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  • May 15, 2013
  • 09:46 AM

Male Black Widows Sniff Out Femme Fatales

by Miss Behavior in The Scorpion and the Frog

I am thrilled to announce that this month I am joining a new top-notch science blogging team at Scitable, Nature Education’s award-winning science education website! (But don’t worry, friends. I will continue to post here about animal physiology and behavior every Wednesday). Next week, Scitable will be launching eleven new blogs covering topics like neuroscience, genetics, oceanography, physics and more. I will be co-authoring an evolution blog called Accumulating Glitches together with Sedeer el-Showk (the author of the fantastic nature blog Inspiring Science). To celebrate the launch of these new science blogs, many of us are writing guest posts at Student Voices, another Scitable blog. What follows is the start of my guest post:__ A female western black widow contemplates the tastinessof her suitor. Photo by Davefoc at Wikimedia Commons. Sexual reproduction is a costly affair, but the costs are not usually equal for males and females. Among animals, females generally produce larger gametes (eggs are way bigger than sperm), spend more energy gestating or incubating the young before they are born, and spend more effort caring for the young after they are born. It’s no wonder then that across animal species, females are typically more choosy of who they mate with than males are. But what if the tables are turned and sex is more costly for males than it is for females? Such is often the case for black widow spiders, named for the females’ infamous reputation for making a post-coital snack of their mates. In such a situation where every sexual encounter is potentially the last, who would blame males for being more choosy of their mating partners? But are they? To find out, read the rest of the post here! And to find out more, check this out:Johnson, J., Trubl, P., Blackmore, V., & Miles, L. (2011). Male black widows court well-fed females more than starved females: silken cues indicate sexual cannibalism risk Animal Behaviour, 82 (2), 383-390 DOI: 10.1016/j.anbehav.2011.05.018 ... Read more »

  • May 14, 2013
  • 02:00 AM

Measuring scientific coverage of @Wikipedia: Fellows of the Wiki Society Index 2013

by Duncan Hull in O'Really?

A quick-and-dirty measure of the scientific coverage of wikipedia is the percentage of these fellows that have a profile on wikipedia at the time of their election to the prestigous Society. Let’s call it the Fellows of the Wiki Society Index (FWSi)...... Read more »

Moy, C., Locke, J., Coppola, B., & McNeil, A. (2010) Improving Science Education and Understanding through Editing Wikipedia. Journal of Chemical Education, 87(11), 1159-1162. DOI: 10.1021/ed100367v  

  • May 14, 2013
  • 01:29 AM

Evolutionary arms-race won by moths

by Mini Watsa in SurroundScience

It is easy to forget that other organisms also affect the “environment” of a given species.  No one is evolving in a vacuum.  The existence of other species can not only … Continue reading →... Read more »

Moir H. M., Jackson J. C., & Windmill J. F. C. (2013) Extremely high frequency sensitivity in a 'simple' ear. Biology Letters, 9(4), 20130241-20130241. DOI: 10.1098/rsbl.2013.0241  

  • May 13, 2013
  • 09:45 AM

A Quantum Version of Google

by Carian Thus in United Academics

A team of computer scientists in Spain applied a quantum PageRank algorithm to a network with 7 webpages. They found that the quantum PageRank sometimes ordered the webpages differently in terms of importance, but averaging the quantum PageRank score over time recovered the classical ordering.... Read more »

Paparo, G., & Martin-Delgado, M. (2012) Google in a Quantum Network. Scientific Reports. DOI: 10.1038/srep00444  

  • May 11, 2013
  • 01:42 AM

How Not to Be Eaten

by Mini Watsa in SurroundScience

In the soft jungle sun, a thick-limbed primate—with heavy fur and a strong grasping tail—is poised for flight.  This is Lagothrix poeppigii, or Poeppigi’s woolly monkey, and it is the … Continue reading →... Read more »

  • May 9, 2013
  • 11:05 PM

Stop to smell the flowers. Especially lavender.

by Cobb & Hecht in Do You Believe In Dog?

(source)Hi Julie, WOW!Dogs in clothes.  Corgis in bikinis at the beach. Greyhounds in onesies.  We people do some weird things to our canine friends, no?! I'm pretty sure I wouldn't enjoy being dressed up in a padded outfit all day long, so I think I'll pass on sharing that experience with my dogs. As you said, cultural perceptions, ethics and expectations add a whole layer of extra consideration. It's not always easy to work out what dogs want or need. That's why I like science. It helps us work this stuff out.I've been super busy this week - working hard (as always!) and still thinking a lot about dogs living in kennel facilities. So I wanted to pull your head away from dogs dressed as flowers, back to dogs getting the opportunity to smell the flowers.  No, really. Lavender in fact.(source)Dogs should stop to smell the flowers. Especially lavender.When I talk to people about the body of research that's been conducted in the area of environmental enrichment for dogs housed in kennels, they never fail to be amazed at what has been studied. Or what hasn't. One topic that usually results in a snort, a laugh or a quizzical raised eyebrow is olfactory (smelly) stimulation. Which is kind of weird. Because we know that dogs can smell on a level that's basically in another galaxy compared to our smelling experiences. Research conducted in a rescue shelter kennel in 2005 exposed dogs to five different diffused aromas: - a blank control, or essential oil of- chamomile - lavender - peppermint- rosemary The study showed that olfactory stimulation had a significant effect on behaviour.  Dogs were more likely to rest and less likely to bark when exposed to the smells of lavender and chamomile. Peppermint and rosemary exposure resulted in more active and noisy behaviour. The researchers suggested that the welfare of dogs in shelter kennel environments (and also their attractiveness to potential adopters) could be improved by using this kind of aromatherapy.  What a dog's nose knows.Further research has shown a similar effect of lavender in effecting the behaviour of dogs with travel-induced excitement in cars: they spent more time sitting, resting and less time vocalising when they were exposed to the smell of lavender.Interestingly, human studies show a similar effect of lavender on us: reduced mental stress.So if a dog is in a kennel environment and can't get out to romp in a field of flowers, or chomp them up (as dogs tend to do!), perhaps we can help them out by giving them something... Read more »

Wells Deborah L. (2006) Aromatherapy for travel-induced excitement in dogs. Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association, 229(6), 964-967. DOI: 10.2460/javma.229.6.964  

MOTOMURA NAOYASU, SAKURAI AKIHIRO, & YOTSUYA YUKIKO. (2001) REDUCTION OF MENTAL STRESS WITH LAVENDER ODORANT. Perceptual and Motor Skills, 93(3), 713-718. DOI: 10.2466/pms.2001.93.3.713  

  • May 9, 2013
  • 09:57 AM

Taking memory research to Parliament

by Kamar Ameen-Ali in NC3Rs Blog

NC3Rs-funded PhD student Kamar Ameen-Ali, Department of Psychology, Durham University, takes us on a trip to the House of Commons SET for BRITAIN event, where she presented her research recently to MPs and VIPs.... Read more »

  • May 9, 2013
  • 08:43 AM

Reflections on WebSci‘13

by Peter Kraker in Science and the Web

I spent last week at Web Science 2013 in Paris. And what a well spent time that was. Web Science was for sure the most diverse conference I have ever attended. One of the reasons for this diversity is that Webscience was collocated with CHI (Human-Computer-Interaction) and Hypertext. But most importantly, the community of Webscience …Read More... Read more »

Peter Kraker, Kris Jack, Christian Schlögl, Christoph Trattner, & Stefanie Lindstaedt. (2013) Head Start: Improving Academic Literature Search with Overview Visualizations based on Readership Statistics. Web Science 2013. info:/

  • May 9, 2013
  • 06:07 AM

Common Coincidence

by Emarkham in GeneticCuckoo

An analysis using the Monte Carlo simulation, to investigate the probability of restaurant bills having the same total. Combining statistics with modeling from the real world allows for a realistic probability for this occurrence. ... Read more »

E Markham. (2013) Common Coincidence . Blogspot. info:/

  • May 8, 2013
  • 09:50 AM

Thanks Mom!

by Miss Behavior in The Scorpion and the Frog

Like Mother, like baby! Photo from give us so much more than we ever give them credit for. Biologically speaking, we all have a mom and a dad (unless you’re a flatworm or some other species that can reproduce without sex) that provide us with one of each chromosome type (our chromosomes contain our genes, commonly thought of as our “biological blueprints”). So it makes sense that we tend to think of ourselves as being half-our-mom and half-our-dad. But not so! All of us are slightly more-our-mom and slightly less-our dad.Our genes are encoded in our DNA, which is coiled and tightly packed into dense little chromosomes. Most of our cells contain 23 different pairs of chromosomes (for a total of 46), and one from each pair comes from each parent. One of those pairs is the sex chromosomes. Individuals with two X sex chromosomes are genetically females and individuals with an X and a Y sex chromosome are genetically male. Because genetic males are the only ones with Y chromosomes, all Y chromosomes are inherited from dad. But compared to X chromosomes, Y chromosomes are piddly little things that don’t contain as many genes. So if you’re a guy, you already have more genes from mom than from dad.In addition to our 46 chromosomes that we keep in the nucleus of each cell, we also have a tiny set of genes in another cell structure, the mitochondria. This mitochondrial DNA is only inherited from the mother, so regardless of whether you are XX or XY, you have a few more genes from mom than from dad.Wait! My genes are where?? Your genes are lined up on the doubled-stranded DNA, which is tightly coiled and packed into chromosomes. You have 23 different pairs of chromosomes, where one of each pair came from mom and the other came from dad. A copy of each of these 23 pairs of chromosomes (46 chromosomes in total) is in the nucleus of every cell you have (except for sperm or egg cells, which only have one of each pair, or 23 chromosomes in total). Get it? Figure adapted from an image by KES47 at Wikimedia.But we are not simply a product of our genes. If we were, identical twins would be, well… identical. But they’re not. The slight differences between twins results from differences in how our environment interacts with our genes. (By environment, I’m not just talking about temperature and air quality, but rather all external influences). Our environment plays a big role in shaping the individuals we become, and our mothers have more effect on our environment than our fathers do. When we are developing in the womb, our moms’ bodies single-handedly provide us with nutrients, hormones, and antibodies (and sometimes pathogens). During this time, her circumstances and decisions will determine what kind of setting we are born into. After we’re born, the social interaction, nutrition, and antibodies (through breast feeding and/or vaccines) she provides will all influence our gene activity and thus how we develop. Collectively, the traits that we develop due to these factors and all mom’s other nongenetic influences are called maternal effects.Mom gives us more genes, and has more input in determining how active each gene is. In the end, we are who we are in large part because of our moms.So Mom, this is for you: Happy (early) Mother’s Day! Want to know more? Check these out:1. BERNARDO, J. (1996). Maternal Effects in Animal Ecology Integrative and Comparative Biology, 36 (2), 83-105 DOI: 10.1093/icb/36.2.832. Wolf, J., & Wade, M.J. (2009). What are maternal effects (and what are they not)? Phil. Trans. R. Soc. B, 364, 1107-1115 ... Read more »

BERNARDO, J. (1996) Maternal Effects in Animal Ecology. Integrative and Comparative Biology, 36(2), 83-105. DOI: 10.1093/icb/36.2.83  

Wolf, J., & Wade, M.J. (2009) What are maternal effects (and what are they not)?. Phil. Trans. R. Soc. B, 1107-1115. info:/

  • May 8, 2013
  • 08:10 AM

by Kim Kristiansen in Picture of Pain

epression together with pain, but not pain alone, may increase activity in the immune system and inflammation. These are the important findings of a new study just published in the journal “Pain Medicine”.... Read more »

Kim Kristiansen, M.D. (2013) Pain and Depression Linked to the Immune System. Picture of Pain Blog. info:/

  • May 5, 2013
  • 05:22 AM

The (Lack of) Changes in Ecological Research

by gunnardw in The Beast, the Bard and the Bot

Ecology is a rapidly changing, dynamic field of research. In recent decades, there’s been a major shift from considering ecosystems as stable and poised to seeing them as systems that are in constant flux. At least, that’s what ecologists want (us) to believe. But how much of this claimed change has been able to seep [...]... Read more »

Carmel, Y., Kent, R., Bar-Massada, A., Blank, L., Liberzon, J., Nezer, O., Sapir, G., & Federman, R. (2013) Trends in Ecological Research during the Last Three Decades – A Systematic Review. PLoS ONE, 8(4). DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0059813  

  • May 3, 2013
  • 05:48 PM

Scatological Scents

by Mini Watsa in SurroundScience

Ever since tamarins were first captured from the wild to serve as research models in laboratories, we have been curious about their use of odour for communication. These miniature monkeys … Continue reading →... Read more »

  • May 3, 2013
  • 03:40 PM

Why blogging science is rewarding!

by Ragothamanyennamalli in Getting to know Structural Bioinformatics

... Read more »

  • May 2, 2013
  • 05:30 PM

Elite journals: to hell in a handbasket?

by Hadas Shema in Information Culture

Once upon a time, journals were made of paper and ink. However, we left the dark ages of dead woods behind us and moved forward to an age in which authors don’t need to publish in journals (but still want to). There’s an increasing decoupling between the individual article and its publishing journal, created by [...]

... Read more »

Vincent Lariviere, George A. Lozano, & Yves Gingras. (2013) Are elite journals declining?. ArXiv. arXiv: 1304.6460v1

George A. Lozano, Vincent Lariviere, & Yves Gingras. (2012) The weakening relationship between the Impact Factor and papers' citations in the digital age. ArXiv. arXiv: 1205.4328v1

  • May 2, 2013
  • 10:38 AM

Redefining Mental Disorders as Brain Disorders: TED Talk of Thomas Insel

by William Yates, M.D. in Brain Posts

Components of Brain Limbic SystemAdvances in the diagnosis and treatment of brain disorders like bipolar disorder, schizophrenia and autism are a public health priority.Dr. Thomas Insel, director at NIMH recently presented a TED talk that emphasized the need to rethink how we conceptualize and study these types of disorders.  He argues for a need to redefine mental disorders as brain disorders.  Advances in brain research tools are likely to provide improvements in early diagnosis and early treatment to reduce the morbidity and mortality of these brain disorders.I am posting my notes on Dr. Insel's presentation, as well as the fifteen minute YouTube video of the presentation.Additionally, I have provided links to two free full-text manuscripts on this topic for readers with more interest.MY NOTES on TED presentation Mental Disorders as Brain Disorders: Dr. Thomas InselScience can save lives-evidenced by many startling advances in medicine over the last 20 to 30 yearsChildhood cute lymphoblastic leukemia mortality decreased dramatically (90% to 10%)63% reduction in mortality due to heart diseaseAIDS mortality decliningStroke mortality decreasing due to early intervention programsEarly detection and early intervention are keyHowever, some areas are not improvingOne example of this is suicide--38,000 suicides per year in U.S., one every 15 minutesSuicide rates have not declined over the last 20 to 30 years90% of suicides linked to diagnosable mental disorders, depression, bipolar disorder, schizophreniaDisability is also common in mental disorders30% of all disability can be traced to disorders of the brain or neuropsychiatric disordersDisability in mental disorders due to fact many have early age of onsetMany are chronic disorder beginning in adolescents and young adultsNew terminology needed to change our thinking and research focusThese diseases are not mental disorders or behavioral disorders but brain disordersHuman brain complex 100 billion neurons, 100 trillion synapsesEvidence these are disorders of the human connectome (wiring circuites of the brain)Depression, OCD, PTSD show evidence of connectivity deficitsSchizophrenia: early deficits in brain gray matter volume of brain cortexGray matter pruning excess in schizophrenia crosses the threshold for psychosisBehavior often the last thing to to change in brain disordersNew tools are emerging in brain disordersThese tools promise early detection and early intervention in brain disordersHow soon with this occur?  We don't know but the following quote is relevant:"We always overestimate the change that will occur in the next two years and underestimate the change that will occur in the next ten." quote by Bill Gates, Jr.MY COMMENTS: I agree with the need to redefine many disorders previously defined as mental disorders as brain disorders.  The motto of this blog with continue to be "Translating neuroscience research into better care for brain disorders".  I believe new brain research tools can lead the way to early diagnosis and treatment. Brain image is an iPad screen shot from the Brain Tutor app.Collins, P., Insel, T., Chockalingam, A., Daar, A., & Maddox, Y. (2013). Grand Challenges in Global Mental Health: Integration in Research, Policy, and Practice PLoS Medicine, 10 (4) DOI: 10.1371/journal.pmed.1001434 Insel, T. (2011). A bridge to somewhere Translational Psychiatry, 1 (4) DOI: 10.1038/tp.2011.4... Read more »

  • May 1, 2013
  • 11:16 AM

Getting Science Right: Blacklist For Fake Journals

by Katja Keuchenius in United Academics

He saw respected journals getting hijacked, bogus articles being published quasi-professionally and so-called open access websites covered with “BUY NOW” buttons. So librarian Jeffrey Beall decided to do something about it. He created a black list of all the journals (343!) he thinks are questionable and put it on his website In this interview he explains why.... Read more »

  • April 27, 2013
  • 07:51 AM

A Year of Blogging

by gunnardw in The Beast, the Bard and the Bot

Exactly one year ago, The Beast, the Bard and the Bot were born. Time for some reflection. But first, a bit of numerical material (current at the time of writing). Some Numbers Posts: 96, including this one. Total views: 19672 Max views on single day: 631 Top 5 countries providing visitors: United States (8264) United [...]... Read more »

  • April 25, 2013
  • 12:43 AM

A room with a view: what do dogs want?

by Cobb & Hecht in Do You Believe In Dog?

Putting the woof in tweet! (source)Hi Julie,Wow! Thanks for sharing the amazing fun tweet-week we had posting for @realscientists on Twitter. It was great to engage with so many people about so many areas of dog (and other animal!) behaviour and research. And poo. So many questions about dog poo!  Some things can be relied upon in life; it’s good to know people are always curious about dog poo.If you want to revisit any of those posts or links we exchanged as part of the Real Scientists project, check out the amazing collection of our tweets, compiled via Storify by the fabulous Sarah, genius behind Science for Life . 365. This week, they have an astrophysicist/cosmologist who studies exploding stars and dark energy tweeting – so interesting! He has a beagle named Bagel who has learned to open doors on everything – the house, the fridge, the microwave – he’s keeping himself and everyone following on Twitter entertained!Over recent weeks I have been talking to working dog industry groups and visiting a variety of kennel facilities as part of my ongoing work with the Australian Animal Welfare Strategy. It’s been great being back around the wagging tails and eager faces of working dogs again. Seeing a wide range of kennel facilities has been fantastic and has given me some good motivation to complete my PhD research in the area of kennelled working dogs.(source)Kennel facilities (including shelter, boarding/breeding and working dog kennel contexts) are often built to house as many individuals as they can in the space available and to be easily cleaned (usually via chemical wash down and hosing) in order to maintain a hygienic environment. This has historically resulted in spaces formed in concrete and metal that we (as people) readily perceive as barren and sterile. (source)Modern facilities are often built with different materials, and can seem more pleasing to our eye, but I wonder if they’re actually any different in meeting dogs’ behavioural needs? It’s been interesting while visiting the recent facilities to consider the dogs’ experience of living in them. One point of difference that I noted was that some facilities offer the dog/s a view. Others didn’t. (source)This view might be limited to the dog opposite their kennel run, or fairly open to many other dogs, people, surrounding scenery, traffic, animals, etc. especially in areas where dogs have a choice to be in- or outside. The limited research in this area suggests that in situations where dogs are housed singly and have the opportunity to view other dogs, they take it. I find it interesting that human studies have illustrated positive effects of proximity to windows with a view in hospital and workplace environments: improved recovery times and reduced job stress. A review paper by Taylor and Mills (see below) suggests that sensory overstimulation may occur in kennel environments, so what does that mean when we consider what provision should be made for dogs to see outside of their kennel?Someone thinks it's important, with a fence porthole having been launched for pet dogs a few years ago. So is this marketing to the dogs' needs or the people's perceptions? Dogs certainly seem to actively seek out visual information about the world around them.... Read more »

  • April 23, 2013
  • 10:31 AM

Low Back Pain – What Healthcare Professionals THINK They Do and ACTUALLY Do

by Kim Kristiansen in Picture of Pain

Does good will and intentions equals what primary care physicians actually do when helping patients with non-specific pain complains like low back pain?

No, according to a new study.
... Read more »

Kim Kristiansen, M.D:. (2014) Low Back Pain – What Healthcare Professionals THINK They Do and ACTUALLY Do. Picture of Pain. info:/

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