The Loh Down On Science

Social Animals

Social networking is for the birds.

This is Sandra Tsing Loh with the Loh Down on Science.

Meet researchers from the University of St. Andrews. They've been studying the social interactions of 34 crows on the South Pacific island of New Caledonia.

Nothing unusual there . . . except the crows' use of Encounternet. Another fowl online dating site? No, a tagging system developed at the University of Washington. It uses programmable digital tags that send and receive radio pulses.

Until now animals were tagged with only radio transmitters. This meant encounters between subjects could only be detected if researchers were nearby and actively listening. 
 
But with Encounternet, the tags—which weigh as little as one gram—actually talk, recording each other's proximity. The data are then uploaded to the Internet. That means researchers can access the information from anywhere.   

And just what did these tags tell the researchers?  That the New Caledonian birds are doing a ton of social networking. Literally thousands of interactions in just one week!

Talk about a lot of—well, you know we have to say it—Tweets!

The Loh Down on Science is produced by LDOS Media Lab, with 89.3 KPCC Pasadena, California. And made possible by the generous support of the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation.

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