Tag Archives: behavior

In this issue: Manipulative microbes

Ants, mice, and even humans can fall prey to puppetmaster parasites and other sinister bugs. Teresa Lee explores the diversity of microbial manipulation and finds that, while microorganisms are often finely tuned to particular hosts, it’s still a mystery how they can affect behavior. From yeast chemically tricking flies into giving it a lift, to the feline parasite linked to schizophrenia, and the intestinal microbiome that can affect more than just digestion, research at UC Berkeley is shedding light on the interactions – both hazardous and beneficial – between hosts and these invisible invaders. Be sure to check out the article in the BSR, and listen here or watch here for more information.

The latest issue of the Berkeley Science Review is out now! Each week, we’ll publish a preview of the fantastic articles, like this piece edited by Amanda Alvarez, that you can find in this issue.

Squirrel! On campus.

Are squirrels the next contenders for the evolution of human-like thought?  This question was raised jokingly at a recent SETI webinar considering the evolution of life, but for UC-Berkeley psychology professor Lucia Jacobs, the idea of intelligent squirrels is no joke.

I met the slightly frazzled and just-on-time Jacobs at the National Academy of Sciences colloquia In the Light of Evolution V1: Brains and Behavior, where she presented her research on the hippocampus, primordial senses (smell), and cognition (The Evolution of a Cognitive Trait, from Chemotaxis to Associative Learning) in squirrels.  And not just any squirrels, but our very own campus squirrels.  Bold, abundant, and well fed, campus squirrels may make better behavioral study volunteers than Psych I freshman.

Jacobs is not the only one studying Berkeley campus squirrels. Mikel Delgado, a 2nd year graduate student in Jacobs’ lab, studies decision-making, time investment, and caching behavior in squirrels (caching is the process of a squirrel analyzing and then burying a nut for later retrieval).  Her participants are Fox Squirrels; redder and heavier than the Eastern Grey Squirrels of San Francisco, they have taken over Berkeley campus and monopolized the squirrel niche.  In Delgado’s study, the squirrels truly are participants – and quite willing ones at that.  The pay is high (density nuts) and the “testing” is non-invasive – just do normal squirrel things.