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Between the rise of 3D movies and virtual reality, more and more people are getting a chance to don goofy glasses or headsets and experience media in three dimensions. And many of those people are discovering something about themselves: 3D makes them ill. Sitting in the theater or on their own couch, they get a sensation like motion sickness. They might feel nausea, dizziness, or disorientation.
A new study suggests that these symptoms aren't weakness on the part of the viewer. People who... Read more »
Allen, B., Hanley, T., Rokers, B., & Green, C. (2016) Visual 3D motion acuity predicts discomfort in 3D stereoscopic environments. Entertainment Computing, 1-9. DOI: 10.1016/j.entcom.2016.01.001
Although lizards mostly scurry on all fours, certain species can run on two legs when the mood strikes. What's the benefit to this human-like running style? For one thing, it seems to let lizards get over obstacles without slowing down. They just have to make sure not to tip over.
Georgia Southern University biologist Lance McBrayer and graduate student Seth Parker studied running in a handsome little reptile called Sceloporus woodi, or the Florida scrub lizard. McBrayer says there's been... Read more »
Parker, S., & McBrayer, L. (2016) The effects of multiple obstacles on the locomotor behavior and performance of a terrestrial lizard. Journal of Experimental Biology. DOI: 10.1242/jeb.120451
Between 1993 and 2015, cattle killed 13 people who were out for walks in the United Kingdom. Dozens more walkers received broken bones or other injuries from the animals.
Murderous cattle are an understudied phenomenon, say veterinarian Angharad Fraser-Williams and other researchers at the University of Liverpool in the United Kingdom. So they scoured news articles and scientific literature to learn about cattle attacks over two decades. They turned up some advice for people wishing to av........ Read more »
Think about the last time you stood squinting in front of a full-length mirror, trying to decide whether the colors in your outfit went together. Now imagine you're a reptile, and you wouldn't even understand a mirror if you saw one, but somehow you need to find a rock that matches your skin color. Otherwise you might get eaten by a bird today. Oh, and the skin color you need to match is on your back.
Certain lizards in Greece manage to pull this off every day, though how they do it is a ... Read more »
Marshall, K., Philpot, K., & Stevens, M. (2016) Microhabitat choice in island lizards enhances camouflage against avian predators. Scientific Reports, 19815. DOI: 10.1038/srep19815
No one would argue that tardigrades got stiffed in the weirdness department. These teensy animals, also called water bears, look roly-poly under a microscope. Less than a millimeter long, they can survive extremes of heat, cold, pressure, and radiation that are deadly to most other lifeforms. Under duress, a tardigrade may curl itself into a dried-up ball called a tun, then stay in a state of suspended animation for years before returning to life. Now, researchers poring over the animal's g........ Read more »
Smith, F., Boothby, T., Giovannini, I., Rebecchi, L., Jockusch, E., & Goldstein, B. (2016) The Compact Body Plan of Tardigrades Evolved by the Loss of a Large Body Region. Current Biology, 26(2), 224-229. DOI: 10.1016/j.cub.2015.11.059
No matter how unhip you feel wearing waders or hauling a butterfly net, citizen science is cool. That's obvious from the boom in online projects that let you count penguins, hunt planets, or identify animals in the Serengeti, as well as the scientific papers using these data. Now researchers in Sweden have looked into the science of citizen science itself. How much of this volunteer research is really happening, they asked—and what is it producing?
Christopher Kullenberg and Dick Kaspe........ Read more »
Kullenberg, C., & Kasperowski, D. (2016) What Is Citizen Science? – A Scientometric Meta-Analysis. PLOS ONE, 11(1). DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0147152
You're creating a profile for an online dating site when you come to a question you're not sure you want to answer—say, "Do you smoke?" You might be more comfortable leaving it blank than sharing the truth with all your potential dates. But a series of experiments says that we tend to judge people harshly when they withhold personal information. Even someone who shares an unpleasant truth is more appealing, trustworthy, and hirable than someone who'd rather not say.
Harvard Business ........ Read more »
Humans aren't the only animals who know when something's the matter. The chirps of a stressed-out zebra finch may make his mate feel stressed too—even when she can't see him. It's a hint that a kind of empathy exists in birds.
Zebra finches (Taeniopygia guttata) mate for life. They work together to find food, guard their nests, and raise their young. When they're apart, they call to each other to check in.
Emilie Perez, a researcher at the University of Saint-Etienne in France, and her........ Read more »
Perez EC, Elie JE, Boucaud IC, Crouchet T, Soulage CO, Soula HA, Theunissen FE, & Vignal C. (2015) Physiological resonance between mates through calls as possible evidence of empathic processes in songbirds. Hormones and behavior, 130-41. PMID: 26407661
New Caledonian crows are some of the world's most famous non-human tool users. The crows employ sticks, leaves, and even bits of wire in the lab to probe holes in branches or logs, fishing out tasty bugs. But scientists are usually stuck studying these behaviors in artificial environments. To get a better perspective on how these birds make and use tools in nature, researchers in the United Kingdom tried something new: they turned wild crows into documentary filmmakers.
Jolyon Troscianko........ Read more »
Troscianko J, & Rutz C. (2015) Activity profiles and hook-tool use of New Caledonian crows recorded by bird-borne video cameras. Biology letters, 11(12). PMID: 26701755
If your favorite activity is lying motionless on the ground, you'd better make sure hungry animals can't find you. Snakes and other creatures that hunt by ambush, waiting for their prey to wander past, often have impressive visual camouflage. But at least one type of viper seems to disguise itself in another way, too: its smell is undetectable to predators.
Puff adders (Bitis arietans) are big, fat vipers that move around very little while they wait for prey. They're widespread in Af... Read more »
Miller AK, Maritz B, McKay S, Glaudas X, & Alexander GJ. (2015) An ambusher's arsenal: chemical crypsis in the puff adder (Bitis arietans). Proceedings. Biological sciences / The Royal Society, 282(1821). PMID: 26674950
The rubber hand illusion is a classic experiment that reveals how our brains build a sense of our bodies. For the latest twist on the illusion, researchers simulated OCD-like feelings of disgust in subjects by starting with rubber hands and adding fake blood, vomit and feces.
The basic rubber hand experiment is simple to set up. It requires a fake hand, two paintbrushes, a table, and something to use as a little wall. A subject sits with both hands flat on the table, one of them farther o... Read more »
Jalal, B., Krishnakumar, D., & Ramachandran, V. (2015) “I Feel Contaminated in My Fake Hand”: Obsessive-Compulsive-Disorder like Disgust Sensations Arise from Dummy during Rubber Hand Illusion. PLOS ONE, 10(12). DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0139159
Swedish scientists have built a camera that makes methane gas visible. The tool could help researchers study greenhouses gases and answer tricky questions about climate change. It's also good for visualizing cow farts.
Magnus Gålfalk of Linköping University explains that the camera works using infrared spectroscopy. Called "hyperspectral imaging," the method simultaneously captures a spectrum of infrared light for every pixel in a photo. Many gases absorb infrared light, Gålfalk says, ........ Read more »
If the view outside your home is picture-perfect, you're more likely to be the picture of health. A study in Great Britain found that even taking into account poverty and a host of other factors, people in prettier locations report being healthier.
Chanuki Seresinhe, a graduate student at the University of Warwick in the United Kingdom, explains that the question of whether living in picturesque surroundings is good for your health "seems to come up again and again." A study in Toronto, f... Read more »
Seresinhe CI, Preis T, & Moat HS. (2015) Quantifying the Impact of Scenic Environments on Health. Scientific reports, 16899. PMID: 26603464
You know when you're out walking with a big horde of your friends and you come to a chasm you can't step across, so a bunch of you clasp each other's limbs and make yourselves into a bridge for the rest to walk on?
Eciton army ants do this. And they're not the only ants that build incredible structures out of their strong, near-weightless bodies. Weaver ants make chains between leaves by holding onto each other's waists. Fire ants cling together to form rafts and survive floodin........ Read more »
Reid CR, Lutz MJ, Powell S, Kao AB, Couzin ID, & Garnier S. (2015) Army ants dynamically adjust living bridges in response to a cost-benefit trade-off. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. PMID: 26598673
They say you can catch more flies with honey than with vinegar. But what about with lazy spiders versus lively ones? When it comes to keeping pests at bay, the personalities of the spiders hunting them are important.
That's what two behavioral ecologists reported after watching bug dramas play out in a sunny hilltop alfalfa patch. Raphaël Royauté of North Dakota State University and Jonathan Pruitt of the University of Pittsburgh were studying the personalities of wolf spiders (Pardosa mi........ Read more »
Royauté, R., & Pruitt, J. (2015) Varying predator personalities generates contrasting prey communities in an agroecosystem. Ecology, 96(11), 2902-2911. DOI: 10.1890/14-2424.1
Yes, it's important not to anthropomorphize other species or impose our values on them—but sometimes animals are just horrible. For example, kelp gulls. A few decades ago the birds in one part of Argentina realized that for a tasty snack, they could tear flesh from the backs of whales when they came up for air. Eventually the whales learned to protect themselves somewhat from the gulls. But now the gulls have shifted their attention to the whales' babies, and might be killing them.
Kelp........ Read more »
Marón CF, Beltramino L, Di Martino M, Chirife A, Seger J, Uhart M, Sironi M, & Rowntree VJ. (2015) Increased Wounding of Southern Right Whale (Eubalaena australis) Calves by Kelp Gulls (Larus dominicanus) at Península Valdés, Argentina. PloS one, 10(10). PMID: 26488493
We all have our standards. For humans, it's the five-second rule. For macaques, it's "think twice before eating food off a pile of poop." The monkeys have several ways of keeping their food (sort of) clean. And the most fastidious macaques, it seems, are rewarded with fewer parasites.
On the Japanese island of Koshima, scientists have been studying Japanese macaques (Macaca fuscata) for nearly seven decades. The tiny, forested island is overrun with the monkeys, which live there naturally... Read more »
Sarabian C, & MacIntosh AJ. (2015) Hygienic tendencies correlate with low geohelminth infection in free-ranging macaques. Biology letters, 11(11). PMID: 26538539
The uncanny valley is a place no one wants to be. Somewhere between machine and human, the theory goes, robots take a dive into creepiness. But roboticists aren't sure the valley really exists. Now, researchers in California say they have new evidence for this icky zone, and they can even draw a map of it.
Robotics professor Masahiro Mori first proposed the uncanny valley in 1970. The idea feels right—certainly some robots are charming and others, especially androids not quite succeeding ........ Read more »
Mathur MB, & Reichling DB. (2015) Navigating a social world with robot partners: A quantitative cartography of the Uncanny Valley. Cognition, 22-32. PMID: 26402646
Don't let the makeup companies find out. Lady glow-worms are setting an unattainable beauty standard by using bright light to show males how fertile they are. It's a rare (in the animal world) example of females decorating themselves while their mates choose between them.
The European glow-worm, or Lampyris noctiluca, is a member of the firefly family in which the females do most of the glowing. Males are ordinary-looking beetles with brown wings. Females are much larger and don't hav........ Read more »
Hopkins, J., Baudry, G., Candolin, U., & Kaitala, A. (2015) I'm sexy and I glow it: female ornamentation in a nocturnal capital breeder. Biology Letters, 11(10), 20150599. DOI: 10.1098/rsbl.2015.0599
Never heard of an Omura's whale? There's a good reason. Until recently, no one had laid eyes on one in the wild.
Before 2003, the Omura's whale was thought to be simply a dwarf version of another type of whale. Then Japanese scientists studying the whale's DNA and bodily characteristics decided it ought to be its own species, and named it after the late cetologist Hideo Omura. Still, all they had to work with were carcasses caught by whalers or washed up on the beach. They gleaned what........ Read more »
Cerchio, S., Andrianantenaina, B., Lindsay, A., Rekdahl, M., Andrianarivelo, N., & Rasoloarijao, T. (2015) Omura’s whales (Balaenoptera omurai) off northwest Madagascar: ecology, behaviour and conservation needs . Royal Society Open Science, 2(10), 150301. DOI: 10.1098/rsos.150301
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