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Like the clever and many-armed cephalopod, Inkfish reaches into all areas of science and brings you interpretations of the newest stories.

Elizabeth Preston
308 posts

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  • November 21, 2014
  • 08:58 AM
  • 51 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
  • 63 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
  • 70 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
  • 69 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
  • 91 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 3, 2014
  • 07:31 AM
  • 47 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
  • 111 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
  • 121 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
  • 130 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
  • 159 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
  • 120 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
  • 171 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  

  • October 7, 2014
  • 10:15 AM
  • 172 views

Scientists Recommend Vole Shaving

by Elizabeth Preston in Inkfish

Sometimes scientists need to make their research subjects’ lives harder. No matter how much affection they may feel for those flatworms or fish or pigeons, there are certain things they can only learn by forcing the animals to use more energy. But for animals living in the wild, this can be tricky. Now scientists studying […]The post Scientists Recommend Vole Shaving appeared first on Inkfish.... Read more »

Szafrańska PA, Zub K, Wieczorek M, Książek A, Speakman JR, & Konarzewski M. (2014) Shaving increases daily energy expenditures in free living root voles. The Journal of experimental biology. PMID: 25278468  

  • October 3, 2014
  • 10:02 AM
  • 151 views

How to Say “SOS” in Catfish

by Elizabeth Preston in Inkfish

It’s good to have a plan in case of emergency. If there’s a fire, take the stairs to the ground floor. If a bird tries to eat you, say “ERK ERK ERK” by grinding your spine bone against your shoulder bone until it drops you. That latter one will work best if you’re a certain […]The post How to Say “SOS” in Catfish appeared first on Inkfish.... Read more »

  • September 29, 2014
  • 03:04 PM
  • 186 views

Wind Turbines Kill Bats by Impersonating Trees

by Elizabeth Preston in Inkfish

Survival tip: don’t hang around machines that have giant spinning blades. It’s a lesson bats have been slow to learn, judging by the large numbers of their corpses found beneath wind turbines. New video footage suggests some bats are attracted to wind farms because they can’t tell turbines apart from trees. If it’s true, this […]The post Wind Turbines Kill Bats by Impersonating Trees appeared first on Inkfish.... Read more »

Paul. M. Cryan, P. Marcos Gorresen, Cris D. Hein, Michael R. Schirmacher, Robert H. Diehl, Manuela M. Huso, David T. S. Hayman, Paul D. Fricker, Frank J. Bonaccorso, Douglas H. Johnson.... (2014) Behavior of bats at wind turbines. PNAS. info:/10.1073/pnas.1406672111

  • September 26, 2014
  • 10:30 AM
  • 238 views

Walking Really Is Just Falling and Catching Yourself

by Elizabeth Preston in Inkfish

The flailing of a gymnast who’s missed a step on the balance beam might not be far off from what the rest of us experience every day. Each step we take is really a tiny fall, a mathematical model suggests. The random-looking variation in our footfalls is actually a series of corrections. Our strides are […]The post Walking Really Is Just Falling and Catching Yourself appeared first on Inkfish.... Read more »

  • September 15, 2014
  • 12:06 PM
  • 186 views

Poop Transplants Let Pack Rats Eat Poison

by Elizabeth Preston in Inkfish

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.... Read more »

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: 25040855  

  • September 11, 2014
  • 09:52 AM
  • 208 views

Stop Worrying, Good-Looking Dudes: Your Sperm Is Fine

by Elizabeth Preston in Inkfish

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.... Read more »

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: 25056484  

  • September 9, 2014
  • 09:37 AM
  • 198 views

Elderly Seabirds Dive Just as Well as Young Ones

by Elizabeth Preston in Inkfish

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.... Read more »

  • September 5, 2014
  • 10:58 AM
  • 243 views

Corals Engineer Their Own Currents

by Elizabeth Preston in Inkfish

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.... Read more »

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. info:/10.1073/pnas.1323094111

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