Thursday, October 9, 2008

Are Pronghorns Smarter Than Classical European Royalty?

I'm curious whether everyone doing studies like this is nervous that John McCain will make fun of them in front of a national TV audience.

Over the past two decades, John Byers has proven that female pronghorns are smarter than many humans when it comes to mate selection. Rather than going for the male with the biggest body or most impressive horns, female pronghorns expend a ton of energy searching for the most vigor and best stamina; traits that will give their offspring the greatest chance of success.

But are they smarter than classical European royalty? When pronghorns select a mate, can they factor in what many historians believe doomed the famous Hapsburg dynasty – inbreeding?

Thanks in part to a four-year, $600,000 grant from the National Science Foundation, Byers will be able to answer that exact question.

Further information at ScienceDaily.

I find Pronghorn fascinating. They are North America’s fastest mammal and worldwide they are second only to the Cheetah in terms of top speed. But in contrast to the cheetah, which is exhausted after a short sprint, the pronghorn can both accelerate explosively from a standing start to a top speed of 60 miles per hour and also cruise at 45 miles per hour for many miles. Why is this fascinating? Because nothing is chasing them. There is nothing remotely fast enough in the current North American predator fauna to chase a pronghorn. Their speed must be a consequence of predators past, presumably lions or hyenas that died out in the end-Pleistocene extinctions 10,000 years ago, when many mammals in North America went extinct.

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