as we enjoy sharing it with you!