Seabird Study Provides Insights into Sexual Selection

By Greg Watry

What scent attracts a seabird’s mate?

Gabrielle Nevitt holds a Leach's storm-petrel.

Professor Gabrielle Nevitt has studied Leach’s storm-petrels since 1996, first on Kent Island and then Bon Portage Island. (Courtesy photo)

It’s a question on the mind of Professor Gabrielle Nevitt, Department of Neurobiology, Physiology and Behavior. An expert on the chemical senses of birds, Nevitt and members of her lab have been studying Leach’s storm-petrels (Oceanodroma leucohoa) for over 20 years with the goal of making the species a model for chemical ecology in birds.

Live Fast Die Young: Updating Signal Detection Theory

Signal Detection Theory is a popular and well-established idea that has influenced behavioral science for around 50 years. Essentially, the theory holds that in a predator-prey relationship, prey animals will show more wariness and be more prone to flee as predators become more common. Danger signals are ambiguous, so in what appears to be a threatening situation, animals are better off running than hanging around to see if a predator really does strike.

Now Pete Trimmer, a postdoctoral research at UC Davis, has taken a fresh look at signal detection theory and come up with what at first look like counterintuitive results. In many cases, he says, animals should actually become less cautious as the risk of predation rises.

Wallflower or Center of the Pack? Baboons Find Their Place

By Karen Nikos-Rose

Are you the kind of person who, at a party, tends to be surrounded by friends in the middle of the crowd, or do you prefer to find a quiet corner where you can sit and talk? Recent work by scientists at UC Davis shows that wild baboons behave similarly to humans —  with some animals consistently found in the vanguard of their troop while others crowd to the center or lag in the rear.

Modeling Shows How Social Networks Help Animals Survive

By Mike Gil

Applications like Facebook and Twitter show us, on a daily basis, the power of social networks to influence individual behavior. While wild animals do not surf the web, they are connected with other individuals in shared landscapes, and “share information” through their behavior. But how does this information affect surrounding animals?

The formation of multi-species groups, such as these fish feeding on a coral reef, may be fostered by information sharing. (Heather Hillard)

The formation of multi-species groups, such as these fish feeding on a coral reef, may be fostered by social information sharing. (Heather Hillard)

Advice for the Obamas on choosing a pet

As the nation holds its breath, Barack Obama weighs perhaps his most significant White House appointment — as far as his daughters are concerned, anyway. Word is that the choice is down to a “labradoodle” or a Portugese Water Dog, both breeds that look something like a floor mop with a perm.

UC Davis veterinarian and animal behavior specialist Melissa Bain has some advice for the Obamas — and for any other families considering getting a dog. Proper training and socialization is as important as the breed, she says.