(Images via: Meta Filter, Flickr, Born Free USA, Flickr, Flickr, Jim McKnight)
Ensuring a steady food source is key for survival in the animal kingdom, ultimately requiring some animals to get a little creative. Whether it’s songbirds making uncomfortable changes to their diets, sharks taking great risks for opportunistic feasts or baboons indulging themselves in unique situations, sometimes nothing is out of bounds when a potential meal is on the table.
The Songbird’s Winter Diet: Berries Rather Than Insects
(Images via: Red and the Peanut, Maggie’s Farm, Flickr, Wild Delaware)
With beaks that are specialized for munching on insects, songbirds such as sparrows, thrushes, and warblers may look strange when chewing berries, but this switch in their diets has a purpose. According to recent research, these songbirds prefer berries before winter migration to deal with the stress of moving to warmer destinations rather than fattening up in anticipation of less available insects during the colder seasons. Apparently, there are specific benefits in the songbird-berry relationship: the birds are provided with a nutritional source of food rich in antioxidants while the berry seeds are dispersed in bird waste, allowing them to grow again in nature.
Grape Wine Makes South African Baboons Feel So Steady
(Images via: Solana Vineyards, World Zoo Today, Flickr, 123 RF)
What berries are to songbirds, wine grapes apparently are to baboons, at least in the plentiful vineyards of South Africa. Providing essential sugar and starches, the grapes have attracted many baboons this year, particularly with normal foraging areas destroyed by wildfires. In fact, some of the baboons have even appeared to be inebriated following consumption of fermented grapes. To vineyard owners, the steady influx of hungry baboons has become a bit problematic: a recent story detailed that anywhere from 1,100 to 1,300 pounds of a 12-ton harvest of wine grapes were destroyed by baboons in one region of South Africa while up to $34,800 of crop is wasted by baboons on an annual basis. To try to distract the baboons from reappearing, the owners have been using noisemakers, rubber snakes and even electrical fencing; however, the efforts have been mostly futile as the baboons have apparently become hooked on the grapes, often returning at 10 a.m. every day to get their fill.
Are Gorillas Straying from Their Vegetarian Beliefs?
In a related story that ties in primates and animal waste, researchers have recently begun to question whether notorious plant-eating gorillas actually eat meat, specifically in the form of their monkey cousins. Monkey and small antelope DNA were recently found in the feces of some wild African western lowland gorillas, suggesting that these believed vegetarians may occasionally stray from their diets. Of course, these findings may have much less significance, particularly if the gorillas feed on insects that harvest the dead bodies of other animals. At this point, the jury is still out on whether gorillas are pure vegetarians (like pandas which lack meat taste buds and prefer a bamboo-based diet) or rather prefer some meat every once and a while.
Big Piggies: No Depth Too Low for Hungry Sharks
(Images via: Dive Photo Guide, Bootleg, Great White Shark Diving, BBC)
What has been confirmed by various movies over the last 35 years is that sharks certainly love their fair share of meat (and we’re not just talking about human meat, despite recent shark attack figures). In a surprising new study, gill sharks and other meat-eaters – including lobsters, crabs and shrimps – were shown to take great risks deep in poorly-oxygenated waters to devour on pig carcasses placed there by scientists. Amazingly, these creatures were willing to enter described “dead zones” more than 900 feet below sea level – where oxygen is so low that they could suffocate if staying too long – all for the sake of a filling pig carcass. Apparently, there were some limits as one pig carcass was left untouched in waters that were even too deep for the gill sharks.
Sailfish: Very Fast and Shrewd Hunters
(Images via: Environmental Graffiti)
Generally regarded as the fastest fish in the oceans, sailfish already are not on an even playing field when it comes to hunting down smaller fish. Now it seems that sailfish are closing their ranks to ensure that they all get to feast on some prey. Researchers were recently surprised to discover sailfish teaming up to force smaller fish – which travel in schools for protection – closer to the surface. Leaving their prey with less wiggle room, the sailfish essentially caused the smaller fish to form into a giant circle, described by some as a baitball. Using their long noses, the sailfish were then able to pluck individual fish out of the baitball, literally ensuring an all-you-can-eat buffet for their teammates.