You would be forgiven for underestimating the intelligence of sheep, considering that their daily activities revolve around grazing. But research reported in the current issue of Nature indicates that, in fact, sheep possess more smarts than previously thought.
Keith Kendrick and colleagues at the Babraham Institute in Cambridge, England, investigated the sheep’s ability to distinguish and remember faces of both other sheep and humans. Presenting 20 sheep with pictures of 25 pairs of sheep faces, the researchers trained the animals to associate one of the pair with a food reward. They determined that the sheep could recognize the individuals associated with a reward even in profile and for up to two years. By measuring activity in the right temporal and medial frontal cortices—regions of the ovine brain associated with visual recognition—the team further discovered that sheep can remember as many as 50 sheep faces in addition to a familiar human face. And sightings of familiar faces do not go unacknowledged. The scientists report "clear behavioral signs of recognizing both absent individuals by vocalizing in response to their face pictures in the same way as they did to faces of other members of their current social circle." So the next time you hear a sheep bleat, he may just have seen a long-lost flock-mate.
The recollection of fellow sheep weakens slowly but progressively over time, the team concludes, with the memory of a specific individual fading first into a generalized category of familiar individuals before it is forgotten completely. Indeed, the face-processing system at work in the sheep brain is analogous to the mechanism by which humans remember and recognize individuals over long periods. "This suggests," the authors write, "that sheep may be capable of using the same system to remember and respond emotionally to individuals in their absence."
Sarah Graham | Scientific American
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22.09.2017 | Max-Planck-Institut für Biochemie
Plants and algae use the enzyme Rubisco to fix carbon dioxide, removing it from the atmosphere and converting it into biomass. Algae have figured out a way to increase the efficiency of carbon fixation. They gather most of their Rubisco into a ball-shaped microcompartment called the pyrenoid, which they flood with a high local concentration of carbon dioxide. A team of scientists at Princeton University, the Carnegie Institution for Science, Stanford University and the Max Plank Institute of Biochemistry have unravelled the mysteries of how the pyrenoid is assembled. These insights can help to engineer crops that remove more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere while producing more food.
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Our brains house extremely complex neuronal circuits, whose detailed structures are still largely unknown. This is especially true for the so-called cerebral cortex of mammals, where among other things vision, thoughts or spatial orientation are being computed. Here the rules by which nerve cells are connected to each other are only partly understood. A team of scientists around Moritz Helmstaedter at the Frankfiurt Max Planck Institute for Brain Research and Helene Schmidt (Humboldt University in Berlin) have now discovered a surprisingly precise nerve cell connectivity pattern in the part of the cerebral cortex that is responsible for orienting the individual animal or human in space.
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Using ultrafast flashes of laser and x-ray radiation, scientists at the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics (Garching, Germany) took snapshots of the briefest electron motion inside a solid material to date. The electron motion lasted only 750 billionths of the billionth of a second before it fainted, setting a new record of human capability to capture ultrafast processes inside solids!
When x-rays shine onto solid materials or large molecules, an electron is pushed away from its original place near the nucleus of the atom, leaving a hole...
For the first time, physicists have successfully imaged spiral magnetic ordering in a multiferroic material. These materials are considered highly promising candidates for future data storage media. The researchers were able to prove their findings using unique quantum sensors that were developed at Basel University and that can analyze electromagnetic fields on the nanometer scale. The results – obtained by scientists from the University of Basel’s Department of Physics, the Swiss Nanoscience Institute, the University of Montpellier and several laboratories from University Paris-Saclay – were recently published in the journal Nature.
Multiferroics are materials that simultaneously react to electric and magnetic fields. These two properties are rarely found together, and their combined...
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