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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
301 posts

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  • October 28, 2014
  • 09:51 AM
  • 40 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
  • 81 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
  • 104 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
  • 72 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
  • 117 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
  • 120 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
  • 105 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
  • 125 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
  • 181 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
  • 151 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
  • 171 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
  • 153 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
  • 187 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

  • September 2, 2014
  • 10:41 AM
  • 172 views

Pigeon Gamblers Treat Risk Just Like Humans Do

by Elizabeth Preston in Inkfish

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.... Read more »

Ludvig EA, Madan CR, Pisklak JM, & Spetch ML. (2014) Reward context determines risky choice in pigeons and humans. Biology letters, 10(8). PMID: 25165453  

  • August 26, 2014
  • 12:09 PM
  • 185 views

For These Bats, the Best Falsetto Wins Over the Ladies

by Elizabeth Preston in Inkfish

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.... Read more »

  • August 22, 2014
  • 09:42 AM
  • 202 views

These Cave Rocks Are Made out of Bacteria

by Elizabeth Preston in Inkfish

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.... Read more »

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  

  • August 20, 2014
  • 10:07 AM
  • 197 views

How Humans Are Helping Ravens and Hurting Hawks

by Elizabeth Preston in Inkfish

You’ve already picked a side in the bird wars, whether or not you know it. As humans carve up formerly empty expanses of the western United States with our roads, electrical towers, and power lines, we’re inadvertently giving a boost to ravens. Meanwhile, the birds of prey that once ruled the land are being left […]The post How Humans Are Helping Ravens and Hurting Hawks appeared first on Inkfish.... Read more »

  • August 12, 2014
  • 10:47 AM
  • 184 views

Even Kindergarteners Can Rate Their Own Confidence

by Elizabeth Preston in Inkfish

Do you remember on Who Wants to Be a Millionaire—apparently this show is still on, but I’ll assume no one else has seen it this decade—how after contestants picked an answer, Regis Philbin sometimes asked, “How sure are you?” They’d pull a number seemingly out of the air: “Oh, eighty-five percent.” This trick of estimating our […]The post Even Kindergarteners Can Rate Their Own Confidence appeared first on Inkfish.... Read more »

  • August 8, 2014
  • 10:27 AM
  • 202 views

It Only Takes Six Generations to Turn a Brown Butterfly Purple

by Elizabeth Preston in Inkfish

Evolution can seem like a slow way to get things done. It took more than a billion years for Earth’s life forms to try having more than one cell. In the famous March of Progress illustration showing an ape becoming an upright human, you can almost hear the stoop-shouldered cave guy in the middle groaning, “Hurry […]The post It Only Takes Six Generations to Turn a Brown Butterfly Purple appeared first on Inkfish.... Read more »

Wasik, B., Liew, S., Lilien, D., Dinwiddie, A., Noh, H., Cao, H., & Monteiro, A. (2014) Artificial selection for structural color on butterfly wings and comparison with natural evolution. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1402770111  

  • August 5, 2014
  • 10:51 AM
  • 207 views

Kids Name the Darnedest Animals

by Elizabeth Preston in Inkfish

Here’s an experiment that’s easy to do on your own. Grab the nearest elementary- or middle-school-age kid, sit her down in a quiet place, and ask her to name everything she can think of that’s alive. The results might tell you a lot about your young subject’s life. The wilder the animals, the more domestic […]The post Kids Name the Darnedest Animals appeared first on Inkfish.... Read more »

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