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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
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  • July 22, 2011
  • 04:12 PM

What Marathoner Mice Can Teach Us

by Elizabeth Preston in Inkfish

If someone left a treadmill in your living room, how far would you run every day just because you felt like you had some energy to burn? Five miles? Zero miles, and you'd use it as a tie rack? How about 65 miles?Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania and elsewhere studied mutant mice that were missing a particular gene involved in cell signaling. They thought the gene had something to do with muscle development, and sure enough, they found that these mice had some pretty definite abnormal........ Read more »

Pistilli, E., Bogdanovich, S., Garton, F., Yang, N., Gulbin, J., Conner, J., Anderson, B., Quinn, L., North, K., Ahima, R.... (2011) Loss of IL-15 receptor α alters the endurance, fatigability, and metabolic characteristics of mouse fast skeletal muscles. Journal of Clinical Investigation. DOI: 10.1172/JCI44945  

  • July 19, 2011
  • 04:07 PM

Human Jell-O (Endorse THAT, Bill Cosby)

by Elizabeth Preston in Inkfish

Marshmallows, gummy bears, and Jell-O are all made jiggly by gelatin, an ingredient that comes from processed leftover pig and cow parts. If this troubles you, you may be glad to hear that some researchers are working on an alternative to animal-derived gelatin. Namely, gelatin that's human-derived.Gelatin is made by breaking down collagen, a protein that's plentiful in mammals' connective tissues. Collagen's ropy molecules run through bones, skin, and tendons. Spare bones and hides from th........ Read more »

  • July 15, 2011
  • 04:16 PM

Cold-Blooded but Not Dumb

by Elizabeth Preston in Inkfish

Just because an animal has a base-model brain and can't regulate its own body temperature doesn't mean it's unintelligent. Recent news shows two cold-blooded animals, a fish and a lizard, cleverly solving problems--and giving us brainier animals reason to question our superiority.Swimming back from a 60-foot dive in the Great Barrier Reef, a diver "heard a cracking noise" and turned to see a fish exhibiting a surprising behavior. The fish was a black spot tuskfish, also called a green wrasse, an........ Read more »

  • July 12, 2011
  • 12:52 PM

Is Bo Obama a Fraud?

by Elizabeth Preston in Inkfish

A hypoallergenic dog, we're told, is one that politely keeps its dander to itself and makes the air safer for allergy sufferers to breathe. Yet a new study claims to have debunked the whole notion of the allergy-friendly dog. Is this fair?Researchers from the Henry Ford Health System in Detroit studied a group of 173 homes that had both a baby and exactly one dog. After surveying each dog's owners about its breed, size, and how much time the dog spent indoors, the researchers collected a sample ........ Read more »

Charlotte E. Nicholas, M.P.H., Ganesa R. Wegienka, Ph.D., Suzanne L. Havstad, M.A., Edward M. Zoratti, M.D., Dennis R. Ownby, M.D., & Christine Cole Johson, Ph.D. (2011) Dog allergen levels in homes with hypoallergenic compared with nonhypoallergenic dogs. American Journal of Rhinology . info:/

  • July 8, 2011
  • 04:10 PM

Is Your Stress Affecting Your Future Grandkids?

by Elizabeth Preston in Inkfish

In case you weren't worried yet about inadvertently damaging your children's and grandchildren's DNA, scientists in Japan have demonstrated precisely how that might be possible by stressing out some fruit flies.You might think that once you've contributed sperm or egg to your offspring, its genetic destiny is set: you're free to mess up the kid psychologically or raise it exclusively on gluten-free Cheetos, but you can't do any harm to its DNA. You'd be wrong, though. Scientists have learne........ Read more »

Seong, K., Li, D., Shimizu, H., Nakamura, R., & Ishii, S. (2011) Inheritance of Stress-Induced, ATF-2-Dependent Epigenetic Change. Cell, 145(7), 1049-1061. DOI: 10.1016/j.cell.2011.05.029  

  • July 6, 2011
  • 04:17 PM

To Visualize Dinosaurs, Scientists Try Paint-by-Numbers

by Elizabeth Preston in Inkfish

Now that we know some dinosaurs had down or feathers instead of the scales we used to imagine, there are intriguing new questions to be answered. Did forest-dwelling species use patterned feathers for camouflage? Did other dinosaurs use flashy colors for communication or courtship, like modern birds do? Using new imaging techniques, scientists are beginning to color in their dinosaur outlines. In previous studies, researchers have scoured fossils of dinosaurs and early birds for melanosomes........ Read more »

Wogelius, R., Manning, P., Barden, H., Edwards, N., Webb, S., Sellers, W., Taylor, K., Larson, P., Dodson, P., You, H.... (2011) Trace Metals as Biomarkers for Eumelanin Pigment in the Fossil Record. Science. DOI: 10.1126/science.1205748  

  • July 1, 2011
  • 04:12 PM

To Live Longer, Be a Happy Ape

by Elizabeth Preston in Inkfish

Orangutans that achieve their goals, enjoy swinging with others, and always look on the bright side of the banana have longer lifespans than those who merely mope around the zoo. That's the conclusion of a long-term study of over 180 captive orangutans. The unhappy apes died sooner, and the happy apes lived to gloat about it.Alexander Weiss at the University of Edinburgh and his colleagues collected data on captive orangutans in parks around the world. At the beginning of the study period, ........ Read more »

Weiss, A., Adams, M., & King, J. (2011) Happy orang-utans live longer lives. Biology Letters. DOI: 10.1098/rsbl.2011.0543  

  • June 27, 2011
  • 05:41 PM

Jungle Geometry: Who Needs Euclid?

by Elizabeth Preston in Inkfish

At some point in your teenage years, you probably kept a compass and straightedge in your backpack, learned the ways to prove two triangles are congruent, and knew what a secant was. It all had a taste of the classical about it: Euclid, Archimedes and Pythagoras had figured everything out and passed it down to us. But geometry may be more democratic than it seems. As a group of native Amazonians showed, you don't need to go to school to explain Euclid.French researcher Veronique Izard and h........ Read more »

Izard, V., Pica, P., Spelke, E., & Dehaene, S. (2011) From the Cover: Flexible intuitions of Euclidean geometry in an Amazonian indigene group. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 108(24), 9782-9787. DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1016686108  

  • June 23, 2011
  • 11:02 AM

The Stink Wars

by Elizabeth Preston in Inkfish

It's not just skunks. Several other scrappy, medium-sized mammals can spray you with bad-smelling liquids from their anal glands. But they're not keeping it a secret: These animals have evolved certain signals that warn you and other potential predators to stay away (especially from the back end). If you know the signs, you can make sure to keep on the good side of any furry creatures you meet.Striped skunk.Providing more fodder for the theory that people are drawn to subjects resembling th........ Read more »

  • June 20, 2011
  • 11:53 PM

How Farming Made Us Shorter

by Elizabeth Preston in Inkfish

We usually think of farmers as sturdy, Midwestern types who raise their ruddy-cheeked children on a balanced diet of eggs, potatoes, and chores. A study from researchers at Emory University, though, suggests that our farming ancestors weren't the picture of health. When humans transitioned from hunting and gathering to farming and living in cities, the authors say, they became malnourished and more prone to disease. Oh, and they were shorter.Scientists use height as a rough yardstick of a popula........ Read more »

  • June 17, 2011
  • 03:01 PM

Dogs Defeat DNA

by Elizabeth Preston in Inkfish

Planning on committing a crime anytime soon? You'd better be careful not to leave your DNA behind. If crime scene investigators can collect any hair, skin cells, blood, or other bits of you from the crime scene, they'll have a pretty convincing case against you once you're in custody. Unless, of course, you have an identical twin. If that's the case, commit all the crimes you want, because there is absolutely no way for scientists to tell the difference between your DNA and your twin's.Acco........ Read more »

Ludvík Pinc. (2011) Dogs Discriminate Identical Twins. PLoS ONE. info:/10.1371/journal.pone.0020704

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