Piranhas and primates at national science exhibition
University of St Andrews research into piranhas and primates is being showcased at a national science exhibition this week.
Studies by Professor Anne Magurran of the School of Biology and Dr Klaus Zuberbuhler of the School of Psychology form part of the Royal Society Summer Science Exhibition in London (2-5 July 2007).
The piranhas exhibition tells the true story of one of nature’s most feared animals. The cliché is that piranhas will strip a carcass within seconds while a starring role in James Bond movie ‘You only live twice’ immortalised the fish as a dangerous predator. However, Professor Magurran’s studies in Brazil reveal that red-bellied Amazonian piranhas gather in groups for protection rather than hunting their prey in packs. And, despite their sharp teeth and man-eating image, they live on a diet of fish, fruit and small invertebrates like shrimp – and some related species are completely vegetarian.
Meanwhile, Dr Zuberbuhler’s exhibition highlights the primate roots of human language. The use of verbal language is the most complex behaviour in living beings and is unique to humans. By observing monkeys and apes in the Budongo Forest, Uganda, and several other field sites in Africa and Asia, Dr Zuberbuhler observes the communication signals they can produce (vocal and gestural), under what circumstances they use them, and what sort of responses they elicit from listeners. The studies raise awareness of the beauty and complexity of these animals and their minds, and their role in understanding our own current behaviour and evolutionary past.
For more information on the Royal Society’s Summer Science Exhibition, visit www.Summerscience.org.uk
NOTE TO EDITORS
Both Professor Magurran and Dr Zuberbuhler are available for interview via:
Clare Kingston / Laura Dibb
Press Office, The Royal Society, London
Tel: +44 (0) 20 7451 2508/2250
Out of hours: +44 (0)7931 423323
Images also available via Claire Grainger – contact details below.
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