Faeces brings colour to birds' faces
Endangered vulture eats excrement to attract mates.
Eating cow, goat and sheep excrement gives the Egyptian vulture the edge in
the mating game.
Ungulate droppings contain pigments called carotenoids, which birds cannot
produce for themselves. Carotenoids are nutritious, but more importantly,
they keep the area around the vultures' eyes bright yellow. A yellow face
makes the fluffy white birds more attractive to mates, J. J. Negro of the
Estacion Biologica de Donana in Seville, Spain, and his colleagues have
found. "The yellower the better," says Negro.
Tree-climbing with dinosaurs
Fossil find hints at life of one of our earliest mammalian forebears.
A mouse-sized fossil from 125 million years ago is the earliest known member
of the mammal group that includes humans, say researchers. The animal is a
primitive example of today's dominant mammals. "It's at the very root of
this diverse and incredibly important group," says palaeontologist Zhe-Xi
Luo of the Carnegie Museum of Natural History in Pittsburgh. The mammal,
Eomaia scansoria, might have scampered up a tree as a feathered dinosaur ran
past. The animal's elongated digits suggest that it was adept at climbing;
its name translates as 'dawn-mother climber'.
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