September 18, 2014

5:35 PM | Too Many Penguins Is the Best Kind of Problem
If you wish your internet procrastination breaks involved fewer weird Facebook relatives and more animal hordes, you’re in luck. The citizen-science enablers at the Zooniverse have just launched a new project called Penguin Watch. You can count penguin babies, squint at rocks, and be back to work before your coffee cools. And help scientists, if […]The post Too Many Penguins Is the Best Kind of Problem appeared first on Inkfish.

September 15, 2014

4:06 PM | Poop Transplants Let Pack Rats Eat Poison
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.

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:


September 11, 2014

1:52 PM | Stop Worrying, Good-Looking Dudes: Your Sperm Is Fine
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.

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:


September 09, 2014

1:37 PM | Elderly Seabirds Dive Just as Well as Young Ones
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.

Elliott, K., Hare, J., Le Vaillant, M., Gaston, A., Ropert-Coudert, Y. & Anderson, W. (2014). Ageing gracefully: physiology but not behaviour declines with age in a diving seabird, Functional Ecology, DOI: 10.1111/1365-2435.12316


September 05, 2014

2:58 PM | Corals Engineer Their Own Currents
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.

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, Other:


September 02, 2014

2:41 PM | Pigeon Gamblers Treat Risk Just Like Humans Do
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.

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


August 29, 2014

1:42 PM | Laughter Is OK Medicine, Unless It Kills You
Have a great Labor Day weekend, everybody! But be careful not to enjoy yourself too much. (This post on the dangers of laughter first appeared in December 2013.) Careful with the bedside banter, doctors. Before you put on your best Patch Adams impression, you might want to consider whether your attempts at humor will ease […]The post Laughter Is OK Medicine, Unless It Kills You appeared first on Inkfish.

August 26, 2014

4:09 PM | For These Bats, the Best Falsetto Wins Over the Ladies
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.

Puechmaille, S., Borissov, I., Zsebok, S., Allegrini, B., Hizem, M., Kuenzel, S., Schuchmann, M., Teeling, E. & Siemers, B. (2014). Female Mate Choice Can Drive the Evolution of High Frequency Echolocation in Bats: A Case Study with Rhinolophus mehelyi, PLoS ONE, 9 (7) DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0103452

Editor's Pick

August 22, 2014

1:42 PM | These Cave Rocks Are Made out of Bacteria
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.

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

9 Results