Posts

March 31, 2015

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3:16 PM | Feb 2015: Damien Farine, penguins who can't taste, and shiny tree swallows
This month, I find out that penguins can’t tell the difference between savoury and sweet. I also chat with Sonia Van Wijk from The Université de Sherbrooke in Quebec, Canada, about what makes a male tree swallow attractive to a female who's on the look-out for more than one partner. And in the Scientific spark, I talk to social network whizz Damien Farine, from the University of Oxford, about his path into science. Download the MP3Adelie penguins […]

March 30, 2015

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6:35 PM | Methylation and cell type differences
Methylation and cell type differences Watch for other articles from Nugent et al., that attest to the obvious involvement of epigenetic effects on RNA-mediated cell type differentiation. Eventually, these researchers will need to differentiate cause and effect that has been...Read more
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3:32 PM | Gut Feelings
This boy may be influencing who he will marry when he grows up. Photo by Orrling at Wikimedia Commons.Animals (including humans) are swarming with microorganisms both on and in our bodies. Humans harbor so many different microorganisms that we have over 150 times more microbial genes than mammalian genes, and it is reasonable to suspect that this scenario is similar for most animals. But before you run to soak in a tub of hand sanitizer, you should realize that many of these microorganisms are […]

Cryan, J. & Dinan, T. (2015). More than a Gut Feeling: the Microbiota Regulates Neurodevelopment and Behavior, Neuropsychopharmacology, 40 (1) 241-242. DOI: 10.1038/npp.2014.224

Ezenwa, V., Gerardo, N., Inouye, D., Medina, M. & Xavier, J. (2012). Animal Behavior and the Microbiome, Science, 338 (6104) 198-199. DOI: 10.1126/science.1227412

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2:41 AM | Swarm Sunday: 1/1/2015 – 3/28/2015
  Well, it’s that time of year again!  Swarms have already started popping up in the US, even though it’s still pretty early to have them.  Here’s the swarms that have been reported since the beginning of the year: USA: San Diego, CA Boynton Beach, FL Brandon, FL Fort Lauderdale, FL Brazil: Florianopolis, Santa Catarina […]

March 29, 2015

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4:17 PM | Anatomy of a Break – Chronicles of Bobo Part One
The black and white cat you sometimes see in the Fluffy Sciences banner is called Bobo. I met Bobo in January 2010, back when she was called Bono, and was my friend Sophie’s cat. Only six months earlier I had … Continue reading →

March 28, 2015

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7:26 PM | Olfaction, ecology, and intelligence
“I should think we might fairly gauge the future of biological science, centuries ahead by estimating the time it will take to reach a complete comprehensive understanding of odor. It may not seem a profound enough problem to dominate all...Read more
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4:00 AM | Pond Dwellers (Friday Five)
I’ve been spending a lot of time photographing aquatic insects recently.  I’ve been very busy at work, so I find it relaxing to sit and watch my little tank full of insects in the evenings, observing their behaviors and photographing them.  Next week I’ll share another developmental series like the snail series I posted last week, […]

March 27, 2015

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4:00 PM | Music to a Cat’s Ears
 A recently published study has shown that cats are attracted to music that was specifically designed for them. This is important work, given all the claims that are made about effect of music “designed for” dogs and cats. Although there are several interesting studies this issue, the studies have traditionally compared different types of musical […]
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1:19 PM | My Last Zoologic Post
Thank you, and goodbye for now, from Zoologic. See the post here .

March 26, 2015

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2:08 AM | A Spring in His Step (Well-Nigh Wordless Wednesday)
Yesterday was an absolutely perfect day outside and I spent a half hour after work looking for cool bugs in the pond to photograph.  I found a great diversity of pond critters, but one of the things I was most excited to try my hand at photographically were the springtails I found hopping about on the […]

March 25, 2015

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5:58 PM | What Doesn’t Kill You . . .
In the words of Bernard Black, this is fantastic. There’s a great article on Vox.com talking about science reporting and why most news reports claiming there’s a new cure for X, or that Z causes cancer, are wrong. And I … Continue reading →

March 23, 2015

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8:14 PM | All About Dog Poop
Because it isn’t necessarily a fun topic, I thought I’d start off with my favorite story about dog poop. Imagine being at a sit-down lunch at two-day seminar I was giving on canine behavior and training. Picture a large room, with 150 people or so, sitting at round tables covered in white table cloths, the […]
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5:33 PM | New on Zoologic: Meet the American Alligator
The American alligator is North America’s largest reptile. They are surprisingly vocal and touchingly maternal. Learn more about these giants in my latest Zoologic post, The Creature Feature: 10 Fun Facts About the American Alligator .
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2:34 PM | Komodo Dragons: Their Bite is Worse than Their Bark
By Shelly Sonsalla Komodo Dragon. Image by Arturo de Frias Marques on Wikimedia. Komodo dragons are the world’s largest living lizard and can be found only on select islands in the Indonesian archipelago. These massive lizards can grow to be 10 feet in length and up to 150 pounds! Their natural prey includes wild boars, deer, and water buffalo—animals which may outweigh them by several hundred pounds. So how does a lizard, even such a large one, manage to take down prey so […]

Christiansen P & Wroe S (2007). Bite forces and evolutionary adaptations to feeding ecology in carnivores., Ecology, 88 (2) 347-58. PMID: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17479753

Fry, B., Wroe, S., Teeuwisse, W., van Osch, M., Moreno, K., Ingle, J., McHenry, C., Ferrara, T., Clausen, P., Scheib, H. & Winter, K. (2009). A central role for venom in predation by Varanus komodoensis (Komodo Dragon) and the extinct giant Varanus (Megalania) priscus, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 106 (22) 8969-8974. DOI: 10.1073/pnas.0810883106

Merchant, M., Henry, D., Falconi, R., Muscher, B. & Bryja, J. (2013). Antibacterial activities of serum from the Komodo Dragon (Varanus komodoensis), Microbiology Research, 4 (1) 4. DOI: 10.4081/mr.2013.e4

Montgomery JM, Gillespie D, Sastrawan P, Fredeking TM & Stewart GL (2002). Aerobic salivary bacteria in wild and captive Komodo dragons., Journal of wildlife diseases, 38 (3) 545-51. PMID: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12238371

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March 22, 2015

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9:58 PM | Albino Tapir Photographed – New on Weird & Wild
In my latest for Nat Geo’s Weird & Wild news, I write about how a camera trap caught a local legend on film – an albino tapir in Brazil’s Atlantic rainforest. To see my whole story, and photos, go here: Super-Rare Albino Tapir Photographed in Brazil.
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7:36 PM | Chronicles of Athena – 34 Weeks
While Athena is not my first cat, she is the first cat who is wholly mine, who would absolutely not survive without me. My last family cat, Posie, was euthanised in late 2009, and I went to get Athena on … Continue reading →
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7:35 PM | A Continuation in the Search for the Function of Sleep: Commentary from On Your Mind Podcast
This morning, I had the pleasure on being a guest host for one of the more entertaining, informative neuroscience podcasts of today’s smart technology society: On Your Mind. We talked about the job market, my new book–Meathead: Unraveling the Athletic Brain, and wrapped up with discussion of some peer-reviewed literature. It turned out that I […]

Harper, D., Plante, D., Jensen, J., Ravichandran, C., Buxton, O., Benson, K., O'Connor, S., Renshaw, P. & Winkelman, J. (2013). Energetic and Cell Membrane Metabolic Products in Patients with Primary Insomnia: A 31-Phosphorus Magnetic Resonance Spectroscopy Study at 4 Tesla, SLEEP, DOI: 10.5665/sleep.2530

Plante, D., Trksak, G., Jensen, J., Penetar, D., Ravichandran, C., Riedner, B., Tartarini, W., Dorsey, C., Renshaw, P., Lukas, S. & Harper, D. (2014). Gray Matter-Specific Changes in Brain Bioenergetics after Acute Sleep Deprivation: A 31P Magnetic Resonance Spectroscopy Study at 4 Tesla, SLEEP, DOI: 10.5665/sleep.4242

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March 21, 2015

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1:43 AM | Lost archives and cell type differentiation information
A Sexologist and his two Archives: Erwin J. Haeberle Excerpt: I did read the great study Die Prostitution (1912) by Iwan Bloch, one of the great pioneers of sexology. My comment: See also by Iwan Bloch: Odoratus Sexualis: A Scientific And...Read more

March 20, 2015

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11:21 PM | Hiding things about neo-Darwinism
Biologists devise invasion plan for mutations Excerpt:  “…researchers describe a technique for creating mutations that invade the genome and transmit themselves across to the next generation with near 100% success, defying the classic laws of Mendelian genetics.” My comment: Placed...Read more
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12:30 PM | Birth of a Snail (Friday 5)
On March 4th, I was in the midst of an all out race to prep curriculum for an insect-themed afterschool citizen science program I’m developing.  One of the things we wanted to provide to the state park rangers who will be implementing the bulk of the program was a couple of vials containing examples of […]

March 19, 2015

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11:43 PM | Modeling conserved microRNA expression
Insects as models to study the epigenetic basis of disease Excerpt: “…selected insects can be used as models for human diseases with an epigenetic component because the underlying molecular mechanisms (DNA methylation, histone acetylation and the expression of microRNAs) are...Read more
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10:23 PM | Aug 2013: Louise Barrett, peacock eye tracking, and caterpillar eyespots
In the first episode I dig into peahen perception to find out what they look for in their ideal mate. I'll also present the first of a series of interviews from the Behaviour 2013 conference. I speak to Tom Hossie from Carleton University, Canada. Plus in the Scientific Spark I ask Louise Barrett, from the University of Lethbridge in Canada, what sparked her scientific career. Download the MP3Peahen wearing eye-tracking equipment in Yorzinski et al's study.Quicklinks: Yorzisnki's […]
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10:22 PM | Sept 2013: Amy Cuddy and power posing, honeyguides, and bower bird cognition
Amy Cuddy joins me in this month's Beepcast, telling me what ignited her interest in how people judge and influence each other. I explore the darker side of bird behaviour, looking at the sneaky tactics African honeyguides use to trick other birds into raising their young. In the second of my interviews from the Behavior 2013 conference, I speak to Jess Isden of Exeter University who explains what female bowerbirds look for in a male’s fancy display. Download the […]
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10:21 PM | Oct 2013: Tim Birkhead, barn swallows, and coal tits who hide seeds
In October's BEEPcast Tim Birkhead tells me what ignited his interest in ornithology and sexual selection. I explore why male barn swallows don't act their age when courting females. In the third of my interviews from the Behavior 2013 conference, I speak to Tom Smulders of Newcastle University who explains what Coal tits do with unpalatable seeds. Download the MP3Barn swallows coutesy of Jim Benson http://www.flickr.com/photos/j_benson/Quicklinks: Tom Smulder's webpageMasaru Hasegawa's […]
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10:20 PM | Nov 2013: Nicky Clayton and clever crows, and mice that eat scorpions
Nicky Clayton joins me in this month's Beepcast, telling me what sparked her interest in bird intelligence, and how she mixes science with the art of dance. I learn about a mouse with an unusual superpower: immunity to the sting of a scorpion. I also interview Culum Brown of Macquarie University, Australia, who studies how young rainbow fish sniff out lurking predators.Download the MP3A southern grasshopper mouse eats the Arizona bark scorpion that it has just […]
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10:19 PM | Dec 2013: Steve Jones, slime mold, and spiders that mimic ants
This month, we leave backbones behind, for an invertebrate and protist special. I speak to Chris Reid from the the New Jersey Institute of Technology in Newark, USA, about an ancient single cell animal that looks like a glob of luminous yellow gunge, that doesn't have a brain but may be smarter than human beings. I find out about a double deception in the animal kingdom: how an ant-mimicking spider sends misleading visual and chemical cues to different predators. And, in the scientific spark I […]
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10:18 PM | Jan 2014: Lesley Morrell, prairie dogs, and stinky parrots
This month, I speak to Milla Mihailova from Deakin University in Australia, who tells me about parrots with a particularly pungent stench. I get up close and personal with some black tailed prairie dogs, to find out why they can’t help following the leader. And, in the Scientific Spark I ask Lesley Morrell (@biosciencemum), from the University of Hull what made her want to be a biologist, and how she came to work on why animals live in groups, rather than enjoying the single life.Download […]
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10:18 PM | Feb 2014: Kirsty MacLeod and meerkats, birds and airplanes, and New Zealand conservation with James Russell
Meerkats may look cute and cuddly, but this month, Kirsty MacLeod from Cambridge University tells me that for some, life isn’t as picture perfect as it seems. I find out about the US Department of Agriculture’s latest research on the quest for safer skies. And, in the Scientific Spark I ask James Russell, a conservation biologist from the University of Aukland in New Zealand, what inspired him to research invasive species biology, and what the hardest tasks are in trying to save New […]
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10:17 PM | March 2014: Temple Grandin, autism, weaver birds, and tadpole social learning
The social lives of animals is this month's theme. I talk to Damien Farine from the Edward Grey Institute at Oxford University, who tells me how weaver birds decide how many house mates they want to live with. I discover how being hungry can affect how information spreads through a group of tadpoles. And in the scientific spark Temple Grandin, Professor of Animal Science at Colorado State University, a best-selling author, an autistism activist, a consultant to the livestock industry on animal […]
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10:16 PM | April 2014: David Sherry and marsh tits, zebra stripes, and Arabian babblers
David Sherry from the Western University in Canada tells me what inspired him to study the hoarding behavior of birds, in the Scientific Spark. Oded Keynan explains the benefits to having offspring stick around for an extended period of time. I also find out why zebras have stripes, and why Rudyard Kipling was wrong! Download the MP3Zebras and their stripes from https://www.flickr.com/photos/mobilevirgin/Quicklinks: Oded Keynan's webpageTim Caro's webpageTim's zebra paper in Nature […]
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