Monday, August 10, 2009

A short introduction to Davian behavior

Today I'd like to talk about something called Davian behavior. To understand what this eponym refers to, consider the following limeric:
There was an old miner named Dave
who kept a dead whore in his cave
You have to admit
He hadn't much wit
But look at the money he saved!
That's right. I'm talking about necrophilia. More specifically, animal necrophilia.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Why ants are awesome: Cooperation, zombification

Be afraid. Be very afraid. Because ants have already taken over the world.

To get a sense of their global dominance, consider the following facts. Ants monopolize 75% of the total insect biomass and 15% of the total terrestrial animal biomass. Their colonies can become huge; one colony of Argentine ants (Linepithema humile) in California spans 560 miles, while another colony from the same species along the Mediterranean spans 3,700 miles. What's worse, ants from the super-colonies from America and Europe already act like members of an international mafioso; when continent-hopping ants of this species encounter each other on foreign soil, they cooperate instead of fighting.

Be very, very afraid.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Journal prestige metrics

Occasionally when I discuss an article with my adviser, she asks me a question that completely mystifies me. "What journal was this article published in?" she'll ask. "Journal of Experimental Social Psychology," I'll reply. Then she nods knowingly as if incomparably important information has just been conveyed and continues talking.

I am left wondering throughout this entire experience what the heck just happened.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Why octopuses are awesome: A tribute to our future octopodian overlords

Today I wanted to write a post about an animal that I continue to find endlessly fascinating - the octopus. Octopuses* are an anomaly among animals in that although they are mere short-lived invertebrates (most live 1 or 2 years), they are extremely intelligent, exhibiting curiosity about their environment and having a tendency to play. For example, Kuba and his colleagues found that when given buoyant objects, such as an opaque plastic bottle or a red-and-white Lego block, an hour every day for eight days in a row, octopuses would begin to play with the objects. Some octopuses pulled the objects towards the bottom of the aquarium, while others would jet water against them, playing an underwater version of catch.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Herpetologist's Phallus immortalized

According to a post in the Scientific American blog 60-Second Science, herpetologist Robert Drewes has achieved every man's dream: he has been immortalized for his small, distinctively shaped . . . mushroom. As reported in the new issue of the journal Mycologia, the mushroom, dubbed Phallus drewesii, is a novel species of stinkhorn discovered by members of Drewes' research expedition on their latest trek through Africa.

Phallus drewesii

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Science and storytelling

While catching up on the latest issue of Atlantic, I stumbled upon this article about a massive longitudinal study about what makes us happy. Expecting an article full of wonderful statistical analysis, I eagerly began reading.

The article was not what I expected.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Shocking animal sex!

While browsing the awesome website ScienceBlogs, I stumbled upon this post in the blog Not Exactly Rocket Science regarding the convoluted, and slightly disturbing, sex lives of the short-beaked echidna. Apparently, male echidnae like their women the way I like my sushi - cold and unresponsive. I'll let the blog's author Ed Yong do most of the talking: