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5 December 2013 11:26 am ,
Vol. 342 ,
Researchers have been hot on the trail of the elusive Denisovans, a type of ancient human known only by their DNA and...
Thousands of scientists in the Russian Academy of Sciences (RAS) are about to lose their jobs as a result of the...
Dyslexia, a learning disability that hinders reading, hasn't been associated with deficits in vision, hearing, or...
Exotic, elusive, and dangerous, snakes have fascinated humankind for millennia. They can be hard to find, yet their...
Researchers have sequenced and analyzed the first two snake genomes, which represent two evolutionary extremes. The...
Snake venoms are remarkably complex mixtures that can stun or kill prey within minutes. But more and more researchers...
At age 30, Dutch biologist Freek Vonk has built up a respectable career as a snake scientist. But in his home country,...
Since arriving on the island of Guam in the 1940s, the brown tree snake ( Boiga irregularis ) has extirpated native...
- 5 December 2013 11:26 am , Vol. 342 , #6163
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Video: Solid Bones, Sexy Songs
12 June 2012 7:01 pm
When a male club-winged manakin (Machaeropterus deliciosus) wants to attract a female in the Andean cloud forest, he raises his wings over his back and vibrates a pair of giant feathers to make a "PEEP!" sound (as in video above). A scientist at Cornell University suspected there were odd bones under those strange feathers, so she teamed up with colleagues to do computed-tomography scans of the manakin and some close relatives. Bird bones are hollow, with air pockets that make flight easier. But the club-winged manakin is an oddball. The scans revealed that its humerus, the bone that starts at the shoulder, is solid. The ulna, in the next section of wing, is also solid. It's also just plain wacky: While the other birds' ulnae are long, thin, and smooth with a knob at each end, the club-winged manakin's ulna is shaped like a club and covered with lumps and bumps. (And yet they still manage to fly.) The scientists, who report their findings online today in Biology Letters, think the bumps grasp the ends of the special resonating feathers, which poke through the skin, for better sound control, and that the dense bone may make the sound louder by bouncing it out through the feather.
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