Animal kingdom

Capuchin monkey

A tribe of Capuchin monkeys in Panama have started using stone tools

Spiders can fly using electric-powered butt balloons

Entomologists have long known that certain small spider species can spin balloon-shaped webs that allow them to fly. The supposition that they use air currents to fly has been proven wrong, however. Instead, researchers from the University of Bristol found that Lynyphiid spiders achieved lift-off and maintained flight using the natural static electrical charge found in air. When exposed to electric fields in a lab they ascended, but fell to earth when the fields were switched off. Electrical fields cause tiny hairs on the spiders’ legs stand on end, the insects produce a bubble of silk that lifts them skyward thanks to spider silk’s ability to conduct electricity.

Koalas to kiss STDs goodbye thanks to gene mapping

You wouldn’t think it, but the greatest threat to koala survival is chlamydia. The STD, rife among Australia’s 329 000 koalas, leads to infertility, loss of vision and a painful condition that prevents them from urinating. If left unchecked, it could lead to the animals’ extinction. Thankfully, a genome mapping of the adorable Aussie fluffballs has brought researchers much closer to developing a vaccine. It is hoped that one will be developed within five years thanks to the study. Scientists also uncovered the reason koalas can eat toxic eucalyptus leaves (their “cast-iron” livers) and how baby koalas survive being born after just 35 days of gestation (their mothers’ milk is laced with immune boosters).

A tribe of Panamanian monkeys just entered the Stone Age

Capuchin monkeys on Jicarón Island in Panama have been spotted using stone tools to break open nuts and shellfish, researchers claim. It is speculated that a capuchin with above-average intelligence first got the idea. Strangely, the behavior appears to be localised to male monkeys in a particular region of the island and doesn’t occur among monkeys on islands nearby. This has puzzled researchers, especially since monkeys who switch tribes don’t take their knowledge with them. Four groups of tool-using primates have been identified to date: the Jicarón capuchins, a second group of capuchins in South America, a group of West African chimps and a group of macaque monkeys from Thailand.

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