2012 truly was a great year for amazing animal discoveries. Countless species were discovered, long-standing questions were answered, amazing facts stumbled on by accident. Scientists broke some major ground in animal research this year – click through to read some of the most amazing facts we discovered in 2012.
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1. Parrots Imitate Voices to Distinguish People.
No, they’re not mocking you! Scientists discovered this year that parakeets mimic the calls of other birds in the flocks to help communicate better. In the wild, orange-fronted conures may interact with hundreds of individuals on a regular basis, so they have a hard time distinguishing one bird’s call from another. To get a faster response from that bird, they will imitate their call.
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2. Hibernation Heals Bears’ Wounds.
Not everything in bear’s body is so deep in slumber during their yearly hibernation — their immune systems go into overdrive. That’s what researchers discovered this year; they observed bears in the wild with a varying degree of wounds towards the beginning of their hibernation. Even though some of the wounds had been inflamed or infected, almost none of the wounds were visible at the end of their hibernation. Some had even started to grow hair over the affected areas!
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3. Polar Bears Have Been Around A Lot Longer Than We Thought.
We won’t excuse the polar bear for lying about their age — it’s not their fault! New research has found that polar bears may be as much as 4.5 million years old, up from the 60,000-600,000 years previously thought. How did that number jump so high? Well, scientists had thought that polar bears migrated north from their close relative, the brown bear. New research, however, suggests that they’re been around for much longer than that, with the population numbers ebbing and flowing along with the changes in the planet’s temperature.
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4. Cuttlefish Can “Change” Their Sex.
Ah, the powers of adaptation. Scientists discovered this year that th cuttlefish can actually change its gender (at least on half of their body) based on who is looking at them! It’s thought that male cuttlefish do this so they don’t seem to be a threat to other males. For even more about this fascinating discovery, click here.
5. Bears Can Count.
Primates aren’t the only animals that can count. Nope, bears, some of the most intelligent non-primates on the planet, were discovered to have similar counting abilities this year.
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6. Primate Culture Can Change From Troop to Troop.
It’s long been suggested that certain primate behaviors aren’t biological, but learned. Yep, it’s that old nature versus nurture debate. Do animals have cultures of their own? Well, new research out this year points in that direction. Skeptics have noted that the differences in things like tool making among species is probably because these species live so far apart, and thus don’t have access to the same materials. But a study looking at three closely-related troops of chimpanzees in Côte d’Ivoire complicates that. All three troops use different tools to crack nuts, and they have different methods of cracking, and have different preferences for the size of the nuts. There’s no genetic distinction between these troops and they all have access to the same materials. Nurture wins out again!
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7. Mice Woo Mates with Song.
Mice make all sorts of sounds that are out of the hearing range for humans — and new research has discovered that these sounds, once thought to just be random and meaningless, actually sound like birds singing. Males “sing” to woo potential mates. Females can tell if a potential mate isn’t a brother, something thought to happen so that mice avoid inbreeding.
8. Dolphins Greet Each Other by Name.
Every dolphin has its own “whistle.” Researchers have long compared these whistles to the way us humans use names — to identify themselves. But this year, researchers took it a step further than that. Click here to read the fascinating findings.