Many birds rely on keen eye-sight or exceptional hearing to find food and avoid predators.  A bird’s sense of smell seemed to have only minor value, until now.  

White Storks
Image by Alexas_Fotos on Pixabay

A research team from the Max Planck Institute explored an idea that was intuitively known to local farmers.  When the farmers mowed their fields, the white storks (Ciconia ciconia) that lived downwind of the fields quickly appeared.  Mowing allowed the storks to more easily find the snails, frogs, and rodents they feed upon.  The storks were responding to the smell of the freshly cut grass.  

To ensure that the birds weren’t listening for the sound of the tractors, the team devised a few tests. For the first step, the research team included only observations of storks that arrived from a distance beyond the birds’ ability to hear the tractors. This suggested that they were relying on something other than hearing as the cue to come forage. 

Next, they spread freshly mowed clippings from a distant site onto the field, and again the storks appeared.   

In the last test, the team sprayed a field with a chemical mixture of green leaf scents that smell like cut grass.  The storks showed up again.  

The team concluded that the storks followed their noses.  This is not completely surprising as storks have an oversized olfactory section in the brain which also have many scent receptors.  The sense of smell deserves a bit more respect!

You can read more about the study here:  https://www.mpg.de/17069936/storks-smell

 

A new study out of the University of Central Florida reveals that nesting loggerheads and green sea turtles are smaller today than they were in the past.  Why this is, is unclear.

Loggerhead Turtle
Image by David Mark from Pixabay

About one-third of all green turtles and many loggerheads nest along Central Florida’s Atlantic coastline.  It is a critical breeding ground. 

Consequently, the shrinking size of the average nesting turtle is concerning.  

There are at least two reasons, one positive and one definitely not.  On the upside, it is possible that conservation efforts are succeeding and there are now more younger turtles coming to nest. If there is a significant population increase of these younger and smaller turtles, it will impact the average size measured by the teams that research and protect them. 

On the other hand, it may not be about an increased volume of new turtles.  Instead, young turtles could be growing more slowly because food sources are more scarce due to habitat degradation or competition.

More research is needed.  I’m hoping the teams will discover a turtle population boom. 

The related University press release is available here:  https://www.ucf.edu/news/ucf-study-finds-smaller-turtles-are-nesting-on-florida-beaches/

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