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Like the clever and many-armed cephalopod, Inkfish reaches into all areas of science and brings you interpretations of the newest stories.

Elizabeth Preston
258 posts

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  • April 22, 2014
  • 10:22 AM
  • 31 views

Frogs Survive Subzero Temperatures by Living as Ice Cubes

by Elizabeth Preston in Inkfish

No matter how rough a winter you think you had, it was nothing compared to what a wood frog survives every year. Some of these little amphibians are still waiting for spring, when they’ll thaw out and turn from frog-shaped blocks of ice back into animals. Recently, scientists took a close look at wood frogs […]The post Frogs Survive Subzero Temperatures by Living as Ice Cubes appeared first on Inkfish.... Read more »

Larson DJ, Middle L, Vu H, Zhang W, Serianni AS, Duman J, & Barnes BM. (2014) Wood frog adaptations to overwintering in Alaska: New limits to freezing tolerance. The Journal of experimental biology. PMID: 24737762  

  • April 8, 2014
  • 11:45 AM
  • 86 views

Scientists Like Some Animals Better than Others (Hint: Bears)

by Elizabeth Preston in Inkfish

In the fight for attention from researchers, there are winners and there are civets. That’s what researchers found when they analyzed almost 16,500 published papers about animals from walruses to weasels. They saw clear trends in which animals are the most popular to study. And it matters because the most popular animals aren’t necessarily the […]The post Scientists Like Some Animals Better than Others (Hint: Bears) appeared first on Inkfish.... Read more »

  • April 1, 2014
  • 11:33 AM
  • 80 views

Eyeless Fish Navigates with Mouth Suction

by Elizabeth Preston in Inkfish

As bats squeak and swoop through pitch-black Mexican caves, the pale fish that inhabit the pools below them perform a soundless imitation. These fish are blind but sense the world through subtle pressure changes on their skin. To navigate the cave floors, they also use a tool that’s never been observed in another animal: the […]The post Eyeless Fish Navigates with Mouth Suction appeared first on Inkfish.... Read more »

Holzman R, Perkol-Finkel S, & Zilman G. (2014) Mexican blind cavefish use mouth suction to detect obstacles. The Journal of experimental biology. PMID: 24675558  

  • March 28, 2014
  • 09:58 AM
  • 107 views

Scientists Convince People Their Hands Are Rocks

by Elizabeth Preston in Inkfish

No matter how much of a critical thinker you consider yourself, your brain is pretty gullible. With a few minutes and a couple of props, your brain can be convinced that one of your limbs is made of rubber or invisible, or that your whole body is the size of a Barbie doll’s. All these illusions […]The post Scientists Convince People Their Hands Are Rocks appeared first on Inkfish.... Read more »

Senna, I., Maravita, A., Bolognini, N., & Parise, C. (2014) The Marble-Hand Illusion. PLoS ONE, 9(3). DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0091688  

  • March 21, 2014
  • 09:39 AM
  • 132 views

Humans Made Conchs Shrink (And One Kid Saw It Coming)

by Elizabeth Preston in Inkfish

The classic, swirling shell of a conch helps protect it from hungry birds and sea creatures, but when a human decides to pluck one from shallow water and boil it for supper, there’s not much the animal can do. Its only defense is to evolve, as a species, to be smaller and less appealing to […]The post Humans Made Conchs Shrink (And One Kid Saw It Coming) appeared first on Inkfish.... Read more »

O'Dea, A., Shaffer, M., Doughty, D., Wake, T., & Rodriguez, F. (2014) Evidence of size-selective evolution in the fighting conch from prehistoric subsistence harvesting. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 281(1782), 20140159-20140159. DOI: 10.1098/rspb.2014.0159  

  • March 14, 2014
  • 06:52 AM
  • 147 views

Birds That Are Right- or Left-Handed Help Their Flocks Fly Better

by Elizabeth Preston in Inkfish

As they scrub the smeared ink from their wrists yet again, left-handed people must sometimes wonder what the point of all this is. Why do we have a dominant hand, anyway? However arbitrary it seems, we’re not alone in favoring one side over the other—there are all kinds of animals with a preferred paw, claw, […]The post Birds That Are Right- or Left-Handed Help Their Flocks Fly Better appeared first on Inkfish.... Read more »

Bhagavatula, P., Claudianos, C., Ibbotson, M., & Srinivasan, M. (2014) Behavioral Lateralization and Optimal Route Choice in Flying Budgerigars. PLoS Computational Biology, 10(3). DOI: 10.1371/journal.pcbi.1003473  

  • March 11, 2014
  • 10:25 AM
  • 114 views

Suicidal Algae Help Their Relatives and Harm Their Rivals

by Elizabeth Preston in Inkfish

You might say the benefit of staying alive is an actual no-brainer: even brainless lifeforms do their best not to die. For the most part, anyway. When they’re under stress, single-celled organisms may opt to cut up their DNA and neatly implode. A new study hints that by committing suicide in this way, an organism […]The post Suicidal Algae Help Their Relatives and Harm Their Rivals appeared first on Inkfish.... Read more »

  • March 7, 2014
  • 11:10 AM
  • 165 views

Pandas v. Horses Fight Goes to Pandas (For Now)

by Elizabeth Preston in Inkfish

It was a battle fought in the mountains of southwestern China, where patchy forests sustain the last shreds of the wild giant panda population. All at once, intruders began marching in and helping themselves to the pandas’ food. The incursion happened far from most human eyes, and the pandas that witnessed it  likely didn’t know […]The post Pandas v. Horses Fight Goes to Pandas (For Now) appeared first on Inkfish.... Read more »

Hull, V., Zhang, J., Zhou, S., Huang, J., Viña, A., Liu, W., Tuanmu, M., Li, R., Liu, D., Xu, W.... (2014) Impact of Livestock on Giant Pandas and their Habitat. Journal for Nature Conservation. DOI: 10.1016/j.jnc.2014.02.003  

  • February 25, 2014
  • 11:10 AM
  • 154 views

The 5 Creepiest Ways Plant Diseases Mutate Flowers

by Elizabeth Preston in Inkfish

Pretty blossoms aren’t immune to the body-morphing, plague-spreading powers of a good microbe. Some of the flowers you admire on a spring day might only be blooming, for example, because they’re hostages of a disease. Plant diseases can’t scatter in sneeze droplets like a human virus can. But they can change the look and behavior […]The post The 5 Creepiest Ways Plant Diseases Mutate Flowers appeared first on Inkfish.... Read more »

  • February 21, 2014
  • 10:24 AM
  • 147 views

How to Build a High-Altitude Superdog

by Elizabeth Preston in Inkfish

No need to start from scratch. Here, someone else already took a wolf and made you a perfectly serviceable sea-level dog. With some  genetic tweaking, you can craft a powerful pet that isn’t bothered by living on an oxygen-starved mountaintop. A few of the same tweaks to your DNA will even let you live there […]The post How to Build a High-Altitude Superdog appeared first on Inkfish.... Read more »

Li Y, Wu DD, Boyko AR, Wang GD, Wu SF, Irwin DM, & Zhang YP. (2014) Population variation revealed high altitude adaptation of Tibetan Mastiffs. Molecular biology and evolution. PMID: 24520091  

  • February 18, 2014
  • 10:23 AM
  • 169 views

Urban Bees Build Their Nests with Plastic

by Elizabeth Preston in Inkfish

Scott MacIvor has cracked open hundreds of artificial bee nests. But two he peered inside in Toronto gave him pause. Within their containers, the bees he studies had carefully built homes for their young out of plastic debris. Mixed in with the usual construction materials of leaves and mud, MacIvor could clearly see bits of […]The post Urban Bees Build Their Nests with Plastic appeared first on Inkfish.... Read more »

  • February 11, 2014
  • 10:10 AM
  • 145 views

Why Stinky Animals Live Alone

by Elizabeth Preston in Inkfish

It’s not the reason you’d guess. They make perfectly pleasant-smelling neighbors. Yet skunks and other animals that use projectile stink as a weapon are apparently destined by evolution to be loners—not because of who they are, but because of who preys on them. Ted Stankowich, who studies the intersection of evolution, animal behavior and ecology […]The post Why Stinky Animals Live Alone appeared first on Inkfish.... Read more »

Stankowich T, Haverkamp PJ, & Caro T. (2014) ECOLOGICAL DRIVERS OF ANTIPREDATOR DEFENSES IN CARNIVORES. Evolution; international journal of organic evolution. PMID: 24433406  

  • February 7, 2014
  • 10:05 AM
  • 188 views

A Dog Can’t Teach a Dog New Tricks (But It Can Teach a Wolf)

by Elizabeth Preston in Inkfish

In a dirt-floored room in Austria, a puppy sniffed and pawed at a wooden box with a treat inside. It circled the box over and over, unable to find a way in. Finally it sat at the feet of a nearby human and looked up at her appealingly, swishing its tail. The woman stared at […]The post A Dog Can’t Teach a Dog New Tricks (But It Can Teach a Wolf) appeared first on Inkfish.... Read more »

  • February 4, 2014
  • 10:01 AM
  • 177 views

Think You’re Smart, Gamblers? Even Flowers Know How to Hedge Their Bets

by Elizabeth Preston in Inkfish

Nevada bookmakers took home $19.7 million in profits after this weekend’s Super Bowl, thanks to sports bettors. Maybe the unlucky gamblers on the other ends of those bets should have done some more hedging. Making a smaller bet against yourself to minimize your potential losses is a good strategy—and even brainless plants can do it. […]The post Think You’re Smart, Gamblers? Even Flowers Know How to Hedge Their Bets appeared first on Inkfish.... Read more »

  • January 30, 2014
  • 10:18 AM
  • 185 views

Homing Pigeons Like to Live on the Edge

by Elizabeth Preston in Inkfish

If homing pigeons wonder why humans are always driving them to faraway spots and leaving them behind, they don’t hold it against us. They just keep coming back, providing prize money for pigeon racers and new data for scientists studying the navigational powers of an avian brain. Now those scientists have discovered a new trick […]The post Homing Pigeons Like to Live on the Edge appeared first on Inkfish.... Read more »

Mann RP, Armstrong C, Meade J, Freeman R, Biro D, & Guilford T. (2014) Landscape complexity influences route-memory formation in navigating pigeons. Biology letters, 10(1), 20130885. PMID: 24451267  

  • January 27, 2014
  • 11:00 AM
  • 180 views

We Discovered Too Late That Tortoises Are Expert Landscapers

by Elizabeth Preston in Inkfish

Countless biology students have dutifully learned to associate the Galapagos Islands with finches. Here Darwin noticed that birds on different islands had different beak shapes, and ta-da, theory of evolution. But galápago is Spanish for “tortoise,” and young Darwin also learned from watching these huge reptiles lumber across the archipelago. Today, the galápagos are only a fraction […]The post We Discovered Too Late That Tortoises Are Expert Landscapers appeared first on I........ Read more »

Froyd CA, Coffey EE, van der Knaap WO, van Leeuwen JF, Tye A, & Willis KJ. (2014) The ecological consequences of megafaunal loss: giant tortoises and wetland biodiversity. Ecology letters, 17(2), 144-54. PMID: 24382356  

  • January 14, 2014
  • 10:31 AM
  • 180 views

Newly Discovered Ant Convinces Others to Be Its Slaves

by Elizabeth Preston in Inkfish

Studies of ants have the ring of medieval epics: there are queens, castes, warring soldiers and scouts. Certain ant species go on violent raids of neighboring colonies, picking up the young in their jaws and carrying them back to their own homes. The stolen ants become workers that live to serve these "slave-makers." A newly discovered slave-making ant species, though, sometimes accomplishes the same kind of coup without the need for violence. Slave-making ants live all over, but scientists........ Read more »

Bernhard Seifert, Isabelle Kleeberg, Barbara Feldmeyer, Tobias Pamminger, Evelien Jongepier, & Susanne Foitzik. (2014) Temnothorax pilagens sp. n. – a new slave-making species of the tribe Formicoxenini from North America (Hymenoptera, Formicidae) . ZooKeys. info:/10.3897/zookeys.368.6423

  • January 7, 2014
  • 10:45 AM
  • 237 views

The More Your Friends Change, the More Your Social Network Stays the Same

by Elizabeth Preston in Inkfish

For the most part, people move in and out of our lives at a trickle: a new coworker becomes a friend; a neighbor moves away. But there's at least one cataclysmic monsoon in a young person's social life, and that's high school graduation. So long, hometown chumps! Hello, dorms! When scientists used cell phone records to track the social networks of people graduating from high school and starting the next phase of their lives, they saw huge a turnover in friends and acquaintances. Remarkably, thou........ Read more »

Jari Saramäki, E. A. Leicht, Eduardo López, Sam G. B. Roberts, Felix Reed-Tsochas, & Robin I. M. Dunbar. (2013) Persistence of social signatures in human communication. PNAS. info:/10.1073/pnas.1308540110

  • January 3, 2014
  • 11:00 AM
  • 234 views

Snoozing Bats Tune Out Traffic Noise

by Elizabeth Preston in Inkfish

For an easily crushed animal that rests during the day, a highway seems like maybe the worst possible home. Yet some bats pick roosts that are under bridges, or in other spots booming with human noise. Why subject themselves to that? For bats of at least one species, the sound of traffic is easy to doze through. And the more they hear it, the more they ignore it.The greater mouse-eared bat, Myotis myotis, often turns up under bridges in Europe. Jinhong Luo, a PhD student at the Max Planck Instit........ Read more »

Luo J, Clarin BM, Borissov IM, & Siemers BM. (2013) Are torpid bats immune to anthropogenic noise?. The Journal of experimental biology. PMID: 24311817  

  • December 23, 2013
  • 10:32 AM
  • 331 views

Why It's Nearly Impossible to Castrate a Hippo

by Elizabeth Preston in Inkfish

Chances are you've never wondered how difficult it is to remove the testes of a hippopotamus. Other people have been thinking hard about it, though, because in fact it's almost impossible.Before sitting down to emasculate a common hippopotamus, Hippopotamus amphibius, it would be reasonable to ask why. They're a threatened species, so usually conservationists try to make more baby hippos—not fewer. But in zoos, hippos turn out to be prolific baby-makers. Females can live for 40 years and may b........ Read more »

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