Elizabeth Preston

292 posts · 235,682 views

Inkfish
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  • September 15, 2014
  • 12:06 PM
  • 66 views

Poop Transplants Let Pack Rats Eat Poison

by Elizabeth Preston in Inkfish

Can’t eat poison without dying? Maybe your gut microbes are to blame. Rodents in the Mojave Desert have evolved to eat toxic creosote bushes with the help of specialized gut bacteria. Although scientists had long suspected that bacteria might be key to the rats’ power, they proved it by feeding the rodents antibiotics and ground-up […]The post Poop Transplants Let Pack Rats Eat Poison appeared first on Inkfish.... Read more »

Kohl KD, Weiss RB, Cox J, Dale C, & Denise Dearing M. (2014) Gut microbes of mammalian herbivores facilitate intake of plant toxins. Ecology letters, 17(10), 1238-46. PMID: 25040855  

  • September 11, 2014
  • 09:52 AM
  • 105 views

Stop Worrying, Good-Looking Dudes: Your Sperm Is Fine

by Elizabeth Preston in Inkfish

You may have seen headlines over the past week proclaiming that handsome men have lower-quality sperm. If this made you panic because you happen to be a great-looking guy, you can stop. (If you’re an un-handsome man who’s been gloating—sorry.) This scientific study did say a few interesting things about Spaniards, Colombians, and cheekbones. But […]The post Stop Worrying, Good-Looking Dudes: Your Sperm Is Fine appeared first on Inkfish.... Read more »

Soler C, Kekäläinen J, Núñez M, Sancho M, Alvarez JG, Núñez J, Yaber I, & Gutiérrez R. (2014) Male facial attractiveness and masculinity may provide sex- and culture-independent cues to semen quality. Journal of evolutionary biology, 27(9), 1930-8. PMID: 25056484  

  • September 9, 2014
  • 09:37 AM
  • 70 views

Elderly Seabirds Dive Just as Well as Young Ones

by Elizabeth Preston in Inkfish

If your grandma got up from the sofa, did a couple toe-touches, and then ran a mile at her college track pace, she might be approaching the athletic skill of a thick-billed murre. These seabirds make incredibly deep, long dives to catch prey. As they age, their bodies slow and change like ours. But the […]The post Elderly Seabirds Dive Just as Well as Young Ones appeared first on Inkfish.... Read more »

  • September 5, 2014
  • 10:58 AM
  • 107 views

Corals Engineer Their Own Currents

by Elizabeth Preston in Inkfish

There are few more monastic lives in the animal kingdom than a coral’s. In adulthood it gives up swimming to settle on the ocean floor, surround its spineless body with clones, and become a rock. Mouth facing the ocean, it waits passively for whatever drifts by—or maybe not so passively. Taking a closer look at […]The post Corals Engineer Their Own Currents appeared first on Inkfish.... Read more »

Orr H. Shapiro, Vicente I. Fernandez, Melissa Garren, Jeffrey S. Guasto, François P. Debaillon-Vesque, Esti Kramarsky-Winter, Assaf Vardi, & Roman Stocker. (2014) Vortical ciliary flows actively enhance mass transport in reef corals. PNAS. info:/10.1073/pnas.1323094111

  • September 2, 2014
  • 10:41 AM
  • 99 views

Pigeon Gamblers Treat Risk Just Like Humans Do

by Elizabeth Preston in Inkfish

If you watch poker coverage on television, you probably won’t hear the commentators compare players to pigeons. Maybe they should. The birds don’t play a great game of hold ‘em, but the way they think about risk might be strikingly similar to the way we do. Researchers discovered this by putting humans and birds through […]The post Pigeon Gamblers Treat Risk Just Like Humans Do appeared first on Inkfish.... Read more »

Ludvig EA, Madan CR, Pisklak JM, & Spetch ML. (2014) Reward context determines risky choice in pigeons and humans. Biology letters, 10(8). PMID: 25165453  

  • August 26, 2014
  • 12:09 PM
  • 102 views

For These Bats, the Best Falsetto Wins Over the Ladies

by Elizabeth Preston in Inkfish

A bat’s voice is its livelihood. Chirping and squeaking at just the right frequencies lets it echolocate food and stay alive. Sounding pretty isn’t the point—except when it is. For the first time, scientists think they’ve found a bat species in which females choose mates based on their voices. Even if a lower-frequency squeak might […]The post For These Bats, the Best Falsetto Wins Over the Ladies appeared first on Inkfish.... Read more »

  • August 22, 2014
  • 09:42 AM
  • 127 views

These Cave Rocks Are Made out of Bacteria

by Elizabeth Preston in Inkfish

Stalactites hold tight to the ceiling, the saying goes, and stalagmites might grow high enough to reach it. But the simple mnemonic doesn’t come close to covering the variety of weird, rocky shapes growing all over a cave. There are even, it turns out, rocks made from bacteria. They’re not putting the “tight” in “stalactite” so […]The post These Cave Rocks Are Made out of Bacteria appeared first on Inkfish.... Read more »

Sallstedt, T., Ivarsson, M., Lundberg, J., Sjöberg, R., & Vidal Romaní, J. (2014) Speleothem and biofilm formation in a granite/dolerite cave, Northern Sweden. International Journal of Speleology, 43(3), 305-313. DOI: 10.5038/1827-806X.43.3.7  

  • August 20, 2014
  • 10:07 AM
  • 147 views

How Humans Are Helping Ravens and Hurting Hawks

by Elizabeth Preston in Inkfish

You’ve already picked a side in the bird wars, whether or not you know it. As humans carve up formerly empty expanses of the western United States with our roads, electrical towers, and power lines, we’re inadvertently giving a boost to ravens. Meanwhile, the birds of prey that once ruled the land are being left […]The post How Humans Are Helping Ravens and Hurting Hawks appeared first on Inkfish.... Read more »

  • August 12, 2014
  • 10:47 AM
  • 122 views

Even Kindergarteners Can Rate Their Own Confidence

by Elizabeth Preston in Inkfish

Do you remember on Who Wants to Be a Millionaire—apparently this show is still on, but I’ll assume no one else has seen it this decade—how after contestants picked an answer, Regis Philbin sometimes asked, “How sure are you?” They’d pull a number seemingly out of the air: “Oh, eighty-five percent.” This trick of estimating our […]The post Even Kindergarteners Can Rate Their Own Confidence appeared first on Inkfish.... Read more »

  • August 8, 2014
  • 10:27 AM
  • 141 views

It Only Takes Six Generations to Turn a Brown Butterfly Purple

by Elizabeth Preston in Inkfish

Evolution can seem like a slow way to get things done. It took more than a billion years for Earth’s life forms to try having more than one cell. In the famous March of Progress illustration showing an ape becoming an upright human, you can almost hear the stoop-shouldered cave guy in the middle groaning, “Hurry […]The post It Only Takes Six Generations to Turn a Brown Butterfly Purple appeared first on Inkfish.... Read more »

Wasik, B., Liew, S., Lilien, D., Dinwiddie, A., Noh, H., Cao, H., & Monteiro, A. (2014) Artificial selection for structural color on butterfly wings and comparison with natural evolution. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1402770111  

  • August 5, 2014
  • 10:51 AM
  • 136 views

Kids Name the Darnedest Animals

by Elizabeth Preston in Inkfish

Here’s an experiment that’s easy to do on your own. Grab the nearest elementary- or middle-school-age kid, sit her down in a quiet place, and ask her to name everything she can think of that’s alive. The results might tell you a lot about your young subject’s life. The wilder the animals, the more domestic […]The post Kids Name the Darnedest Animals appeared first on Inkfish.... Read more »

  • July 29, 2014
  • 12:02 PM
  • 147 views

When Mom and Dad Have Different Migratory Routes, Kids Fly Right Down the Middle

by Elizabeth Preston in Inkfish

It sounds like the setup to a bad joke told by zoologists: What do you get when you cross a bird that always flies to the west with one that always flies east? But the punch line is weirder than you’d guess. Birds’ migratory routes are partly coded into their DNA. A baby that inherits […]The post When Mom and Dad Have Different Migratory Routes, Kids Fly Right Down the Middle appeared first on Inkfish.... Read more »

  • July 25, 2014
  • 09:45 AM
  • 204 views

Some Bees Are Busier Than Others

by Elizabeth Preston in Inkfish

It may be time to leave “busy as a bee” with other dubious animal similes like “happy as a clam” and “drunk as a skunk.” That’s because some bees, it turns out, aren’t all that busy. A small group of hive members do the bulk of the foraging, while their sisters relax at home. But […]The post Some Bees Are Busier Than Others appeared first on Inkfish.... Read more »

  • July 18, 2014
  • 11:01 AM
  • 169 views

Baboons Trade Morning Favors for All-Day Payoffs

by Elizabeth Preston in Inkfish

Primates basically invented “You scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours.” Baboons, for example, trade grooming for favors from other troop members. Social relationships are important to the monkeys. But it seems they put more effort into certain relationships depending on the time of day: in the morning, lower-ranking baboons invest more energy in grooming […]The post Baboons Trade Morning Favors for All-Day Payoffs appeared first on Inkfish.... Read more »

Sick, C., Carter, A., Marshall, H., Knapp, L., Dabelsteen, T., & Cowlishaw, G. (2014) Evidence for varying social strategies across the day in chacma baboons. Biology Letters, 10(7), 20140249-20140249. DOI: 10.1098/rsbl.2014.0249  

  • July 15, 2014
  • 12:18 PM
  • 170 views

Here’s What Happens When You Put Camera Traps in Trees

by Elizabeth Preston in Inkfish

The world holds very few unexplored places between zero and six feet off the ground. If humans can walk right up to it and take a picture, we probably already have. But the tops of the trees, like the bottom of the ocean, are a different story. “We know so much less about arboreal mammal […]The post Here’s What Happens When You Put Camera Traps in Trees appeared first on Inkfish.... Read more »

Gregory, T., Carrasco Rueda, F., Deichmann, J., Kolowski, J., & Alonso, A. (2014) Arboreal camera trapping: taking a proven method to new heights. Methods in Ecology and Evolution, 5(5), 443-451. DOI: 10.1111/2041-210X.12177  

  • July 9, 2014
  • 11:19 AM
  • 175 views

Say No to Nocebo: How Doctors Can Keep Patients’ Minds from Making Them Sicker

by Elizabeth Preston in Inkfish

“First, do no harm,” the saying goes, but that might be close to impossible. Just as our expectations can make us feel better, they can also make us feel much worse. This means that how doctors phrase their instructions or introduce new drugs may have a real impact on our health. But some doctors are […]The post Say No to Nocebo: How Doctors Can Keep Patients’ Minds from Making Them Sicker appeared first on Inkfish.... Read more »

  • July 1, 2014
  • 09:25 AM
  • 195 views

To Feed the World, Try Legos

by Elizabeth Preston in Inkfish

“It was an idea that just popped into my head,” says Ludovico Cademartiri, a materials scientist who’s upped his research game by using Legos. He hopes other researchers will steal his idea, and not just because Legos are fun. Cademartiri thinks the humble bricks could help solve the world’s impending food crisis. Members of Cademartiri’s […]The post To Feed the World, Try Legos appeared first on Inkfish.... Read more »

  • June 27, 2014
  • 08:46 AM
  • 199 views

Objects Bring Fear the Closer They Appear

by Elizabeth Preston in Inkfish

Quick: which of these things should you worry about if it’s coming toward you? a.) grizzly bear b.) pedestrian c.) frowny face emoticon You many not have time to assess all the risks (is the bear running? does the frowny face have greater-than-symbol eyebrows?). But without thinking about it, you’ll have a bad feeling about […]The post Objects Bring Fear the Closer They Appear appeared first on Inkfish.... Read more »

Hsee, C., Tu, Y., Lu, Z., & Ruan, B. (2014) Approach aversion: Negative hedonic reactions toward approaching stimuli. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 106(5), 699-712. DOI: 10.1037/a0036332  

  • June 24, 2014
  • 10:45 AM
  • 169 views

City Birds Are Adapted for Every Kind of Stress

by Elizabeth Preston in Inkfish

Whether you make your home in a high-rise apartment building or a drainpipe, city life has a different pace than country life. Urban environments mean an endless series of challenges for your mind and body: noise, crowds, pollution, quick decisions while facing oncoming vehicles. City-dwelling humans like to think of themselves as  tough and not […]The post City Birds Are Adapted for Every Kind of Stress appeared first on Inkfish.... Read more »

Costantini, D., Greives, T., Hau, M., & Partecke, J. (2014) Does urban life change blood oxidative status in birds?. Journal of Experimental Biology. DOI: 10.1242/​jeb.106450  

  • June 20, 2014
  • 10:34 AM
  • 208 views

Yaks Use Highest, Steepest Parts of the World for No-Boys-Allowed Meetings

by Elizabeth Preston in Inkfish

It’s hard for humans to tell what wild yaks are doing up there. Living high in the Tibetan Plateau, the rare ungulates are not easy to find. When scientists managed to track some down, they saw that females are hanging out in huge groups with no males allowed. And, though no one knows why, the […]The post Yaks Use Highest, Steepest Parts of the World for No-Boys-Allowed Meetings appeared first on Inkfish.... Read more »

JOEL BERGER, ELLEN CHENG, AILI KANG, MICHAEL KREBS, LISHU LI, ZHAO XIN LU, BUQIONG, BUZHOU, & GEORGE B. SCHALLER. (2014) Sex differences in ecology of wild yaks at high elevation in the Kekexili Reserve, Tibetan Qinghai Plateau, China. Journal of Mammalogy. info:/10.1644/13-MAMM-A-154

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