What evolutionary and developmental processes are involved in creating physical variation?
Is selection responsible for moulding the diversity of life?
Or does developmental bias via drive and constraint determine how animal shapes change?
Abby Drake is interested in the processes that produce macroevolution and dictate which physical appearances, evolve and which do not.
She is especially interested in learning how species evolve: What mechanisms produce enough physical or behavioural change to ensure reproductive isolation on the population level?
To this end, she studies developmental processes that lead to large modifications of morphology, using variation in vertebrate skulls to answer these questions.
Abby uses three-dimensional scan data to capture each specimen’s 3D geometry.
This type of data allows her team to look at the shape of the skull holistically using a sophisticated shape analysis called geometric morphometrics.
While she also works on cetaceans, owls and primates, this episode focuses on her extensive work examining canids: when did wolves become dogs, how have we shaped them, and where might they go in the future?
“Do goats have emotions?” is something rarely searched for on Google, but if you think about it, it’s a very good question.
The answer is yes, goats do have emotions.
Believe it or not, they also have social networks, puzzle solving skills, and impressive long term memories?
We’re not even kidding! Alan McElligott is based at the School of Biological and Chemical Sciences at the Queen Mary University of London, where he and his team research cattle, fallow deer, and goats.
In this episode, we talk about their recent work, and how it contributes to improved understanding of animal behaviour and behavioural ecology, raising important considerations for animal husbandry and welfare of goats in companion animal, livestock and pest contexts.
Are jockeys using whips to steer and stay safe, or are they simply whipping tired horses?
These are questions that prompted Professor Paul McGreevy of the University of Sydney to research the use of whips in horse racing.
Paul is recognised by the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons as a specialist in Veterinary Behavioural Medicine.
His research focuses on the behaviour and welfare of horses and dogs, and he is the author of six books and over 120 peer-reviewed articles on animal behaviour.
Paul’s award-winning research examining the use of whips in horse racing aims to further our awareness of the experience of horses, extending to a recent experiment capturing the thermographic effects of his own leg being hit with a padded whip.
As the Spring horse racing carnival hits its peak in Melbourne, Australia this week, we asked Paul to discuss his findings and what it means for horses, beyond the glamour and excitement of race day.
Here’s a fact: bees are responsible for the successful production of around a third of the food you eat.
As one of our oldest domesticated animals, bees and people share an amazing history.
But the future is uncertain, with devastating global declines in both feral and managed populations.
Boris Baer and Barbara Baer-Imhoof, in conjunction with their colleagues at the Centre for Integrative Bee Research at the University of Western Australia, are researching many aspects of honey bees, in the field and in the lab.
In our first episode featuring an invertebrate species, we learn more about our relationship with bees, what would happen if they vanish and ways we can help them thrive.
Video – More Than Honey Trailer
Stuerup, M., Baer-Imhoof, B., Nash, D. R., Boomsma, J. J. & Baer, B. When every sperm counts: factors affecting male fertility in the honeybee Apis mellifera, . Behav. Ecol. 24(5): 1192-1198. View online at Behavioral Ecology.
What happens when your scientific study results contradict all previous research in that area?
Science can be surprising, and for Dr Lisa Collins, researcher in Animal Health and Welfare Epidemiology at the University of Lincoln, UK, that’s part of the challenge – and the fun!
Lisa’s research focuses on the development and application of mathematical and statistical methods for the study of animal health and welfare in a wide range of species.
She has recently led three research projects to investigate the welfare of kennelled dogs.
This includes a 3-year study conducted in dog rehoming centres, where the aim was to develop a tool to assess Quality of Life based on a wide range of novel and traditional welfare indicators.
Lisa has been awarded a number of prizes for her work, including the 2014 British Science Association Charles Darwin award for excellence in science communication, and the 2010 Universities Federation for Animal Welfare’s Young Animal Welfare Scientist of the Year award.
In this episode, we speak with Lisa about her work comparing the welfare physiology and behaviour of pets dogs at home and in a boarding kennel environment, with some unexpected findings.
Most of us know that playing with dogs and horses can be fun, but have you ever considered how important animal-assisted play might be in psychological therapy for people?
Dr. Risë VanFleet is the Founder of the Family Enhancement & Play Therapy Center in the United States, an organisation specialising in the training and supervision of child, family, and play therapy professionals, as well as the provision of mental health services for children and families.
She is a psychologist and author of several books, who focuses on strengthening family relationships through play, and has specialties in chronic medical illness, disaster mental health, child and family trauma and attachment interventions using play therapy, filial therapy, and the training and involvement of animals in assisted play therapy.
It’s this area of using animals, particularly dogs and horses, in play as a mode of therapy for people that we learn about with Risë in this episode.