January 24, 2015

6:00 AM | Monkey See, Monkey Smile
Researchers find a non-ape species demonstrates rapid facial mimicry, a phenomenon linked with empathy and social understanding.
3:40 AM | More Insect Haikus (Friday 5)
The insect activity was a bit sparse this week, in spite of some lovely warm days and some exciting things that happened.  Because there are so few insects to report, I’m going to share some haikus of recent insect and insect-related observations I’ve made over the past few weeks.  Hope you enjoy them! Ode to […]

January 22, 2015

4:08 AM | Mute points: most are afraid to mention them
In discussion of anthropic theory and the fact that fundamental physical constraints underlie our life-enabling universe, Andrew Jones wrote: “Pathogenicity of E. coli 0157 has nothing to do with its temperature stability.” Like others who are biologically uninformed, Jones defies...Read more

January 21, 2015

5:58 PM | Could Deoxyribonucleic Acid Be in Your Food?
My colleague Arjan, who's much wittier than I am, suggested the label go something like this: Product may contain trace amounts of DNA; DNA has been linked with cancers and other disorders; There is a high probability pregnant mothers will pass DNA to their unborn children Continue reading →
2:00 PM | Girls and Dragonflies (Well-Nigh Wordless Wednesday)
In the summers, I tend to teach a lot.  I get requests to lead programs for our summer camps and other youth programs, so I’m out in the field with 4-8th graders a lot.  Each summer, I do a dragonfly program for the Girls in Science group at my museum and it’s a lot of […]
9:15 AM | Saving tigers (and ourselves) with education, love, and sticks.
Villagers take up sticks to save tigers in one of the world’s deadliest human-tiger conflict zones.

January 20, 2015

7:17 PM | New on Zoologic: Can Spiders Count?
Golden orb-web spiders are sit and wait hunters that accumulate prey larders on their webs. If prey items are removed from their webs, golden orb-web spiders search for them. They search longer when they have lost more prey items as well as when they have lost larger prey items. A new experiment looked at whether these spiders have a sense of numerosity: the ability to track the number of prey items in their larders. Read my latest Zoologic post: Can Spiders Count?  
6:41 PM | The Beaten Angels of our Nature. Is Steven Pinker right?
Could we affirm that we have become more peaceful than people from some centuries ago? Some renowned scientists say that we have become indeed more peaceable and they have some apparently good explanations for their statements. The evolutionary psychologist Steven Pinker, a notorious scientist, one of the most influential contemporary thinkers, claims that human aggression […] The post The Beaten Angels of our Nature. Is Steven Pinker right? appeared first on Social Ethology.

January 19, 2015

8:19 PM | Making the Medicine Go Down: Giving a Dog a Pill
Can you give your dog a pill? More to the point, can you give your dog a pill three times a day without any stress on you or your pooch? A recent online discussion reminded me how difficult it can be to get some dogs to take their medicine, and I thought it might be […]
5:23 PM | All of “like kind” (Part 2)
See: All of “like kind” in the (bigger) family I’ve since tried, but failed, to succinctly express my thoughts about representations in the article All in the (bigger) family. I exceeded the allowable word count. Here they are, in the...Read more
5:18 PM | Why You Can’t Hibernate the Winter Away
You open your eyes, slap the alarm, and pull the covers a little tighter around your shoulders. It’s still dark outside and you dread the moment that you step out from under the warm comforter and the cold sucks your breath out. Can’t you just hibernate and sleep the winter away?A dormouse in his snuggly hibernation state. Image by Krysztof Dreszer at Wikimedia. Actually, no. Hibernation and sleep are two completely different physiological processes (shown by studies of brain […]

January 17, 2015

11:48 AM | Chronicles of Athena – 25 Weeks
My poor, beautiful kitten has been wearing a cone of shame and skulking around the flat keeping as low to the ground as possible, occasionally getting stuck as he cone catches something and she refuses to lift her head enough … Continue reading →
3:15 AM | All of “like kind” in the (bigger) family
All in the (bigger) family Science 16 January 2015: Vol. 347 no. 6219 pp. 220-221 DOI: 10.1126/science.347.6219.220 by Elizabeth Pennisi Abstract: A decade of genetic data and other evidence has persuaded most researchers that insects and crustaceans, long considered widely...Read more

January 16, 2015

5:12 AM | 2015: Puppy New Year! Get some science into your dog
2015 is a bright and shiny new year for canine science! But first, this face:After being a dog-less household for eight months (you might remember we sadly farewelled Elke in 2013 and gut-wrenchingly, also old man Caleb, in the first half of 2014) we welcomed a new member to the family at the end of 2014. Those paws. Not photoshopped.If I'm honest with you, I'd been stalking PetRescue quietly for a month or so, not really sure if the time was right, but also open to being inspired to […]

January 15, 2015

11:18 PM | Environment epigenetically shapes the immune system
Environment, more than genetics, shapes immune system 1) –with my emphasis Re: “There’s nothing here that is revolutionary or requires rethinking of our assumptions about how the immune system functions…” My comment: They removed assumptions about cell type differentiation by...Read more
3:20 PM | Beneficial microbes kill beneficial mutations
Microbiology: Here’s looking at you, squid Margaret McFall-Ngai has dissected the relationship between a beautiful squid and its live-in bacteria — and found lessons for microbiome research on the way. Ed Yong 14 January 2015 Excerpt: “We now know that...Read more
3:03 PM | New on BrainFacts: Recovering from Spinal Cord Injuries
Every year, between 250,000 and 500,000 people around the world suffer a spinal cord injury, leaving many to face a lifetime of permanent, debilitating symptoms. For years, there was little hope for treatment options. Now scientists are exploring new ways to preserve and rewire nerve tissue and restore function, offering hope for recovery in the future. Read my latest article for Recovering From Spinal Cord Injuries .
1:41 PM | Beetles at Blacklights (Friday 5)
Last summer I spent almost an entire month blacklighting in my backyard every night.  I’m going to share my blacklighting setup with you all in the not too distant future so you can see what it involves, but I turned on my lights just before it got dark and then went out multiple times each night to document […]
9:56 AM | 5 reasons why I am not Charlie
The “Je suis Charlie” campaign is the first important meme of 2015. The desire to show solidarity with journalists of Charlie Hebdo, the victims of the terrorist attack in Paris, has filled the world far and wide, from members of different NGOs to artists and from teenagers to Heads of States. You can see nowadays […] The post 5 reasons why I am not Charlie appeared first on Social Ethology.

January 14, 2015

6:01 PM | Kai: The Case of Paddington Ayr
Scotland’s been abuzz with the story of Kai, the Shar-Pei cross abandoned at Ayr railway station with a suitcase of his belongings. Buzzfeed has more information here. The SSPCA has taken him in and the attention his story received has … Continue reading →
3:41 PM | Journal Club: Birds pick nest materials with camouflage in mind
SUMMARY: A recent study by a research team in Scotland reveals that birds intentionally choose colour-matching materials to camouflage their nests thereby reducing predation risk. The old saying, “Don’t put all your eggs into one basket” belies the very thing that many bird species must do. For this reason, predation is a major cause of loss of eggs, nestlings and the brooding hen, especially for birds that build open-cup nests. So how do birds protect their nests from […]
1:54 PM | Eater of Insects (Well-Nigh Wordless Wednesday)
I was really excited to find a big group of these little guys in a tree the other day: Brown-headed nuthatches!  They’re pretty adorable in general, but it was really fun to watch them digging around in that branch with their beaks as they hunted for insects in the setting sun.  Hope they found a […]
3:53 AM | Constrained evolution is ecological adaptation
See also: Unconstrained evolutionary innovability Ideas that evolution is not constrained can be compared to experimental evidence of biophysically constrained ecological adaptations. The most recent relevant open access published work from the Jakobsson lab is: TRIM28 Represses Transcription of Endogenous...Read more

January 13, 2015

2:57 PM | Can Pigs Empathize?
There are a handful of traits that scientists and philosophers would argue would make us human, including self-awareness and language. Another key part of being human is thought to be our ability to... -- Read more on
4:31 AM | A single amino acid substitution differentiates cell types of E. coli
Rare amino acid influences E. coli infection Excerpt: “They found that E. coli O157 is unable to attach itself to host tissue in high concentrations of D-Serine. Other strains, such as those that cause meningitis, thrive in the presence of...Read more
2:00 AM | Insect Macrophotography with a Canon Powershot SX60
I was given a new camera for my birthday last month.  As you all probably know, I LOVE my cameras and I take photos with them all the time.  The new camera, a Canon Powershot SX60, was an unlikely interest of mine.  I am not what you might consider an early adopter of new technology.  […]

January 12, 2015

5:39 PM | Science idiots continue their killing spree
Bat-filled tree source of Ebola epidemic? Excerpt: “Ash around the tree contained DNA fragments matching the Angolan free-tailed bat, known to survive infections with Ebola.” My comment: “This was reported in one of my trade publications as: “… the current...Read more
4:54 PM | The Animals of Belize
Who said a honeymoon had to be taken immediately after the wedding? Jim and I just took ours, two and a half years after the fact, and it could not have been sweeter. We stayed at the Hamanasi Resort in Belize and loved it. Yes, it’s expensive and not all that easy to get to […]
3:24 PM | Collective Personality and Our Environment
We are all familiar with the concept of the personality of an individual. We are less familiar with group- or collective personalities (although most teachers can tell you at length about the personalities of each of their classes). The concept is the same: whereas an individual personality relates to an individual’s consistent behaviors across time and contexts, a collective personality relates to a group’s consistent behaviors across time and contexts. Collective personalities can […]

Modlmeier, A., Forrester, N. & Pruitt, J. (2014). Habitat structure helps guide the emergence of colony-level personality in social spiders, Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology, 68 (12) 1965-1972. DOI: 10.1007/s00265-014-1802-z

3:37 AM | Unconstrained evolutionary innovability
The Strange Inevitability of Evolution by Philip Ball Excerpt 1)  Natural selection supplies an incredibly powerful way of pruning variation into effective solutions to the challenges of the environment. But it can’t explain where all that variation came from. As...Read more
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