Elizabeth Preston

317 posts · 257,767 views

Inkfish
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  • December 19, 2014
  • 10:40 AM
  • 48 views

Dogs Not Great at Math (Wolves Are Better)

by Elizabeth Preston in Inkfish



Even a brilliant dog may not be able to count as high as the number of feet she has. In a cheese cube counting challenge, dogs struggled to prove they have any number sense at all. Embarrassingly for the dogs, some wolves took the exact same test and passed it. This may be a hint about what dogs lost when they moved to a cushy life of domestication.

At the Wolf Science Center in Austria, Friederike Range and her colleagues raise both wolves and dogs by hand, then train them to take part i........ Read more »

Range F, Jenikejew J, Schröder I, & Virányi Z. (2014) Difference in quantity discrimination in dogs and wolves. Frontiers in psychology, 1299. PMID: 25477834  

  • December 16, 2014
  • 11:38 AM
  • 21 views

Spying on Animals' Movements to Learn How They're Feeling

by Elizabeth Preston in Inkfish



Rory Wilson recalls some nervous waterbirds.

"I've seen pelicans in Galapagos, in the port," the Swansea University biologist says. One set of birds was standing by the fish-gutting area and waiting for scraps, while another group stood out of the fray in some nearby bushes. Although both sets of pelicans acted the same, a closer look at the birds waiting for fish scraps revealed that they were quaking slightly. The tips of their wings trembled.

Wilson thinks the tremor in the pelicans... Read more »

Wilson, R., Grundy, E., Massy, R., Soltis, J., Tysse, B., Holton, M., Cai, Y., Parrott, A., Downey, L., Qasem, L.... (2014) Wild state secrets: ultra-sensitive measurement of micro-movement can reveal internal processes in animals. Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment, 12(10), 582-587. DOI: 10.1890/140068  

  • December 12, 2014
  • 12:37 PM
  • 82 views

Long Sperm Are Winners

by Elizabeth Preston in Inkfish



It's tough to be sperm. Your entire existence centers on one race that you will almost definitely lose. You don't even get to take a warmup lap. Nevertheless, a glance at your competitors waiting at the starting line might give you some hints about who has an advantage. One factor that helps sperm win races is length—and not only for the reasons you might guess.

Long sperm generally have longer tails. This ought to make them faster and more powerful swimmers, which studies have confirmed........ Read more »

Clair Bennison, Nicola Hemmings, Jon Slate, & Tim Birkhead. (2014) Long sperm fertilize more eggs in a bird. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences. info:/10.1098/rspb.2014.1897

  • December 9, 2014
  • 04:34 PM
  • 67 views

Parents with a Strong Bond Hatch Fearless Chicks

by Elizabeth Preston in Inkfish



Personality is written not just in the genes, but in the egg yolk. It can even come from the kind of relationship that exists between an animal’s parents. Researchers found new evidence for this when they played matchmaker for several dozen quail. Even though the eggs were taken from their parents before hatching, bird couples in committed relationships had chicks with markedly different behaviors than couples who only dated.

It’s not hard to forge a bond between Japanese quail (Coturn........ Read more »

Le Bot O, Lumineau S, de Margerie E, Pittet F, Trabalon M, & Houdelier C. (2014) Long-life partners or sex friends? Impact of parental pair bond on offspring personality. The Journal of experimental biology, 217(Pt 23), 4184-92. PMID: 25359936  

  • December 4, 2014
  • 10:58 AM
  • 113 views

No-Exercise Routine: Squirrels Build Muscle While Hibernating

by Elizabeth Preston in Inkfish

You may be physically fit right now, but if you spent all winter snoozing and starving, you’d emerge looking a lot more “pool noodle” than “beach body.” Yet mammals that hibernate don’t have that problem. Rather than stumbling out of their dens on atrophied legs, they hop right into hunting for food and dodging predators. How they manage this is […]
The post No-Exercise Routine: Squirrels Build Muscle While Hibernating appeared first on Inkfish.
... Read more »

Hindle AG, Otis JP, Epperson LE, Hornberger TA, Goodman CA, Carey HV, & Martin SL. (2014) Prioritization of skeletal muscle growth for emergence from hibernation. The Journal of experimental biology. PMID: 25452506  

  • December 1, 2014
  • 03:05 PM
  • 102 views

A Surfeit of Salamanders: An Imagined Picture Book

by Elizabeth Preston in Inkfish

If ever there was a scientific study that deserved to be a children’s picture book, this was it. Scientists belly-crawled through the forests of the Ozarks, flipping stones and looking for slimy things that wriggled away from them. They learned that the forest is secretly packed with salamanders in unfathomable numbers, as many as 10 […]The post A Surfeit of Salamanders: An Imagined Picture Book appeared first on Inkfish.... Read more »

  • November 26, 2014
  • 09:35 AM
  • 130 views

Illusion Makes People Speak with the Voice of Their Avatar

by Elizabeth Preston in Inkfish

Think you’re in control of your own body? A simple virtual-reality session could not only make you feel like an avatar’s body is your own, but make you speak more like the digital character. First there was the rubber-hand illusion, a classic experiment that showed syncing up someone’s touch perceptions with what they see happening […]The post Illusion Makes People Speak with the Voice of Their Avatar appeared first on Inkfish.... Read more »

  • November 21, 2014
  • 08:58 AM
  • 125 views

Termite Queen Clones Herself by Making Eggs Impervious to Sperm

by Elizabeth Preston in Inkfish

Even kings and queens that have six legs and live underground aren’t immune to royal machinations. In one Asian termite species, queens choose to shut their mates out of the picture when it’s time to breed a successor. They simply clone themselves to make new queens. To keep the king’s genes away, the queen makes […]The post Termite Queen Clones Herself by Making Eggs Impervious to Sperm appeared first on Inkfish.... Read more »

Yashiro T, & Matsuura K. (2014) Termite queens close the sperm gates of eggs to switch from sexual to asexual reproduction. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. PMID: 25404335  

  • November 19, 2014
  • 09:53 AM
  • 126 views

Mongoose Lookouts Carefully Weigh Risks (and Sing While They Do It)

by Elizabeth Preston in Inkfish

If you were assigned to watch a dozen dwarf mongooses on the savannah, would you know how to keep them safe? Or would half of them get snatched by snakes before you finished checking the dictionary to make sure they weren’t really a dozen mongeese? Luckily these animals don’t need us to watch their backs. […]The post Mongoose Lookouts Carefully Weigh Risks (and Sing While They Do It) appeared first on Inkfish.... Read more »

  • November 14, 2014
  • 11:19 AM
  • 129 views

Worm Defies Tradition, Stores Gut Bacteria in Gills Instead

by Elizabeth Preston in Inkfish

What—just because they’re called gut microbes, you’ve been keeping them in your colon? How unoriginal. This is Bankia setacea, also called the Northwest or feathery shipworm. Humans usually pay attention to shipworms only when they perform their namesake activity: burrowing face-first into our boats or docks and eating their way through. Shipworms are bivalves, like clams […]The post Worm Defies Tradition, Stores Gut Bacteria in Gills Instead appeared first on Inkfish.... Read more »

O'Connor, R., Fung, J., Sharp, K., Benner, J., McClung, C., Cushing, S., Lamkin, E., Fomenkov, A., Henrissat, B., Londer, Y.... (2014) Gill bacteria enable a novel digestive strategy in a wood-feeding mollusk. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1413110111  

  • November 11, 2014
  • 10:24 AM
  • 119 views

Found: The Ideal Fatness for Elephant Seals

by Elizabeth Preston in Inkfish

Like many new mothers, a female elephant seal puts herself on a strict diet after giving birth. She dives into the Pacific and spends two months eating everything she can find. It’s only by working hard at building up her blubber stores that she can get back her ideal body. Northern elephant seals (Mirounga angustirostris) […]The post Found: The Ideal Fatness for Elephant Seals appeared first on Inkfish.... Read more »

Adachi, T., Maresh, J., Robinson, P., Peterson, S., Costa, D., Naito, Y., Watanabe, Y., & Takahashi, A. (2014) The foraging benefits of being fat in a highly migratory marine mammal. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 281(1797), 20142120-20142120. DOI: 10.1098/rspb.2014.2120  

  • November 7, 2014
  • 10:01 AM
  • 126 views

Powerful Ravens Sabotage Others’ Relationships

by Elizabeth Preston in Inkfish

  If we’re lucky, this is behavior we haven’t seen since high school. The coolest individuals can’t stand to see others gaining social status, so they cut down any peers who are starting to elevate themselves. Ravens have to live with this behavior all the time. When the top-dog birds see others building new relationships, […]The post Powerful Ravens Sabotage Others’ Relationships appeared first on Inkfish.... Read more »

Massen, J., Szipl, G., Spreafico, M., & Bugnyar, T. (2014) Ravens Intervene in Others’ Bonding Attempts. Current Biology. DOI: 10.1016/j.cub.2014.09.073  

  • November 7, 2014
  • 10:01 AM
  • 31 views

Powerful Ravens Sabotage Others' Relationships

by Elizabeth Preston in Inkfish

 
If we're lucky, this is behavior we haven't seen since high school. The coolest individuals can't stand to see others gaining social status, so they cut down any peers who are starting to elevate themselves. Ravens have to live with this behavior all the time. When the top-dog birds see others building new relationships, they attack these birds or put themselves in the middle. They may as well be spreading rumors or defacing each other's lockers.

Wild ravens living in Austria were the ones... Read more »

Massen, J., Szipl, G., Spreafico, M., & Bugnyar, T. (2014) Ravens Intervene in Others’ Bonding Attempts. Current Biology. DOI: 10.1016/j.cub.2014.09.073  

  • November 3, 2014
  • 07:31 AM
  • 103 views

For Stress-Free Penguins, Use a Rover

by Elizabeth Preston in Inkfish

The first time a colony of Antarctic penguins sees a towering human striding toward them, it must be like First Contact. They’ve never seen a species our size on land before, or anything that moves like we do. Even after penguins have interacted with researchers, the approach of a human is a physiologically stressful experience. […]The post For Stress-Free Penguins, Use a Rover appeared first on Inkfish.... Read more »

Maho, Y., Whittington, J., Hanuise, N., Pereira, L., Boureau, M., Brucker, M., Chatelain, N., Courtecuisse, J., Crenner, F., Friess, B.... (2014) Rovers minimize human disturbance in research on wild animals. Nature Methods. DOI: 10.1038/nmeth.3173  

  • October 30, 2014
  • 09:57 AM
  • 143 views

Resourceful Crustaceans Turn Invasive Seaweed into Homes

by Elizabeth Preston in Inkfish

When a new developer comes to town and starts aggressively building up the empty property around your home, you can get mad—or you can move in. That’s what tiny crustaceans in the Georgia mudflats have done. Facing an invasive Japanese seaweed, they’ve discovered that it makes excellent shelter, protecting them from all kinds of threats. […]The post Resourceful Crustaceans Turn Invasive Seaweed into Homes appeared first on Inkfish.... Read more »

  • October 28, 2014
  • 09:51 AM
  • 158 views

Tagged Dolphins Adjust by Swimming Slowly

by Elizabeth Preston in Inkfish

Scientists love the data they get by attaching electronic tags to animals, but these devices can be a literal drag. For animals that fly or swim, tags can mess up their mechanics and force them to spend more energy. That’s what scientists expected to see when they studied dolphins with data loggers suction-cupped to their […]The post Tagged Dolphins Adjust by Swimming Slowly appeared first on Inkfish.... Read more »

van der Hoop JM, Fahlman A, Hurst T, Rocho-Levine J, Shorter KA, Petrov V, & Moore MJ. (2014) Bottlenose dolphins modify behavior to reduce metabolic effect of tag attachment. The Journal of experimental biology. PMID: 25324344  

  • October 24, 2014
  • 01:14 PM
  • 174 views

Fish Want to Play Too

by Elizabeth Preston in Inkfish

Yes, fish. These aquarium lap-swimmers and pursuers of flaked food aren’t known for their joie de vivre. Yet in one hobbyist’s tanks, scientists say they’ve captured a rare instance of fish playing around. James Murphy is a herpetologist at the Smithsonian National Zoological Park. Although he professionally studies reptiles and amphibians, he keeps fish as […]The post Fish Want to Play Too appeared first on Inkfish.... Read more »

  • October 17, 2014
  • 08:55 AM
  • 225 views

People Are More Swayed by Things That Look Sciencey

by Elizabeth Preston in Inkfish

Anyone who’s paged through a women’s magazine will recognize this strategy: to make a product seem better, surround it with a scientific glow. “Clinical trials show lashes grow up to 400% fuller!” “27% reduction of dark spots in 10 weeks!” “Ceramides!” Does this actually help convince people to hand over their cash? A study using […]The post People Are More Swayed by Things That Look Sciencey appeared first on Inkfish.... Read more »

  • October 14, 2014
  • 01:34 PM
  • 155 views

These Tiny Animals Live Only on Driftwood

by Elizabeth Preston in Inkfish

Maybe you gave your last realtor a long series of must-haves: a washing machine in unit, proximity to the train, a gas stovetop. But there’s no way you’re as picky as the driftwood hopper. This minute crustacean will only live in rotting chunks of driftwood. David Wildish, a marine zoologist at Fisheries and Oceans Canada, […]The post These Tiny Animals Live Only on Driftwood appeared first on Inkfish.... Read more »

  • October 10, 2014
  • 08:00 AM
  • 204 views

For Disguise, Female Squid Turn On Fake Testes

by Elizabeth Preston in Inkfish

Did you know this week is International Cephalopod Awareness Days? I’ll assume your gifts are in the mail. Today is dedicated to squid, and you can’t have total cephalopod awareness without discussing fake squid testes. This post was first published in September 2013. The best way to stay out of trouble, if you’re a shimmery, […]The post For Disguise, Female Squid Turn On Fake Testes appeared first on Inkfish.... Read more »

DeMartini DG, Ghoshal A, Pandolfi E, Weaver AT, Baum M, & Morse DE. (2013) Dynamic biophotonics: female squid exhibit sexually dimorphic tunable leucophores and iridocytes. The Journal of experimental biology, 216(Pt 19), 3733-41. PMID: 24006348  

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