If you were writing the script for a fictional bird horror movie, you might invent a small, cute, innocent-victim species and call it the fairy wren. You might then create a larger, evil, blood-lusting murderer that would impale its victims on thorns before eating them. This you would call the butcherbird.
Both of these birds live in Australia. They are not friends. The butcherbird kills, impales and eats fairy wrens. It is not unique in kebab-ing its prey; common North American birds called loggerhead shrikes, for example, do so with mice and other protein-rich dinner entrees. If you would like video evidence, you can click on this 51-second youtube film of a shrike eating a tiny snake it has impaled on barbed wire (nice horror-flick touch!):
Now the relationship between fairy wrens and butcherbirds has become even more interesting—and less one-sided. In a new article in the journal Behavioral Ecology, researchers from the University of Chicago report that male fairy wrens, which are known to be promiscuous, take advantage of what the researchers call the "scary movie effect" in attracting female partners. When a male wren hears a butcherbird cry out—signaling danger to wrens, of course—he calls out to try to attract a female. He is capitalizing on her fear. This, the researchers say, resembles what teenage boys do when they take teenage girls on dates to horror movies. And that is the scary movie effect: a romantic partner cozying up closer when fearful.
For male fairy wrens, at least, the technique apparently works. But do not think the males all bad. The fooling around is but one aspect of the species' unusual social structure. Another is that female fairy wrens often have multiple attendants—nannies, if you will—to help them rear their chicks. These nannies are males.
Henry Bessemer, the English inventor who revolutionized the construction world—making skyscrapers and large bridges possible, for example—by inventing a process to turn molten pig iron into sturdy, inexpensive steel, would have been 198 years old today. Bessemer's technique involved blowing air in, raising the temperature and burning off impurities in the iron. Eight U.S. towns were named for him, including Bessemer, Alabama, a longtime iron smelting center and the hometown of Neil Bonnett, who lived (and died) driving vehicles made of Bessemer's steel around NASCAR race tracks at 200 mph.
Alice Eastwood, a Canadian-born botanist who discovered and collected many plant species in California, would have been 152. She was the curator of the herbarium at the California Academy of Sciences and helped save many of the herbarium's specimens from being lost in the 1906 San Francisco Earthquake. If you hike out west, you may someday stumble upon what's commonly known as an Alice Eastwood bolete—a large mushroom, not wise to eat if you wish to live as long as Alice did (97 years).