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Worth a Thousand Birds

It was too difficult to choose just one new PLoS ONE article with interesting multimedia to highlight this week, especially when I realised that the journal was a-tweet with fascinating bird research this week. You can choose whether you most enjoyed reading about the albatrosses, the budgerigars or the eagles.

Digital still images obtained from three cameras mounted on black-browed albatrosses. A: a ‘featureless’ sea, B: an iceberg encountered, C: a killer whale breaking the ocean surface, apparent from its dorsal fin (white arrow) and three black-browed albatrosses attracted to the whale, D: two albatrosses flying in association with the camera-mounted bird, E: a fisheries vessel in the distance (white arrow) with an aggregation of birds, F: a bright light source during the night, possibly a vessel or the moon.
Digital still images obtained from three cameras mounted on black-browed albatrosses (see the published paper for the full caption).

Kentaro Sakamoto of Hokkaido University, Japan, and colleagues at the National Institute of Polar Research, Japan, and the British Antarctic Survey detail the fascinating interactions between black-browed albatrosses (Thalassarche melanophrys) and a killer whale (Orcinus orca) in the Southern Ocean. The images were captured by small camera about the size of a packet of Polos (or a lipstick) attached to the birds and show the birds foraging in groups and feeding with a killer whale. The image is Figure 1 from the paper and shows a selection of “Digital still images obtained from three cameras mounted on black-browed albatrosses.”

Moving from marine ecology to behavioural neuroscience, in their paper published in PLoS ONE today, Partha Bhagavatula and colleagues at the Australian National University and the University of Queensland report that birds’ ability to fly and land with great precision results from their skill at detecting edges. Based on their study in budgerigars (Melopsittacus undulatus), the researchers suggest that edge detection plays a key role in helping all animals, including humans, to move around safely and may even be more important than the ability to see in colour. The video is Video S1 from the paper and shows “a budgerigar landing on the edge of a Jet Black disc placed on a uniform Kingfisher Blue background.”

[wpvideo uLTRA0kL]Finally, there is good news for the harpy eagle (Harpia harpyja), according to an article by Heather Lerner at the Smithsonian Institutition and her team in which they report that despite recent habitat loss and fragmentation of harpy eagle populations, relatively high levels of mitochondrial genetic variation remain, highlighting the need for a conservation strategy that focuses on maintaining diversity within local populations rather than within a single extant population, in order to preserve the highest level of genetic diversity among the species. Figure 1 of the published article shows the geographic distribution and haplotype network of harpy eagles in Central and South America.

Other images published in PLoS ONE that caught our attention this week included Figure 1 of Caroline Palmer’s paper, Coral Fluorescent Proteins as Antioxidants, and Figure 3 from Jeffrey Wilson’s article, Dynamic Locomotor Capabilities Revealed by Early Dinosaur Trackmakers from Southern Africa. To find more of our recently published articles, visit our website, where you can also sign up for our eTOCs or one of our RSS feeds.

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