Dogs and humans are of equal importance??

A Korean show “TV Animal Farm” showed a weary family because of the aggressiveness of their dog towards their 16-month-old daughter, Sienna. The 4-year-old half-breed dog, Tobby appears as if it had two personalities: a cheerful and gentle dog to everyone including strangers and kids; a fierce dog which always growls or barks at Sienna when she is around. Although Tobby responds to Sienna when she calls it, it will start growling as it approaches Sienna, and following her while growling. Luckily, Tobby have not bitten Sienna before. Tobby also showed a strong jealousy when Sienna is playing with her daddy, Jamie.

A companion-dog etiquette educator* visited Sienna’s family and figured the reason behind the misbehavior of Tobby. Tobby was threatening Sienna—growling because it perceived as it has a higher rank in the family than Sienna. The reason behind the confusion of this hierarchy order was because the owner of Tobby, Jamie greets Tobby first when he came back from work. From Jamie’s point of view, he was greeting Tobby first because it greeted him first, where Sienna greeted him after Tobby did. It seems that Tobby and Sienna is in the same rank in Jamie’s mind, and the thought has been creating the tension of the family. As Jamie greeted Sienna first when he came back home, and after few trials of operant conditioning to view Sienna as a pleasing person, Tobby showed less aggressiveness towards Sienna.

In Chinese philosophy, there is a great debate whether humans are kind or evil in nature. Despite of the nature, the environment an individual grew up shapes her personality and behavior. I believe the same applies to the animals. Nowadays, many of the people perceive their pets as companion of life. Somehow, the importance of pet and human has become equal, and this was the reason of misbehavior in Tobby. If Jamie thought that Sienna was more important, he would have greeted Sienna first despite of who greeted him first, won’t him? Studies by Unshelm (1997) highlights that  dog management of the owner has a clear impact on dogs bahavior. Thus, rearing an obedient and nice dog is a responsibility of the owners and not that the dogs should be born with pleasing traits. It is not wrong to love pets, but we have to be aware that as pets become more and more important in human world, the significance of human to care for each other in the community might become more and more  less important. This trend can be due to the chaotic society where humans find no hope and no one to trust, but I still think that although dogs can be close friend of humans, humans should and would gain more effective help from humans. Are dogs as important as humans? Though dogs can be loyal friends of humans, humans are of utmost importance in the whole ecology, because humans shape the world. And to be frank, dogs especially the pets are products of sophisticated technology and science. 

 *Companion-Dog Etiquette Educator: (In Korea) A profession usually attended by veterinarians to educate etiquette’s of dogs. This profession also helps the owners to understand their dogs.

** Companion-Dog:  The perception towards pet dogs have changed in Korea recently. Pet dogs were previously called 애완견 (愛玩犬), meaning a dog you love such that you want to play with it and stay together. But nowadays, there are called 반려견 (伴侶犬), meaning a dog like a close friend of life, a companion of life. This shows that the view of Korean society regarding dogs have changed: from thinking the dogs are toys and an object to please ownself, to thinking that dogs are very important in daily life and thus adding humane trait to it–communicate with it and view it as a close friend.  


“TV Animal Farm-Tobby-SBS” by SBS. Tudou 04 April 2010. URL:

A. Roll, J. Unshelm, 1997. Aggressive conflicts amongst dogs and factors
affecting them. Applied Animal Behaviour Science, 52: 229-242.

Let Salmon brings you home!

You would probably have heard of salmon as ‘sentimental’ because they eventually swim to their natal location to reproduce and give birth to their young. This romanticised salmon, however in reality, salmon swims home for a few reasons. How do they trace their way home? When do they know when to travel?

Salmon is the common for several species of fish. The scientific name of the family is Salmonidae. The family includes pink, chinhook, coho and many more. They belong to a special type of family as they practise migration before spawning.

As mentioned in the book ‘The Behavior and Ecology of Pacific Salmon and Trout’ , author Thomas P. Quinn said that salmon diverge at some point when they are about to travel back to their home river. Even when they are mixed with other species, they are able to sense the environmental changes taking place ( temperature of the water and food available) around them and every fish react differently. Not only that, they do converge later before entering the natal river.

One amazing thing is that they must control their travel rate so that no excess energy is loss. A salmon of 60 cm length is reported to be able to swim 2.16 km/h if it swims in a straight line.  The distance traveled would not seem short when taking into consideration that salmon is constantly swimming upwards. It is likely to face danger from predators as it uses much energy in swimming upstream. Not only that, salmon’s survival rate is also facing danger from environmental desturction arising from human construction of dams.

No matter how much danger or effort it takes, salmon still has the genetic factor which entice it to go home.



‘The Behavior and Ecology of Pacific Salmon and Trout’ By Thomas P. Quinn. Published by University of Washington Press, 2005. Google book. ( accessed on 8 April)

‘ Do dams make a difference? Similar Survival Rates For Pacific Salmon in Fraser And Columbia Rivers. By ScienceDaily ( Oct 30, 2008) URL: ( accessed on 8 April)

Your Mummy was your Daddy

In Finding Nemo, a Disney animated movie production, a father-son relationship featuring two clownfishes were portrayed. The movie did not however, reveal that the male clownfish can change gender after the death of its female partner.

Clownfish or anemonefish belong to the subfamily Amphiprioninae in the family Pomacentridae. Up till now, there are about twenty eight species recognized, one in the genus Premnas, while the remaining are in the genus Amphiprion. They all form symbiotic mutualisms with sea anemones. Clownfish are overall yellow, orange, reddish, or blackish and many show white bars or patches depending on their species.



During spawning season, the males attract females by courting behaviour such as chasing, biting and extending fins. In a group of clownfish, there is a strict hierarchy based on size. The group of clownfish consists of  a breeding pair of male and female as well as other non-breeding males. The largest clownfish of the school is the female and she is at the top of the hierachy while the next largest is the breeding male.

The special characteristic of the clownfish is that when the female in a group dies, the breeding male replaces it by changing sex and becoming the female.  Its position is then replaced by one of the other males in the group of clownfish. Thus, the clownfish moves up in social ladder. This can happen because clownfish are hermaphrodites, which is an animal that has reproductive organs associated with both female and male sexes. Thus, they develop into males first and then mature into females.

This was an interesting fact to explore about as I have always thought that animals were only either male or female!

Second Source:-

Margarida Casadevall1,*, Eulalia Delgado 1, Orphal Colleye 2, Samuel Ber Monserrat 2 and Eric
Parmentier 2

Casadevell, Delgado, Colleye, Monserrat and Parmentier from the Environmental Sciences Department, Sciences Faculty, Girona University in Spain conducted a histological study of the sex-change in the skunk clownfish  Amphiprion akallopisos and documented it in the journal The Open Fish Science Journal, 2009, 2, 55-58.



“Clownfish” by knowhimonline, December 31, 2006. URL: (accessed on 8th April 2010).


M. Casadevall, E. Delgado, O. Colleye, S.B. Monserrat and E.Parmentier.  Histological Study of the Sex-change in the Skunk Clownfish  Amphiprion akallopisos. The Open Fish Science Journal, 2009, 2, 55-58.

Web Articles:-

“An Exploration of the Clownfish” by clown fish2 and clown fish1. Clownfish Biology, 2005. URL: (accessed on 9 April 2010)

“Clownfish”, Wikipedia, URL: (accessed on 9 April 2010)

“Hermaphrodite”, Wikipedia, URL: (accessed on 9 April 2010)

“Percula Clownfish: Your Mommy Was Your Daddy.” by Alex. Neatorama Only, Science & Tech, 30 April 2007. URL: (accessed on 9 April 2010)

Flying Without Wings

What does a jumbo jet, an albatross, a flying lizard and a flying squirrel have in common? Well, they can fly, and they have wings or wing-like structures to help them to do so. Therefore, wings are essential to flight, and without wings not even the jumbo jet could do so. Right?

The flying snake not only disagrees, but is able and prepared to back that up with action.


The flying snake (genus Chrysopelea) composes of five species, and inhabits the lowland rainforests of South and Southeast Asia. They are mildly venomous, are active in the day and live primarily on lizards, as well as birds and bats. However, it is obviously their flying – or rather, gliding – that sets them apart from the rest of the snake family.

How does it do so? A flying snake first droops itself toward the end of a branch, where the frontal part of its body forms into a ‘J’ shape.  Upon launching itself into the air from the branch, its cylindrical body flattens to about twice its normal width and acquiring a slight ‘C’ shape, which is able to trap air. While this is happening, the snake itself forms into an ‘S’, and creates consecutive S-shaped waves from head to tail as it glides through the air till it lands. Here’s how it is done in motion:

We must forgive the second video for calling the flying snake a “parachuting snake”. It is an old conception that has been debunked by recent studies showing that flying snakes, as shown above, are actually gliders which travel further horizontally than they fall vertically (whereas for parachuters, it is the exact opposite). Furthermore, they are not only superb gliders, but are also better gliders than flying squirrels and some species of flying lizards.

Much about the flying snake remains a mystery, such as the reason for their unique flying movement, and the frequency of the created S-shaped waves. Nevertheless, the wondrous flying snake is a living example of how wings are not really that essential in flight, and in its case Westlife’s “Flying Without Wings” now holds a more literal, rather than figurative, meaning.


“Flying Snake”. National Geographic. URL: (accessed on 7 Apr 2010)

“flying snake”, by geronimo034. geronimo034 YouTube Channel, 7 September 2007. URL: (accessed on 8 Apr 2010)

“Flying Snakes… and Leaping Lizards”, by National Geographic. National Geographic YouTube Channel, 5 August 2009. URL: (accessed on 7 Apr 2010)

Socha, J.J., 2002. Gliding flight in the paradise tree snake. Nature 418, 603-604. URL: (accessed on 7 Apr 2010)

Socha, J.J., T. O’Dempsey & M. LaBarbera, 2005. A 3-D kinematic analysis of gliding in a flying snake, Chrysopelea paradisis. Journal of Experimental Biology, 208 (10): 1817-1833. URL: (accessed on 7 Apr 2010)

“Snakes Take Flight”, by Cynthia Wei. Journal of Experimental Biology Inside JEB piece, 15 May 2005. URL: (accessed on 7 Apr 2010)

“A marriage of convenience” between caterpillars and ants

karner blue

Looking at the picture on the right, one may wonder why are there ants surrounding the two caterpillars?

This is because both of them share a very special relationship known as ant-caterpillar mutualism.

miami-blueIn fact, there are many species of butterflies from the Lycaenidae family that associate with ants and the small, green creatures [above] are the larvae of the Miami Blue Butterfly Cyclargus thomasi bethunebakeri [left]. The Miami Blue is one of Florida’s rarest endemic butterflies and is currently listed as a ‘state-endangered’ species.

So what exactly is the relationship between the caterpillar and its ant partners?

The Miami Blue caterpillar emits semiochemicals i.e. message bearing molecules that are used as signals from a pair of tentacular organs and secretes a sugar-rich solution from its endocrine glands that has the ability to attract, appease and recruit ‘tending ants’. In return, the ants tend to the caterpillar’s needs and protect them from a variety of natural predators and parasitoids.

antWhile Miami Blue larvae associate with several species of ants, the predominant ant species that attends to the larvae is the Carpenter Ant Camponotus floridanus. These large and potentially aggressive ants may prove to be effective in deterring predators.

The video (below) illustrates the unique acquaintance between a caterpillar and its ant counterpart.

Cost & Benefits:

From the video, one can see that the relationship between the caterpillar and its tending ants involve a complex array of chemical, tactile and audible signals. Besides the immediate benefit of having friendly ants as bodyguards, ant-caterpillar mutualism is also linked to enhanced larvae growth and development. However, certain ant species may also act as predators while the friendly ants do not always succeed in protecting the larvae. Furthermore,ant-caterpillar mutualism is not always beneficial for the caterpillars.

The production and loss of secretions to ants result in a loss of nutrients that can be put to other uses such as larvae development and pupal growth. This can cause larvae to pupate at smaller sizes, which reduces insect fitness in the long run. Yet, some caterpillars possess an ability to compensate for nutrients lost to ants although the exact mechanism is not known. One hypothesis is that tending larvae may feed more and digest food more efficiently, thereby increasing its pupal weight.

Overall, this marriage of convenience between caterpillars and ants illustrates the coming together of two very different individuals that share a common goal – survival!


Saarinen, V. Emily and Daniels, C. Jaret. “Miami Blue Butterfly Larvae (Lepidoptera: Lycaenidae) and Ants (Hymeoptera: Formicidae): New Information on the Symbionts of an Endangered Taxon”. The Florida Entomologist, vol. 89 (1), Mar 2006, p. 69-74. URL:



Fraser, .M Ann, Axen, H. Annkristin and Pierce, E. Naomi. “Assessing the qualify of different ant species as partners of a myrmecophilous butterly”. Oecologia, vol. 129, 2001, p. 452-460.

Wagner, Diane. “Species-specific effects of tending ants on the development of lycaenid butterfly larvae”. Oecologia, vol. 96, 1993, p. 276-281.

Trager, D. Matthew and Daniels, C. Jaret. “Ant Tending of Miami Blue Butterfly Larvae (Lepidoptera: Lycaenidae): Partner diversity and Effects on Larval Performance. The Florida Entomologist, vol. 92 (3), Sept 2009, p. 474-481.

Videos and Images

“Ant Caterpillar Mutualism” by flyconrye. Youtube, (15 Mar 2008). URL: (assessed on 04 Apr 2010).

“Miami Blue Butterfly”. URL: (assessed on 05 Apr 2010).


“Ants and Blue Butterflies”. URL: (assessed on 04 Apr 2010).

“Camponotus floridanus”. URL: (assessed on 05 Apr 2010).