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Field Notes
Briefs
Cut a Rug
Update: Born Again
On Track
Strong, Silent Type
Numbers Game: Blood Lust
FBI’s Most Wanted
Don’t Eat the Paint
Rock On

News Articles
Surge in seabirds; Audubon’s paper trail; funding for Superfunds; more.

Irena Schulz/Bird Lovers Only Rescue

Cut a Rug
Admit it: When you hear the Backstreet Boys song “Everybody,” you want to dance. It turns out that people aren’t the only ones who feel that urge. A cockatoo named Snowball, for instance, bobs his head and moves his feet in rhythm with the music. Two studies published in Current Biology showed that some animals can dance in sync with a musical beat. One team examined more than 1,000 videos on YouTube and found that 14 species of parrot and one elephant species can bust a move. The birds may have developed their ability to boogie as a byproduct of learning to imitate sounds, says neurologist Aniruddh Patel. Next time you get down, take a look around to see if any animals are grooving nearby; if so, shoot Patel an e-mail to help him figure out which creatures can shake a leg, wing, or even fin. (See Snowball shake it here). —Susan Cosier
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Born Again
In June, for only the second time in a century, a wild whooping crane hatched in the Midwest. A record 12 pairs nested at Wisconsin’s Necedah National Wildlife Refuge, though most laid no eggs, or infertile ones. The mostly captive-bred Midwestern population now numbers 79, up from 54 in 2007 (see “Breakout,” November-December 2007). Beginning in mid-October, the cranes will fly to their Florida wintering grounds. (For a podcast on whooping crane recovery efforts, click here.)—Adam Hinterthuer
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Angie Nash/Wildtrack

On Track
For decades wildlife biologists have used radio collars and helicopter patrols to gather information on polar bears. Now two British scientists are testing a different technique that combines cutting-edge technology with the ancient tracking skills of Inuit hunters in Nunavut Territory, Canada. The Footprint Identification Technique involves taking digital photos of footprints—located by hunters and scientists—and analyzing them with software to pinpoint individuals. Zoe Jewell and Sky Alibhai got the idea while working with indigenous trackers in Zimbabwe. “They could pick out individual rhinos with a high degree of accuracy simply by looking at their footprints,” says Alibhai. The Inuit hunters have proved equally adept, and found several bears’ tracks last winter. “Polar bears are elusive and their habitat is vast, so getting an accurate idea of their numbers can be difficult,” says Jewell. “But if you look carefully, you can usually find footprints.” They hope the technology, which is cost-effective, will inspire similar non-invasive methods for monitoring vulnerable wildlife.—Nancy Averett
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Edwin Fotheringham

Strong, Silent Type
Think the outgoing, showy types get all the ladies or win every fight? Think again—at least when it comes to bison. University of California, Davis, researchers recently discovered that the strongest male bison have the quietest calls. “By not bellowing very loudly, the dominant bull is not advertising that he is guarding his female,” says Megan Wyman, the study’s lead author. In other words, he’s keeping a low profile to avoid a fight and risk losing his lady. The finding helps scientists better grasp how these 2,000-pound animals use signals in sexual selection, and offers insight into what kind of space and land they need to flourish. “The more we know about how they operate and how they breed,” Wyman says, “the better we can take care of them.”—Michele Wilson
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Dennis Kunkel

Numbers Game
Blood Lust
3,000
Number of offspring one female mosquito may produce during her life

200
Tick species in the United States

1
Hosts a soft tick feeds on

3
Hosts a hard tick feeds on

200
Times a flea’s body length it can jump

2
Bird species that feed on blood—the vampire finch and the Galápagos mockingbird

20
Minutes a vampire bat feeds on its prey

32
“Brains,” or nerve endings, per leech

100
Teeth in a lamprey’s mouth

50 Dollars, in millions, allocated to states under the 2009 Don’t Let the Bedbugs Bite Act to look for bedbugs, train health inspectors, and educate the public about the pests
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Edwin Fotheringham

FBI’s Most Wanted
One Rebecca Rubin will cost you $95; another will bring you $50,000, if you can find her. The latest of the super-popular American Girl dolls, a Russian-Jewish girl growing up in a tenement on New York’s Lower East Side, just happens to share her name with a fugitive. The flesh-and-blood Rebecca Rubin, an alleged ecoterrorist charged with burning down houses in the Northwest, has been on the lam since 2006. The toymaker was unaware of the fugitive when it christened the doll, but the FBI hopes the new attention to the name will help bring the real-life Rubin to justice. “The best thing this will do is remind people that we’re looking for her,” says FBI spokesperson Beth Anne Steele. Rubin, the person, is considered “armed and dangerous.” Rubin, the doll, is armed, too—with challah bread (sold separately).—Susan Cosier
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Edwin Fotheringham

Don’t Eat the Paint
Remember olestra—that fat substitute a few years ago that made potato chips “healthier,” albeit with a reputation for causing gastric distress and anal leakage? Well, it’s being reinvented as an ingredient in eco-friendly paint. Chemists at Procter and Gamble, olestra’s maker, have developed a very similar compound called Sefose that can replace the hazardous petroleum-based volatile organic compounds usually added to paint as lubricants. That’s right, the same properties that allowed olestra to slip through the human body add a nice viscosity to paint. “It seems like Sefose was a production of a much greener family of chemicals,” says Dave Andrews, a chemist at the nonprofit Environmental Working Group. “And ideally all products should be safe by design.”—Katherine Tweed
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Rock On
Peridotite, a rock found at or just below the earth’s surface, could fight global warming, according to scientists at Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory. In Oman, they found that exposed peridotite reacts with carbon dioxide, absorbing up to 100,000 tons of the greenhouse gas each year and transforming it into a solid mineral. By their estimates, simple, relatively inexpensive drilling and injections of pressurized CO2 could speed up the process; the exposed peridotite in Oman alone could sequester four billion tons of atmospheric carbon a year—one-seventh of the 30 billion tons the world emits annually. Every continent except perhaps Antarctica contains substantial amounts of the rock.—Michele Wilson
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Audio: Make Way for Whoopers
Donning disguises and armed with treats, conservationists train whooping cranes to migrate on their own.