what's the buzz

Why parrots mimic others’ sounds

Parrots have exceptional abilities to mimic the sounds they hear. One species, the orange-fronted conure, may have evolved this ability in order to communicate with specific individuals in other flocks, according to Thorsten Balsby from the University of Aarhus, Denmark and colleagues from the University of Copenhagen.

In the wild, orange-fronted conures live in dynamic flocks where individuals flit in and out, so each parrot encounters many different individuals every day. Each animal also has its own unique call. Both in the wild and in the researcher's experiments, parrots that heard an imitation of their own calls responded more frequently and faster to the calling individual than parrots that did not hear this imitation. Based on these observations, the researchers suggested that the parrots may have evolved their abilities as mimics so they could 'begin a conversation' with a specific individual by mimicking their call.

Role of dinosaurs in evolution of bird flight revealed 

Researchers studying the structure of feathers in bird-like dinosaurs have shed light on one of nature's most remarkable inventions – how flight might have evolved. Academics at the Universities of Bristol, Yale and Calgary have shown that prehistoric birds had a much more primitive version of the wings we see today, with rigid layers of feathers acting as simple airfoils for gliding.

Close examination of the earliest theropod dinosaurs suggests that feathers were initially developed for insulation, arranged in multiple layers to preserve heat, before their shape evolved for display and camouflage.

The new research looked at the dinosaur Anchiornis huxleyi and the Jurassic bird Archaeopteryx lithographica. The latter is 155 million years old and widely considered to be the earliest known bird, presenting a combination of dinosaur and bird characteristics.

Their wings differed from modern day birds in being composed of multiple layers of long feathers, appearing to represent early experiments in the evolution of the wing. Although individual feathers were relatively weak due to slender feather shafts, the layering of these wing feathers is likely to have produced a strong airfoil.

The inability to separate feathers suggests that taking off and flying at low speeds may have been limited, meaning that wings were primarily used in high-speed gliding or flapping flight.

Now, 3D photo booth that prints models of faces

A newly opened shop in New York allows customers to print an exact likeness of their own heads, extending the retail possibilities of 3D printing.

Makerbot, a company based in the Brooklyn borough of the city, creates affordable 3D printing machines for use at home, and opened its first retail store as consumer interest in the technology grows, the Telegraph reported.

3D printing involves making solid objects from a digital model, and has previously been used in industry to create everything from robots to jewellery.

Each object is an exact likeness of the model, created by the printer building on successive layers of material.

The Makerbot 3D computer model takes a few minutes to construct in store and costs 5 dollars, while the physical 3D objects are created in a factory and cost 20 dollars, 40 dollars, and 60 dollars for small, medium, and large versions.

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