Birds Are Memory Champs

first_imgWe humans lose our keys and often can’t remember the location of half a dozen identical items.  “Maybe it takes a bird brain to find the car keys,” teases Susan Milius in the cover story of the Feb. 14 issue of Science News.1  Ornithologists have been intrigued with how birds remember where they stash their food.  One champ is Clark’s nutcracker, a noisy denizen of western national parks observed and named by the Lewis and Clark expedition.  In a year, each bird buries 22,000 to 33,000 seeds and manages to find two thirds of them 13 months later.  Chickadees and scrub jays are pretty good at this game, too.  Experiments have demonstrated that bird memories are flexible and can even do time travel into the future.    How could such good memories evolve?  The only going theory seems to be that tough times select for better memories.  As evidence, researchers found that Alaskan chickadees outperformed Coloradoans in a seed storage and retrieval contest.  Not all ornithologists are convinced of this theory, however, since the two species differ in many other respects.  “To resolve the question of whether tough times have contributed to the evolution of catching wizardry is ‘currently difficult,’ says [Nicola] Clayton [Cambridge].”  More experiments will be required, but Milius concludes, “What started out as a fidgety search for the operating rules of feathered robots has turned into studies of how thinking works.”1Susan Milius, “Where’d I Put That?” Science News, Vol. 165, No. 7, Feb. 14, 2004, p. 103.The claim that tough times create design is like the Phoenix myth, that a living bird arises from the flames of catastrophe.  No. Fire burns, and stress kills.  Making stress a creative genius is no explanation at all, yet it remains a favorite plot in Darwin stories.  Didn’t an asteroid blast give rise to the zoo of complex and diverse mammals, according to the going myth?  We can enjoy the marvels of birds without the insipid, useless, wasteful, distracting, unsupportable, pseudoscientific bad habit of trying to find evolutionary origins for everything.  Remember that.    Next time in Yellowstone, Yosemite or other western national parks, don’t be annoyed by the squawking of the nutcrackers and jays.  Pay them a little respect.  They’ve got a better memory than you in that little brain of theirs.  Milius began her article by reprimanding, “Should humanity get a little too full of itself and its intellectual prowess, there’s always Clark’s nutcracker to think about.”(Visited 31 times, 1 visits today)FacebookTwitterPinterestSave分享0last_img read more

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Eastern Cape schools roll-out continues

first_img27 August 2013 Basic Education Deputy Minister Enver Surty attended the handing over of Mqokolweni Senior Primary School to the community of Dikela location in the Libode district in the Eastern Cape on Friday. The new school was built under the Accelerated School Infrastructure Delivery Initiative, a national programme to tackle school infrastructure backlogs in the country. The R8.2-billion public-private programme aims to eradicate the 496 “mud schools” in the country, provide water and sanitation to 1 257 schools and electricity to 878 schools by March 2016. The Eastern Cape has been prioritised under the programme, which will see about 50 new schools being built to accommodate more than 10 000 learners in the province. Educators and learners at Mqokolweni Senior Primary say the new school has made learning and teaching convenient. Learners will now be able to get computer lessons on laptops in fully equipped computer laboratories. The standard facilities in all the new schools include a multi-purpose centre, library, science lab, dedicated Grade R centre, decent sanitation facilities and administration block. Speaking at Friday’s handover, Surty said the government had made education an “apex priority”, adding that what had once been a bleak prospect was now a promising future. He encouraged the learners to make the best possible use of their brand new facilities. The Accelerated School Infrastructure Delivery Initiative is now one of the programmes overseen by the Presidential Infrastructure Coordinating Council. Source: SAnews.gov.zalast_img read more

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Preparation of grain storage facilities for grain harvest

first_imgShare Facebook Twitter Google + LinkedIn Pinterest Protecting grain quality and ultimately the economic value of the grain begins long before the first acre is ever harvested. This pre-harvest activity is to prepare grain harvesting, handling and storage equipment and structures for the soon to be harvested corn and soybeans.All pieces of equipment used in harvesting the grain should be cleaned, inspected, and repaired several weeks prior to the beginning of the harvest season. Like in real estate where the mantra is “Location! Location! Location!” the mantra in grain harvesting and handling should be “Sanitation! Sanitation! Sanitation!” Starting with thorough cleaning of every piece of equipment through which or in which grain will be passed or hauled. Remove all traces of old grain from combines, combine heads, truck beds, grain carts, augers, lift buckets, grain pits, grain driers, bins and any other equipment used for harvesting, transporting, and handling grain. Even small amounts of moldy and/or insect-infested grain left in equipment can contaminate a bin of new grain.Since grain is usually in contact with grain bins for the greatest length of time, extra attention should be paid to the sanitation of these structures. Remove any grain or grain dust from inside the bins by sweeping or vacuuming empty bins and brushing down walls. Pay close attention to cracks and crevices, ledges over doors, and hollow tube ladder rungs on or in which grain could have been trapped from the previous storage seasons. Fans, aeration ducts, exhausts, and when possible, beneath slotted floors should be cleared of debris as well. Dispose of all debris in a lawful manner and away from the storage facility.Sanitation outside of bins is as important as inside of the bins. Ideally there should be no vegetation (weeds, shrubs, etc.) growing up against the outside of the bin. Grain pests (insects and rodents) can be harbored in the vegetation. Bare ground covered with gravel or cement is preferred, but short-mown grass is tolerable. Remove any spilled grain from around the outside of the bin and storage facility.Once storage structures have been thoroughly cleaned, carefully inspect them for signs of deterioration, especially for leaks and holes through which insects, birds or rodents can gain easy access to the stored grain or rain and snow can drip or blow in onto the grain to produce wet spots that can lead to mold growth. While inspecting for physical problems, one should also test aeration fans and driers for functionality. Check belts, bearings and gear boxes for wear and proper lubrication.Check electrical systems for corroded connections and frayed wiring before harvest. Mice like to nest inside electrical boxes where they are safe from predators. They will strip insulation from wires for nesting material and their urine causes corrosion. While inspecting control boxes, be sure to seal any openings through which mice could get in. Be sure that guards and safety shields are in place over belts, chains and intakes. Seal all leaks and make repairs to the equipment before you need them to manage the grain.Once all cleaning and repairs have been completed, an empty-bin application of an appropriately labeled insecticide is advisable, especially in bins with difficult to clean areas and/or in bins with a history of insect problems. For empty-bin insecticide treatments that are applied as a liquid, allow a minimum of 24 hours for the sprays to dry before loading grain into the bin. It is preferable to have empty-bin treatments applied at least two weeks prior to harvest.Registered empty-bin insecticides include: Tempo SC Ultra (cyfluthrin), Storcide II (chlorpyrifos-methyl plus deltamethrin) which is primarily used around small grains such as wheat, Centynal or Suspend SC (deltamethrin), Diacon-D IGR (s-methoprene = an insect growth regulator), and several pyrethrin products can be used to apply a surface treatment to the inside of the bin and provide a residual protection. Other products that contain diatomaceous earth and/or silicon dioxide such as Insecto, Protect-It, Perma-Guard and others may be utilized. Refer to the individual product labels for lists of insects controlled and application directions. Note: most if not all malathion products have removed stored grain uses from their labels.If a bin is known to be heavily infested with insects, an empty-bin fumigation may be required to knock down insect populations before applying one of the above insecticides. The most readily available product for this purpose is phosphine gas producing materials such as aluminum phosphide and magnesium phosphide sold under a wide variety of trade names. Phosphine is an extremely toxic material and fumigations should be conducted by trained, experienced, licensed applicators.Another measure one might take to reduce the chance of insect infestation is to apply a perimeter spray around the base and up the outside walls of the bin about 15 feet. This may only be necessary in areas where grain infesting insect movement has been observed on the outsides of the storage bins. There are several synthetic pyrethroids (cyfluthrin, deltamethrin, permethrin, resmethrin, etc.) that can be used for this purpose as long as they do not come in contact with the grain.Grain storage insecticide labels tend to change frequently. As always, check to make sure you are following the instructions on the product label and using the appropriate product for your situation. One also needs to be sure that the end-user of the stored grain does not have restrictions on insecticide uses on or around the grains that they are going to purchase. If growing specialty grains, check with your buyers before using insecticides.A few more words of caution include, new grain should never be stored on top of grain from a previous season’s harvest; remove old grain and clean bins before adding new grain. Grains broken in the harvesting and/or handling process become more susceptible to infestation by insects and mold. Thus, adjust combines according to the manufacturer’s specifications to minimize grain damage and to maximize removal of fines and other foreign material, move grains as little as possible, and limit the number of times and heights from which grains are dropped to reduce breakage.Last but not least, review your safety procedures for working with flowing grain, grain harvesting and handling equipment, and personal protection. Anyone who works around the bins and grain handling equipment should know where to find shut-off switches, fire extinguishers, and emergency phone numbers. Being prepared for harvest will reduce the risk of accidents, and knowing how to react in an emergency can save lives.last_img read more

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