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Join Host Bob McDonald for Quirks and Quarks
 

Past Shows

November 27, 2004

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Avoiding Attack: The Evolution of Mimicry

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MRI of a human brain
A hoverfly mimicking a wasp, with its forelegs mimicking the antennae , Courtesy Dr. Henri Goulet

Survival of the fittest isn’t the only rule of nature, there’s also survival of the sneakiest. Throughout the animal kingdom there are examples of creatures that copy other nastier critters. From harmless flies that look like stinging wasps to timid lizards that look like noxious ants, the principle of mimicry is everywhere. But there’s a second type of mimic, one where both animals evolved are unpleasant to potential predators. Dr. Tom Sherratt, an associate professor in the biology department at Carleton University, studies both these types of mimicry and has summarized his research in his new textbook, Avoiding Attack.

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Pigeon Attractions

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Pigeon
Pigeon magnetically blinded by magnet taped to it's beak, Courtesy Iain MacDonald
Pigeons have remarkable abilities to find their way home, even if released thousands of kilometers away in unfamiliar territory. Some researchers have long suspected that pigeons have a sixth sense, that allows them to navigate by the earth's magnetic field. Dr. Cordula Mora, a post-doctoral fellow in the Department of Biology at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, has proved that pigeons do have such a magnetic sense. She found pigeons could detect a weak magnetic field that indicated the location of food, and that this ability could be blocked by putting a magnet over the part of the beak where she suspects the pigeons' magnetic sense originates.

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Listener Feedback - Animal Experimentation

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2 weeks ago, we aired a documentary on animal experimentation in medical research. And that brought a flood of response from our listeners. Bob and one of our producers read some of the reaction.

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Baby Guilt

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How well will this child learn morals?
How well will this child learn morals?
Many scientists study how children develop an understanding of language or numbers or logic. Fewer look at how children develop a moral code. Dr. David Forman from Concordia University has tested children as young as one year old and has been able to predict how strong their moral code will be by the age of three.

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Bushmeat

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Bushmeat
Overfishing drives up the demand for for bushmeat and threatens wildlife populations
The Gulf of Guinea off the coast of West Africa is one of the richest fisheries in the world. It's also one of the most overfished by mainly EU-subsidized fleets, and could collapse within a few decades. Now it turns out the declining fishstocks are having an unexpected and potentially devastating side effect. It's driving up the need for other protein sources among a growing human population in West African countries. With farming being mostly subsistence in the region, people are turning to the forests and the savannah to feed an increasingly urban population. Many species face extinction and a humanitarian crisis could easily follow. Dr. Peter Arcese, an associate professor of forest sciences at the University of British Columbia, says action is needed immediately to create a farming infrastructure and to stop the international exploitation of the fishery.

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Question of the Week: Arctic Dinosaurs

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Doug McFee in Langley, British Columbia, asks: I see in the papers that fossils of a carnivorous dinosaur have been found in the Arctic. Clearly the climate there was warmer during the time of the dinosaurs. But how much of the increased temperature was due to the earth being warmer, and how much to the Arctic landmass being closer to the equator at that time?

For the answer, we go to Memorial University of Newfoundland, where Dr. Elliott Burden is a professor of Earth Sciences. He was also the first scientist to find dinosaur fossils in the Arctic.

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