The famous paleontologist Stephen Jay Gould once asked what would happen if we were to ‘replay the tape of life’. How different or similar would it turn out? He himself thought it could be profoundly different. In other words, in his view evolution is unrepeatable.
However, instances of convergent evolution, where organisms of a different pedigree can evolve to look surprisingly similar, have caused some to ask whether there might not be somewhat predictable patterns or trends in the grand process that is evolution. Just think of a tuna (fish), dolphin (mammal), and ichthyosaur (reptile). Look quite similar, don’t they?... Read more »
Mahler, D.L.; Ingram, T.; Revell, L.J. . (2013) Exceptional Convergence on the Macroevolutionary Landscape in Island Lizard Radiations. Science. DOI: 10.1126/science.1232392
n a paper published in March 2013, Drs. Rohan, Heo, Choi and colleagues have examined the relationship between body fat and the risk for development of breast cancer in post-menopausal women. ... Read more »
Rohan TE, Heo M, Choi L, Datta M, Freudenheim JL, Kamensky V, Ochs-Balcom HM, Qi L, Thomson CA, Vitolins MZ.... (2013) Body fat and breast cancer risk in postmenopausal women: a longitudinal study. Journal of cancer epidemiology, 754815. PMID: 23690776
The road to market for a promising new therapy can be notoriously long and treacherous. Before the first small-scale clinical trials in humans can even be contemplated, a new therapy (such as a drug or surgical procedure) must first pass muster in preclinical animal studies.... Read more »
Tsilidis KK, Panagiotou OA, Sena ES, Aretouli E, Evangelou E, Howells DW, Salman RA, Macleod MR . (2013) Evaluation of excess significance bias in animal studies of neurological diseases. PLoS Biology . DOI: 10.1371/journal.pbio.1001609
Hi Julie, I loved hearing from Clare Browne about her research into timing of reinforcement in our first guest post last week, and it certainly stimulated lots of great comments and questions on Facebook and Google+. I know you've been busy Chaser-ing around (lucky ducks, both!) and there's also all those amazing conferences happening this week, what with the ISAZ, IAHAIO and AVSAB events on in Chicago, so just a very quick post from me this week! You know how we recently put together out list of top ten books for the Science Book a Day team? Well, Chaser's upcoming book release reminded me that we should put them all in one place here, so that we (or anyone else looking for a canine science book or fourteen) could find them easily if needed. Science Book A DayIn no particular order, here they are: McGreevy (2009) A Modern Dog’s Life. A fabulous book, written with humour and insight, that offers a modern take on what challenges and motivates our dogs and how we can best meet their needs.http://doyoubelieveindog.blogspot.com/2012/09/todays-favorites-paul-mcgreevys-books.htmlSearch to purchase: http://booko.com.au/9781742231051/A-Modern-Dog-s-LifeHorowitz (2009) Inside of a Dog.What’s it like to be a dog? This book covers the science of how dogs think and perceive the world and is accompanied by personal reflections on Horowitz’s own dog’s behaviour. Get to know the umwelt of the dog.http://doyoubelieveindog.blogspot.com.au/2012/12/tis-season-to-be-doggy-fa-la-la-la-laaaa.htmlSearch to purchase: http://booko.com.au/9781451672756/Inside-of-a-Dog Bradshaw (2012) Dog Sense: How the New Science of Dog Behavior Can Make You a Better Friend to Your Pet.This recent publication answers the very important question: “What’s good for dogs?” Exp... Read more »
Ramos Daniela, Ades Cesar, & Dornhaus Anna. (2012) Two-Item Sentence Comprehension by a Dog (Canis familiaris). PLoS ONE, 7(2). DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0029689.g002
van der Zee Emile, Zulch Helen, Mills Daniel, & Dornhaus Anna. (2012) Word Generalization by a Dog (Canis familiaris): Is Shape Important?. PLoS ONE, 7(11). DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0049382.s003
You know it’s not only you and me who are constantly evolving by adjusting to our living environment; There are millions of others too who are doing this job as efficiently as it could be. Researchers from University of Illinois have discovered that gut bacteria facilitate the adaptation of the western corn rootworm, which is basically a beetle, to crop rotation.... Read more »
Chu CC, Spencer JL, Curzi MJ, Zavala JA, & Seufferheld MJ. (2013) Gut bacteria facilitate adaptation to crop rotation in the western corn rootworm. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. PMID: 23798396
Is the lifespan of a neuron is proportional to the lifespan of its species?... Read more »
Magrassi L, Leto K, . (2013) Lifespan of neurons is uncoupled from organismal lifespan. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1217505110
Monday mornings. They drag. Getting the ol’ noodle back into work-mode, especially after a fun summer weekend, can be a tall order. Many of us head straight for the classic boost – a cup of Joe – to help combat a case of the Monday’s but some new studies suggest that chewing gum could also provide some relief by enhancing our brain’s arousal, alertness, and attention.
In a recent study published in the British Journal of Psychology, Morgan and colleagues assessed the performance of 40 psychology undergraduate students on an auditory vigilance task while chomping on a wad of gum.... Read more »
The criminal justice system has always been at the sharp end of race relations in the United States. Not only have African Americans been treated more harshly than whites as suspects and offenders, they have been taken less seriously as victims.... Read more »
Tushar Kansal. (2005) RACIAL DISPARITY IN SENTENCING: A REVIEW OF THE LITERATURE. The Sentencing Project. info:/
The Western lifestyle, with its abundant fast food, is wreaking havoc with our waistlines and sending many of us to early graves. A high fat, high salt, low cost diet has been fuelling an obesity epidemic in industrialised nations and, increasingly, in developing countries. While the consequences of obesity, such as an increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, fatty liver, arthritis and cancer are well known, public health solutions are thin on the ground.... Read more »
Poutahidis T, Kleinewietfeld M, Smillie C, Levkovich T, Perrotta A et al. (2013) Microbial reprogramming inhibits Western diet-associated obesity. PLoS ONE. DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0068596
Do You Believe in Dog? is approaching our one-year anniversary (Wow! Yay!!!), and in the coming months, we will be opening up the blog to guest posts from other researchers exploring canine behaviour, cognition and welfare. Give a warm welcome to our first guest, Clare Browne from the University of Waikato in New Zealand. Hi Mia and Julie,As you both know from the last Canine Science Forum, my PhD investigates dog-human communication and how this communication affects dog training.(source)I would like to claim that everyone is New Zealand is a fantastic dog trainer and we all communicate brilliantly with our dogs, but alas, we’re just like everyone else. It turns out that when people give feedback to dogs during training, we’re often a bit slow. Let me explain...You’re no doubt aware that if we want to increase the likelihood that a behaviour occurs again, positive reinforcement (AKA “rewarding” -- adding something to keep the behaviour going) will achieve this. The types of positive reinforcement that are most commonly used in everyday dog training are verbal praise, food, and patting/petting. My PhD studies investigated two things: a) how fast are dog owners delivering positive reinforcement to dogs; and b) does it matter if owners are slow in providing dogs with reinforcement?Not really Clare's gumbootsTo answer the first of these questions, I put on my gumboots and spent many evenings at my friendly local dog clubs, filming owners training their dogs in beginner classes. I collected 1,810 instances where commands were given to dogs. I then went slightly mad and spent months watching videos of people training their dogs. Figure 1 shows how all the dogs responded to their owners, and 44% of the time, dogs did not respond to their owners at all. This one result made me feel like I wasn’t wasting all these years of my PhD – there clearly is a need for research into the efficacy of dog training!I used some fancy computer software and measured very precisely (down to 25 frames per second) the time between when the owners said the command and when the dogs performed the behavior, like laying down or sitting. I found that owners varied a lot in the time it took them to deliver positive reinforcement to their dogs. Some owners were almost instantaneous with their praise and then the treat followed quickly, whereas others took ages – the longest time was over 6 s! (That might not sound long to you, but try imagining that you’re a Labrador and having to wait 6 s for a treat, all of a sudden it’s a much more serious situation.) But does this even matter? Had I gone mad watching videos in my darkened office for no good reason?... Read more »
Browne Clare M., Starkey Nicola J., Foster T. Mary, & McEwan James S. (2013) What dog owners read: A review of best-selling books. Journal of Veterinary Behavior: Clinical Applications and Research, 8(4). DOI: 10.1016/j.jveb.2013.04.040
Do Virgos and Capricorns or Leos and Libras match?
Ok, let’s get it over with. There are so many people believing in matching sun signs, sometimes even seeming to have a point stating that the influence of the sun and stars can not be underestimated, that it’s time to put it to the test. Luckily David Voas, researcher at the University of Manchester, did so already in 2007.... Read more »
David Voas, Cathie Marsh. (2007) Ten million marriages: A test of astrological ‘love signs’. Centre for Census and Survey Research. info:/
It is stated that men could benefit from 60 minutes of aerobic exercise, even if they have not been active in a regular basis their whole life. It is as simple as this: during exercise, certain molecule levels will fluctuate, which will result in an adverse environment for prostate tumor development and progression.... Read more »
Rullman E, Mijwel S. (2013) Rundqvist H, Augsten M, Strömberg A, . Effect of Acute Exercise on Prostate Cancer Cell Growth. PLoS ONE. DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0067579
Women’s facial features can determine length of relationship, researchers found. ... Read more »
Anthony C. Little et al. (2013) Men's strategic preferences for femininity in female faces. British Journal of Psychology . DOI: 10.1111/bjop.12043
A new study shows that the entire body of Nile crocodiles (Crocodylus niloticus) is covered in hundreds of scales, each with a tiny spot full of nerve endings. During embryo development, these spots start forming in the head but eventually reach the whole body. Each spot reacts to touch, as well as changes in temperature and pH. “We used molecular techniques and, to our great surprise, found clear expression of not only mechano-receptors but also of chemo- and thermo-receptor channels”, said Prof Michel Milinkovitch, biologist and lead author in the study.... Read more »
Di-Poï N, & Milinkovitch MC. (2013) Crocodylians evolved scattered multi-sensory micro-organs. EvoDevo, 4(1), 19. PMID: 23819918
by Terrific T in Science, I Choose You
Bias: [mass noun] inclination or prejudice for or against one person or group, especially in a way considered to be unfair – Oxford Dictionaries This is part 1 of my 4-part series about gender bias in science. It is not a surprise that I am interested in gender issues in science. As one who has gone through graduate school […]... Read more »
In a meta-analysis of 21 prospective cohort studies published less than 2 weeks ago in the British Medical Journal, the authors arrived at a rather interesting conclusion: while fish – and alpha linolenic acid (ALAs) for vegans – consumption was not linked to breast cancer risk, total intake of marine omega-3 poly-unsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) was inversely linked to breast cancer, such that every 0.1g/d of fish oil was linked to 5% risk reduction in breast cancer.... Read more »
Zheng JS, Hu XJ, Zhao YM, Yang J, & Li D. (2013) Intake of fish and marine n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids and risk of breast cancer: meta-analysis of data from 21 independent prospective cohort studies. BMJ (Clinical research ed.). PMID: 23814120
Another work deadline is fast approaching and, yet again, you’re starting to feel the pressure. Need a permanent stress fix? Hit the gym and make it a regular habit. A new study conducted by a research team at Princeton University gives valuable insight into the contradictory links between physical exercise and changes to brain regions involved in anxiety.... Read more »
Schoenfeld TJ, Rada P, Pieruzzini PR, Hsueh B, & Gould E. (2013) Physical exercise prevents stress-induced activation of granule neurons and enhances local inhibitory mechanisms in the dentate gyrus. The Journal of neuroscience : the official journal of the Society for Neuroscience, 33(18), 7770-7. PMID: 23637169
While not the brightest of primates, one species of lemur has shown it can still learn a trick or two, staying safe from predators by heeding the alarm calls of other creatures in the forest.
Of all the species of lemur living on the island of Madagascar only one, Lepilemur sahamalazensis, has been found to exhibit this trait. The solitary, nocturnal creatures were found to respond to the alarm calls of the blue-eyed black lemur, and to those from several different species of bird.... Read more »
Seiler M, Schwitzer C, Gamba M, & Holderied MW. (2013) Interspecific Semantic Alarm Call Recognition in the Solitary Sahamalaza Sportive Lemur, Lepilemur sahamalazensis. PloS one, 8(6). PMID: 23825658
Tissue engineering is an extraordinary research field aim to engineer entire new organs from single cells. Not only would it resolve the problem of organs availability, but it would also annihilate the risk of graft rejection from the immune system.
The complexity of such process arise not only from a complex single organ cellular diversity, but also from the necessity of having the right cellular organization and complete networks of blood vessels to keep these cells alive. This complexity is particularly true for the heart, which has intricate networks of capillaries. Therefore, regenerative-medicine researchers are trying to reuse what biology has already created.... Read more »
This week I’ve been wrestling with a particularly large writing project which has kept me away from posting in this column. But, staring into my Twitter feed in procrastination, I spotted much outrage about a paper on the adaptive basis of cunnilingus-assisted orgasm. I had to head over to the journal Evolutionary Psychology to take a look.
The authors, Michael N. Pham, Todd K. Shackelford, Yael Sela and Lisa L. M. Welling, all of Oakland University in Michigan report the results of a simple survey they administered to 243 men in committed, heterosexual relationships. They predicted that, in their own words:
among men who perform cunnilingus on their partner, those at greater risk of sperm competition are more likely to perform cunnilingus until their partner achieves orgasm (Prediction 1), and that, among men who ejaculate during penile-vaginal intercourse and whose partner experiences a cunnilingus-assisted orgasm, ejaculation will occur during the brief period in which female orgasm might function to retain sperm (Prediction 2).... Read more »
Pham MN, Shackelford TK, Sela Y, & Welling LL. (2013) Is cunnilingus-assisted orgasm a male sperm-retention strategy?. Evolutionary psychology : an international journal of evolutionary approaches to psychology and behavior, 11(2), 405-14. PMID: 23744718
Leigh W. Simmons. (2001) Sperm Competition and Its Evolutionary Consequences in the Insects. princeton university press. DOI: 10.1111/j.1469-185X.1970.tb01176.x
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