353 posts · 294,516 views
Like the clever and many-armed cephalopod, Inkfish reaches into all areas of science and brings you interpretations of the newest stories.
The squash bug mating orgies that biologist Christine Miller began noticing in gardens around Gainesville were nothing unusual. Dozens of insects were crowded together, the petite males along with the bulkier females, to search for partners. The unusual thing was that some males were copulating with females of the wrong species—apparently, they found them irresistible.
When Jen Hamel arrived at Miller's University of Florida lab to do her postdoctoral research, she took up the mystery o........ Read more »
Hamel, J., Nease, S., & Miller, C. (2015) Male mate choice and female receptivity lead to reproductive interference. Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology, 69(6), 951-956. DOI: 10.1007/s00265-015-1907-z
Sure, there are faces only a mother could love. And then there are faces no mother loves, because they belong to animals that fend for themselves from birth. The babies we find cutest—no matter what species they are—may have evolved to look that way because they need a parent's attention. That means even a crocodile can tug on our heartstrings.
Konrad Lorenz, an Austrian zoologist, proposed in the mid-20th century that human infants are cute for a reason. He said evolution has created ad........ Read more »
Kruger, D. (2015) Non-Mammalian Infants Requiring Parental Care Elicit Greater Human Caregiving Reactions Than Superprecocial Infants Do. Ethology. DOI: 10.1111/eth.12391
In the future when touch screens are obsolete and we control our devices by facial gesture, maybe we'll zoom in and out the same way a bat does it. We'll open our mouths wide to narrow our field of focus. To see the bigger picture, we'll purse our lips tightly. But while we'll only be reading the news or shopping online, bats are operating one of the coolest sensory systems owned by a mammal.
An Italian priest, Lazzaro Spallanzani, sent blindfolded bats through obstacle courses in the lat... Read more »
Kounitsky P, Rydell J, Amichai E, Boonman A, Eitan O, Weiss AJ, & Yovel Y. (2015) Bats adjust their mouth gape to zoom their biosonar field of view. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. PMID: 25941395
Of course there's nothing ordinary about an octopus. It's the animal that showed us spinelessness doesn't have to mean a lack of smarts. But when researchers brought some octopuses into the lab to study exactly how the animals move, their findings were bizarre—both predictably and unpredictably.
Scientists at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem studied nine common octopuses (Octopus vulgaris) that fishers had scooped out of the ocean for them. Once the animals got comfortable in the lab, t........ Read more »
Levy G, Flash T, & Hochner B. (2015) Arm Coordination in Octopus Crawling Involves Unique Motor Control Strategies. Current biology : CB. PMID: 25891406
Why would two stubby-legged, blue-tongued Australian reptiles want to stay together not just for a mating season, but for decades? A 31-year study of the reptiles has suggested an answer. While newly formed couples are still getting to know each other, lizards in long-term relationships can start mating earlier in the season. And dispensing with the foreplay might give them a reproductive advantage over their casually dating neighbors.
Tiliqua rugosa is a species of blue-tongued skink tha... Read more »
Leu, S., Burzacott, D., Whiting, M., & Bull, C. (2015) Mate Familiarity Affects Pairing Behaviour in a Long-Term Monogamous Lizard: Evidence from Detailed Bio-Logging and a 31-Year Field Study. Ethology. DOI: 10.1111/eth.12390
It's hard to be a showshoe hare. The northern animals are in a constant race for survival with their predators, always cycling between population booms and busts. In hard years, hares are understandably stressed. And that stress can leave its signature not just on those animals, but on several future generations.
When life is good, populations of showshoe hares (Lepus americanus) can roughly double every year. But the hare's predators—lynx, foxes, coyotes—also increase in numbers as ........ Read more »
Sheriff, M., McMahon, E., Krebs, C., & Boonstra, R. (2015) Predator-induced maternal stress and population demography in snowshoe hares: the more severe the risk, the longer the generational effect. Journal of Zoology. DOI: 10.1111/jzo.12249
No one expects a human infant to slide into the world with a good grasp of grammar. Marmosets, another kind of chatty primate, are also poor conversationalists when they're young. But their parents seem to teach them how it's done. Young marmosets learn the cardinal rule of having a conversation: don't interrupt. And if they mess up, their parents give them the silent treatment.
Common marmosets (Callithrix jacchus) live in large family groups in the forests of Brazil. "Because marmosets ... Read more »
Chow, C., Mitchell, J., & Miller, C. (2015) Vocal turn-taking in a non-human primate is learned during ontogeny. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 282(1807), 20150069-20150069. DOI: 10.1098/rspb.2015.0069
If you're a small animal in a cold environment, being standoffish is a bad survival strategy. That's why animals of many kinds huddle for warmth. They put their furred or feathered bodies right up against their neighbors' and conserve energy that they would otherwise spend heating themselves.
One especially adorable huddler is the degu (Octodon degus), a rodent that lives in Chile and has a tail like a paintbrush. As temperatures drop, degus clump into cuddling groups to keep warm. A new ... Read more »
Sánchez, E., Solís, R., Torres-Contreras, H., & Canals, M. (2015) Self-organization in the dynamics of huddling behavior in Octodon degus in two contrasting seasons. Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology, 69(5), 787-794. DOI: 10.1007/s00265-015-1894-0
Run-ins are on the rise between coyotes and city-dwelling humans, and scientists aren't sure why. Now researchers in Alberta think they've found a piece of the puzzle. Coyotes are more likely to creep into human spaces if they're unhealthy.
Conflict between humans and coyotes has increased during the last 20 years, write University of Alberta graduate student Maureen Murray and her coauthors. Yet coyotes were expanding their range for decades before that. They've spread to inhabit nearly ... Read more »
Murray, M., Edwards, M., Abercrombie, B., & St. Clair, C. (2015) Poor health is associated with use of anthropogenic resources in an urban carnivore. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 282(1806), 20150009-20150009. DOI: 10.1098/rspb.2015.0009
Even if you think your parents played favorites among you and your siblings, they probably weren't as blatant as a wasp mother. Unless maybe they put your sister in a locked, secure room and fed you to mountain lions.
To be fair, a queen paper wasp (Polistes chinensis antennalis) is a single mom with a lot on her plate. She sets off alone in the spring, after mating, to found a new colony. She mixes her spit with plant fibers to make a pulp that she shapes into a house of delicate, h........ Read more »
Furuichi, S., & Kasuya, E. (2015) Construction of Nest Defensive Structure According to Offspring Value and Its Effect on Predator's Attack Decision in Paper Wasps. Ethology. DOI: 10.1111/eth.12374
It's a shame snakes can't appreciate irony. If they could, sea snakes in Australia might find some humor in their situation. Despite living in water, they seem to spend much of their time desperately dehydrated.
The true sea snakes, or Hydrophiini, include more than 60 species of almost frighteningly well-adapted reptiles. They swim with a graceful, ribbon-like motion through coastal waters around the Indian and Pacific Oceans. They have a venomous bite. Like many other snakes, they giv........ Read more »
Lillywhite, H., Heatwole, H., & Sheehy, C. (2015) Dehydration and drinking behavior in true sea snakes (Elapidae: Hydrophiinae: Hydrophiini). Journal of Zoology. DOI: 10.1111/jzo.12239
Kelsey Neam was strolling through the trees in Costa Rica and looking for sloths when she spotted something unusual. High on a tree branch, a three-toed sloth was eating leaves at an unhurried pace. It seemed oblivious to three brown jays that perched nearby and were watching it intently. Then one jay scooted closer and plunged its beak into the sloth's fur.
Neam is a graduate student in ecology at Texas A&M University. She was in the Costa Rican cloud forests to study three-toed slot... Read more »
Neam, K. (2015) The odd couple: interactions between a sloth and a brown jay. Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment, 13(3), 170-171. DOI: 10.1890/1540-9295-13.3.170
Think real estate decisions are hard for humans? Imagine if the house you lived in were also your singles bar, your babies' nursery, and your shelter from large animals trying to eat you. And, while you were growing up, your food source, as you nibbled away its floors and shingles.
Moths face all these pressures each time they settle down on a plant. That may be why at least one type of moth uses pleasant associations to help with its choices. The plant species where an individual loses........ Read more »
Proffit, M., Khallaf, M., Carrasco, D., Larsson, M., & Anderson, P. (2015) ‘Do you remember the first time?’ Host plant preference in a moth is modulated by experiences during larval feeding and adult mating. Ecology Letters, 18(4), 365-374. DOI: 10.1111/ele.12419
Is it cool or existentially disturbing to think that your personal brain quirks might come from the toys you played with as a toddler?
In a study published earlier this month, psychologists asked 6,588 American synesthetes what colors they associate with each letter of the alphabet. Then they compared these associations to a certain vintage set of Fisher-Price alphabet magnets. They found that at least 6% of their synesthetes had improbably close matches to the colors of the magnets.
T... Read more »
Witthoft, N., Winawer, J., & Eagleman, D. (2015) Prevalence of Learned Grapheme-Color Pairings in a Large Online Sample of Synesthetes. PLOS ONE, 10(3). DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0118996
Like those breakfast cereals that look healthy on the box but have even more sugar inside than Cocoa Puffs, some rainforest trees engage in false advertising. It's not their fault—it's ours. Climate change has made their leaves less nutritious than they used to be. And the animals who live off of those trees don't exactly have another store to shop at.
Experiments in labs and greenhouses have given scientists mixed answers about what happens to plant tissues in a changing climate. So pr........ Read more »
Rothman, J., Chapman, C., Struhsaker, T., Raubenheimer, D., Twinomugisha, D., & Waterman, P. (2015) Long-term declines in nutritional quality of tropical leaves. Ecology, 96(3), 873-878. DOI: 10.1890/14-0391.1
Travel to the Amazon and flick an ant off a leaf, and you might be surprised what you see. Certain rainforest ant species can control their falls and glide back onto the trunks of the trees they came from. Unlike Superman, though, they're only flying to rescue themselves.
An ant is light enough that a drop to the forest floor might not hurt it. But the other animals cruising the ground for snacks will cause trouble for that ant soon enough. That's why many rainforest ants have evolved to ... Read more »
Munk Y, Yanoviak SP, Koehl MA, & Dudley R. (2015) The descent of ant: field-measured performance of gliding ants. The Journal of experimental biology. PMID: 25788722
Even the most dismal gardener wouldn't mind taking charge of a plot of Lodoicea maldivica. This palm tree knows how to water itself. It even adds fertilizer. As a result, it rules the forest, turning a bad soil situation into seeds the size of a four-year-old human.
Lodoicea maldivica is commonly called the coco de mer palm. "Commonly" might be the wrong word, though, since the tree grows on exactly two islands in the world, in the Seychelles. It roots itself in soil made from weathered g........ Read more »
Edwards PJ, Fleischer-Dogley F, & Kaiser-Bunbury CN. (2015) The nutrient economy of Lodoicea maldivica, a monodominant palm producing the world's largest seed. The New phytologist. PMID: 25616088
If snails used Facebook, all their relationship statuses would say "It's complicated." It's also slimy, violent, and life-shortening.
Most species of snail that live on land are hermaphroditic—that is, they have a complete set of female and male sex organs. When they mate, both partners inseminate each other. The act may come after a courtship period. And in certain land snails, this courtship includes the launching of "love darts," which are much less cute than they sound.
A love dart........ Read more »
Kimura, K., & Chiba, S. (2015) The direct cost of traumatic secretion transfer in hermaphroditic land snails: individuals stabbed with a love dart decrease lifetime fecundity. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 282(1804), 20143063-20143063. DOI: 10.1098/rspb.2014.3063
A drooling baby face is not equally exciting to everyone around it. A new study says that young women who like the idea of motherhood get more enjoyment than their peers from staring at infants' faces. But they don't love all of those chubby mugs equally. Even more than the baby-neutral, wannabe moms are biased toward the cutest ones.
Amanda Hahn is a researcher at the University of Glasgow's "Face Research Lab," directed by psychologists Lisa DeBruine and Benedict Jones. (On their websit... Read more »
Hahn, A., DeBruine, L., & Jones, B. (2015) Reported maternal tendencies predict the reward value of infant facial cuteness, but not cuteness detection. Biology Letters, 11(3), 20140978-20140978. DOI: 10.1098/rsbl.2014.0978
A fellow who hides in his shell until danger has passed may not seem like the epitome of manliness. Yet among hermit crabs, the shyest males have the most to offer the ladies. It's all part of their evolutionary strategy. Crabs that are long on bravery, meanwhile, are short on sperm.
Mark Briffa, an animal behavior professor at Plymouth University in the United Kingdom, and his colleagues found the surprising connection between sperm and shyness while studying "life history" in crabs. To........ Read more »
Bridger D, Bonner SJ, & Briffa M. (2015) Individual quality and personality: bolder males are less fecund in the hermit crab Pagurus bernhardus. Proceedings. Biological sciences / The Royal Society, 282(1803). PMID: 25673676
Do you write about peer-reviewed research in your blog? Use ResearchBlogging.org to make it easy for your readers — and others from around the world — to find your serious posts about academic research.
If you don't have a blog, you can still use our site to learn about fascinating developments in cutting-edge research from around the world.
Research Blogging is powered by SMG Technology.
To learn more, visit seedmediagroup.com.