Monday, September 7, 2015

Your cat's just not that into you

This is my cat. She currently lives with my sister back in Canada, while I live 3000 miles away in London. I've often wondered if my cat misses me and whether or not she will be happy to see me when I come visit. Apparently, the answer is no.

Researchers have long known about parent-child attachment, which relates to safety and security between a vulnerable individual and a carer. Attachment tests have been adapted to study relationships between other species (like chimps and dogs) and their carers. Since, as many cat-owners will tell you, cats are as much a member of the family as any child or dog, researchers at the University of Lincoln (Lincolnshire UK) sought to study attachment styles between cats and their owners.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

A New Species of Glass Frog - Bearing a Striking Resemblance fo Kermit - was Discovered in Costa Rica!

Well, I'm a bit late to the party on this one, but I have succumbed to the excitement of the newly discovered glass frog! I imagine most people have by now seen this little guy, since his resemblance to another beloved frog has been making the internet rounds.

This little guy, belonging to the genus Hyalinobatrachium, was named after the senior author's mother. He can be distinguished from other members of the genus because of his short snout, a granular texture on the skin of his back, a transparent parietal and cardial peritoneum, a very distinct hand/foot webbing, no spots on his bright green skin, his kermit-like eyes (but that's not how the authors describe it), a very distinct call that consists of a single tonal long metallic whistle for a duration of 0.5 seconds, on average, and a 12.4% divergence in the DNA sequence of the mitochondrial gene COI compared to its closest relative Hyalinobatracium chirripoi. He's also really little - he measures only one inch long!

Glass frogs are known for their translucent skin, through which we can see their internal organs, including heart, liver, and gastrointestinal tract. They are predominantly found in Central and South America (Hyalinobatracium dianae was discovered in Costa Rica). Glass frogs differ from tree frogs because their eyes face forward instead of to the side, and they are also known to eat their young.

There's no word about whether or not this little guy is poisonous. That would have been my first guess, given his lime green skin - often in nature, bright colors are a taunt to potential predators, basically telling them that their meal is easy to find, but will probably kill them. However, given that glass frog species are known to live in trees in the rain forest, their coloration seems to be camouflage instead of warning.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Thanks to Epigenetics, the 1998 Canadian Ice Storm Imprinted in Babies' Genes

In January of 1998, a huge ice storm hit a small region of Canada, in eastern Ontario, southern Quebec, and across to Nova Scotia, covering everything in a layer of ice. The weight of that ice toppled power lines and utility poles, crushing the power grid. Three million people in the province of Quebec were without power for as many as 6 weeks. Commuters were stranded in subway cars, temperatures dropped to -20°C, and no one had any power to heat their homes or their water. The storm was responsible for 27 deaths, and cost $3 billion in total losses. As you can imagine, this had a significant impact on the population, including, apparently, the next generation.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Twitter as a Public Health Tool: language-based prediction of heart disease deaths

Twitter is a really great way to let all your followers know what's on your mind and to share cat videos, and has been used to start social movements and launch careers, but did you know it can also predict coronary heart disease? According to a new study published in Psychological Science, Twitter can be used as an indicator of a community's well-being, and may become a powerful public health tool.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

When a Person Loses Weight, Where Does the Fat go?

Most new year's resolutions involve some type of weight loss activity.  But have you ever wondered where the fat goes as you lose it?  A recent study from Australia, published in the British Medical Journal, has found out exactly what it is that the body does when it loses weight.  Take a deep breath... most of the excess fat is converted into CO2 and exhaled!

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Mammals Pee for about 21 Seconds, Regardless of Volume or Size

Research has revealed that, regardless of the animal's size or the volume being excreted, most mammals take roughly the same amount of time - about 21 seconds - to urinate. Believe me, you've just become the most interesting person at the party. You're welcome.

Just think about that: a cat excretes about 1 teaspoon of urine in roughly the same amount of time as an elephant empties its 18 L (~5 gal) bladder!  How does this happen?  It's all in the urethra.