Piranhas and primates at national science exhibition

Tuesday 3 July 2007

University of St Andrews research into piranhas and primates is being showcased at a national science exhibition this week.

Caiman eating piranha

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





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.

Issued by Press Office, University of St Andrews


Claire Grainger, Press Officer – 01334 462530, 07730 415 015 or email [email protected]

Gayle Cook, Press Officer – 01334 462529, 07900 050 103 or email [email protected]

Ref: Rssummerexhib2007

View the latest University press releases at http://www.st-andrews.ac.uk





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