Morsels For The Mind – 11/04/2014

Every day we provide you with Six Incredible Things Before Breakfast to nibble away at. Here you can fill your brain with the most intellectually stimulating “amuse bouches” from the past week – a veritable smorgasbord for the cranium. They’re all here for you to load up your plate – this week’s “Morsels for the mind”. Enjoy!

If you do nothing else, make sure to check out the “Reads / views / listens of the week”.


Feather, fur & fin – birds, beasts, fishes, and the things they do

Monkey business. Highly endangered snub-nosed monkey filmed. John Platt takes a look.

No monkeying about. Action needed to save primate at risk from anthropogenic extinction. Daniel Cressey describes the fraught situation.

Pumping iron. Whale poop fertilises the ocean with iron. And that’s a very good thing. Amazing bit of biology, beautifully explained by Robert Krulwich. Read of the week.

A whale of a time. How to capture humpback courtship in photographs. Excellent look at nature photography, featuring Darren Jew, by Bec Crew.

Dining with relations. Sperm whale species share a diet, as Sarah Zielinski explains.

Heat of the moment. Sara Mynott finds sea lions snuggle for warmth.

Lions & tigers & bears! Oh my! Some we like to study more than others. Elizabeth Preston shares the science.

A matter of pride. Of lions & potential coexistence of large carnivore with humans. Superb combination of research and conservation, beautifully explained by  Paul Thomson.

Deer me! The explosive population growth of iconic ungulates. Christopher Ketcham on a surprising problem.

Deerly beloved. Brandon Keim finds that antlered ungulates might just be good for biodiversity.

“Ropstad pulls the..ultrasound gel out of his snowmobile suit.” Ah, the reindeer pregnancy test. Helen Fields describes some amazing field work.

Gets to the point. Elephant parasite infects rhinos also, as explained by Tommy Leung.

What’s black & white & red all over? The coexistence of panda species! Jason Goldman explains how they do it.

Furry little folk? How companion animals are becoming citizens. Super interview with David Grimm by Brandon Keim.

Bank on it. Sperm banking contributes to wolf revival. Story with a great outcome, by Jordan Schaul.‬

Get packing. Jennifer Viegas describes how wolves optimise pack for hunting.

Grim business. Tough work of cadaver dogs, underscored after mudslide. Incredible story by Cat Warren.

Legal beagle? Dogs & other companion animals becoming human…legally speaking. Great Q&A with David Grimm by Rachel Shea

Clever canines? Just how smart do people think their dogs are? Intriguing research, expertly explained by Zazie Smith.

Gone to the dogs…in a good way. Amazing portraits by Elke Vogelsang.

Voles’ night out. How alcohol consumption shapes vole social interactions. Intriguing discovery, nicely described by Rachel Nuwer.

Intoxicating relationships. Jennifer Holland finds that vole pair bonds are altered by alcohol consumption.

Member of the species. Penis spines distinguish bat species. Micaela Jemison on some cool biology.

There’s still only so much a hand puppet can do.” Quote by Lizzie Wade from a brilliant piece on puppets, condors, & conservation. Asks the question: "Is a puppet-reared animal a tragedy or a miracle?" Read of the week.

Soaring species. Hummingbird diversification still on the rise. Cool bit of research, superbly described by GrrlScientist. Read of the week.

Humming right along. Ed Yong finds that hummingbird diversity still growing.

Something to crow about. How corvids performed an Aesop fable. Interview with researcher Sarah Jelbert, by Virginia Morell.

Size matters. Big brood = short life for jackdaws. Elizabeth Preston on a nested davelopment.

Birds of a feather. A unique feather. The 100 most unique birds identified. Jessica Aldred on an interesting piece of research.

Fine feathered friends. Some are incredibly unique. The 100 most evolutionarily-distinct birds. Brandon Keim on how they were determined.

Beyond the brink. Birds brought to extinction. Memorialised in sculpture, by Todd McGrain. Megan Gambino takes a look.

Dynamic duo. Two manakin males attract one mate.  Great story by Robert Krulwich.

Puffin perfection. Beautiful birds. Super gallery assembled by Klassy Goldberg.

Fantastically freaky frogs. When nature errs, odd beauty can emerge. Beautiful images, superbly contextualised by Kyle Hill. View of the week.

Cute cannibals. Some tadpoles have a wicked appetite, as Jeff Hecht found.

Getting to the points. New mountaintop frog is spiky. Carrie Arnold looks at a new species.

Good eats. Parrotfish feeding on coral is a good thing. This needs to be protected, as Jason Bittel reveals.

Air apparent.  Piotr Naskrecki looks at how lungfish changed evolution.

Some fish really suck. And that’s a good thing. As Alex Riley explains, It enables them to navigate without sight.

What wood they do? Marine critters that live only on land plants. Ed Yong on the amazing thing that is "wood fall".

The worm turns…  plant defence into its own offence. Ed Yong on a worm that finds that a weak defence is a good offence.

Go with the glow. Beautiful bioluminescent beasties. Fun stuff by Matt Shipman & James Hutson, courtesy of Buzz Hoot Roar.

Do we need to look for aliens beyond Earth? Look at pond water. Daniel Stoupin's video shows that it’s astonishing. View of the week.

A pain on many levels. Box jellyfish sting treatment study raises multiple alarms. Great critique by Christie Wilcox.

Body of evidence. The history & ongoing importance of anatomy. Excellent case made by John Hutchinson.

Animal attraction. Frank Swain takes a look at people who have their bodies augmented with creature features.

Pet hypothesis. Technology may shape tomorrow’s companion animals. Emily Anthes discusses the future with Alex Jackson.

How does one create an amazing blog on tetrapods? Here’s the manifesto (& also super linkfest), by Darren Naish.

Back to nature. Walking outdoors amazes, as Sean McCann reveals beautifully.


Bugs’ life – insects and other things that creep, crawl and otherwise delight – the arthropods

Their lives are finely tuned & fragile in ways that are blessedly unthreatening to human beings.” Quote by E.O. Wilson from an awesome post on spiders & nature in general, via Piotr Naskrecki. Must read. Read of the week.

Amazing arachnids. Chris Buddle takes a look at pstupendous pseudoscorpions.

All the right moves. Alison Benjamin describes how the bee waggle dance has been deciphered.

Let sleeping bugs lie. Insects get a little shut eyes. Brooke Borel on the sleep habits of the very tiny.

Gut reaction. What microbes in stomachs of bullet ants may say about their ecology. Some nice research blogging by Terry McGlynn.

Family dinner. Dracula ants live off offsprings’ blood. Bec Crew on some creepy little critters.

High time for a change. Butterfly relocates to higher altitudes to contend with climate. Patrick Barkham takes a look.

No biggie? Big, fierce ants are surprisingly abundant. As Gwen Pearson explains, this defies expectations.

Gas-sniffing spiders invading cars? Um, not so much. Great debunking, by Chris Buddle.

Loving Lepidoptera. Kids & butterflies. Joanna Ruck looks at a heartwarming combination.


Fossil finds – organisms of times past – palaeontology, archaeology, anthropology, history and the like

Pterrific pterosaurs. Brian Switek describes amazing flying reptiles from dinosaur age.

Origin of the species. Setting the stage for sauropods. Brian Switek looks as the progenitors of great dinosaurs.

Jaws of death. Charles Choi on an extinct carnivorous marsupial "tiger" had a big bite.

Eyeing it up. Agata Blaszczak-Boxe looks at extinct harvestmen’s 4 eyes, and provides a gallery of amazing photos.

Meet the new buzz, same as the old buzz. Remarkable preservation of ancient bees. Michael Balter describes a recent find.

Origin of the species. On the discovery & taxonomy of Homo habilis, 50 years on. Excellent post, by John Hawks.

Wrapped in superstition. A mummy’s curse rises from the tomb when science & coincidence collide. Cool, if a little spooky, story by Rose Eveleth.

Well, doesn’t that just stink?! Marc Lallanilla finds that poop still smells foul, even after 700 years.


Beautiful botanicals – wonders of the photosynthesising world – that is, mainly plants

Billion year conversation. Plants’ internal dialogueI wrote this (and a more extended piece).

Oh shoot!  Kelly April Tyrrell explains how roots communicate with plant parts above.

That’s sweet! Sugar induces plant branching.

Weedy wonders. Spectacular seaweed. Josie Iselin shows the artistry of nature.

Getting at the root of the problem. Jason Goldman describes a plan to protect orchids decimated by TCM.

Woody walk. Forest ecosystems are trekking north. That’s a problem, as Laura Nielsen of Frontier Scientists explains.

A maizing discovery. John Hawks looks at insights into how teosinte was domesticated to become corn.

Pining for purity. Using pine stem xylem to produce safe drinking water. Sarah Shailes describes an interesting technology.


Microscopic marvels – smaller than the eye can see, but big in action – bacteria, fungi and viruses

Miniature muncher. Ed Yong finds that amoebas take big bites out of cells.

Spoiled sports. Did microbes evolve to spoil fruit so it has less appeal to animals? Carrie Arnold looks at an interesting hypothesis.

Strain of assistance. Cholera outbreak caused by microbe strain ported by “helping” troops. S. E. Gould on help that didn't help.

A killer returns. Reemergence of Ebola virus. Excellent coverage by Tara Smith.

It’s a very grim & local misery.” The tragedy & reality of Ebola virus. Excellent, thoughtful piece by David Quammen. Read of the week.

Things not what they otter be. Sea otters catching human H1N1 flu. Not good. Excellent coverage by Rachel Nuwer.

On the rebound. Whooping cough making a return. Bad news / worse news story, perfectly handled by Nathan Seppa.

When the drugs don’t work. Ongoing battle against antibiotic resistance. Excellent, important piece by Marcia Kaye.


Molecular machinery – the toils of the macromolecules of life – nucleic acids and proteins (and others) – from molecules to cells to organs to organisms (including genetics & genomics)

Trials & error. Of Tamiflu, clinical trial transparency, & a debacle. Amazing read, by Ben Goldacre. Read of the week.

The long & short of it. Might telomere length reflect chronic stress in wildlife? Super hypothesis, beautifully considered by GrrlScientist. Read of the week.

Lasting legacy. Jyoti Madhusoodanan explains how childhood stress shortens chromosome ends.

Holy GATTACA, Batman. New DNA test “predictions” lead to concern re: designer babies. Excellent coverage by Catherine de Lange.

Sign ‘o the times. Discovering biomarkers for ageing. Great story, by Wayt Gibbs, on a scientist's personal journey of discovery.

Two thumbs up! How you got your digits. Super explainer video, by Joe Hanson. View of the week.

The shape they're in. Bethany Brookshire finds that sperm shape up with competition.

VIP treatment lessens jet lag? Vasoactive intestinal polypeptide (VIP) does help mice out, as Alexis Webb explains.

Glutton for punishment. Cancer’s gluttony maybe its Achilles heal for treatment. Heidi Ledford on how this is being used to develop new treatments.

Nothing to sniff at? We have yet to definitively identify even 1 human pheromone. Daisy Yuhas describes the search.

Born to run? How do people run marathons? Superb, personal voyage of discovery by Hayley Birch. Read of the week.

No sweat? Not if you’re a runner. You sweat more. Alex Hutchinson runs in with the science!

Something to wine for? Does wine's “active ingredient”, resveratrol, live up to the hype? Corrinne Burns looks for answers.


Forces of nature – big-ticket items – ecology, evolution & extinction

Culture club? Relationship between genetic & cultural traits. Jason Goldman on a very timely topic.

Doing the splits. How one bat species became seven. Interesting taxonomy issue, wrapped up in a great story by Chris Kemp.

Small things, big effects. Microbes shape the world around us. Meghan Duffy on the importance of that fact in ecology.


Earth, wind and fire – planet shaping – geology, meteorology, oceanography, the environment & climate

Shake ‘n bake. Ancient asteroid shook Earth for 30 minutes. Then it boiled off our oceans. Adam Mann on a lesser-known catastrophe.

A moving story. Jessica Morrison describes a cool model that explains origins of Earth’s tectonic activity.

In and out. Life & death of volcanic islands. Amazing transformations, beautifully explained by Mika McKinnon. Read of the week.

Not so cool. Thermokarsts are fractures arising from failed permafrost. They’re on the rise, and that's not good, as Laura Neilsen explains for Frontier Scientists.

Deep blue yonder. What it’s like to live under the sea. Great feature, with video, by Rose Eveleth.

All in it together. Marion Ferrat on how citizen science is contributing to understanding changing climate.

Look north. Astonishing aurora & ice caves, beautifully filmed by Henry Jun Wah Lee.

Astonishing aurora. Brilliant…in every sense of the word.  Great share via Nancy Atkinson.


Star attractions – the final frontier, space

We have to try, we have to look, & we have to ask.” Understanding our universe. Brilliant post, by Ethan Siegel.

Way out there. A galaxy far, far away. Ethan Siegel takes a look at it.

A star is born. Where it’s born is awesome, as Phil Plait reveals.

Nice ring to it. Jason Major looks at a nebula that has some bling.

Heavy metal madness. Without heavy elements, a galaxy stalls & fossilises, as Clara Moskowitz explains.

Heart of the matter. Finding a nebula’s beating core. Nadia Drake takes a look.

Goodnight moon? First possible exomoon may not be. And we’ll probably never know if it is, as Nadia Drake explains.

Multiple choice: A) Huge exoplanet + giant exomoon, or B) Small star + big exoplanet? Awesome either way.

The eventual death of Earth & the Sun doesn’t mean our collective existence is meaningless.” Quote from a wonderful post by Matthew Francis, on the demise of our star, 5B years hence.

Hydrocarbon havens. Titan’s amazing lakes.

Shaping up. Saturn’s bizarre hexagon.

Everyone loves rays, man. No alien bonfire on Mars, "only" awesome cosmic rays. Nadia Drake looks up at the evidence.

Outta here. Why do so many folks want a 1 way ticket to Mars? Barbara King poses an interesting question.

The final frontier. Space. It’s astonishing.  Great gallery via Jane Lee.

Lighting up. Awesome aurora, shared by Mads Pihl.


Getting physical – physical sciences – cosmology, physics, chemistry, mathematics, computing, engineering, and technology

Illuminating discovery. Evidence of dark matter. Lisa Grossman looks at the recent discovery.

Matter in the middle. Centre of our galaxy provides clues to dark matter. So cool.

It’s dark in there. In the Milky Way’s core, dark matter may self destruct, as Clara Moskowitz explains.

Shell games. The wonder of off-mass-shell particles. Fascinating physics, nicely explained by John Butterworth.

A matter of matter. New particle is a quirky quark, as Harry Cliff explains.

Diamond is a crystallographer’s best friend. Stephen Curry on how the Diamond Light Source illuminates the matter.

It all adds up. Far from an abstraction, mathematics is everywhere. Thought provoking piece, by James Franklin.

One step ahead. Philip Ball on how mathematical models can help avoid marathon traffic jams.

Getting there will be a whiz. How urine could be used on a trip to Mars. Good stuff, by Erika Engelhaupt.

Clamming up. In need of a good sand anchor? It’s Roboclam! James Morgan takes a look.

Shellfish behaviour. How seashells are made is informing materials design. Interesting technology, described by Charles Choi.


Matters of mind – how we, and other animals, perceive our world and our place in it – neuroscience, mental health, psychology, sociology & human interest stories

Something to wrap your head around. Detailed maps of the brain. Great feature by Colin Barras.

Mind map. Wiring of the brain. Amazing.

Building brains. How mouse & human neurons are assembled. In exquisite detail. Carl Engelking describes some amazing neuroscience.

Making minds up. Development of the human brain. Astonishing bit of neuroscience, explained by Greg Miller.

Of mice & men. Mouse & human microglia differVirginia Hughes explains how this underscores a problem for medicine.

You may not know of Kent Cochrane. He was an amnesiac. He changed our understanding of memory. Amazing story, by Sam Kean. Read of the week.

The hunger gains. Cues that make us hungry & how we may modify them. Excellent insights, by Maria Konnikova.

Closing remarks. Language use presages departure from online communities. Fascinating research, beautifully explained with great interpretation, by Lou Woodley.

I watched as they kept your eyes shut & handled your body just as gently as they had a few hours ago.” Quote by Shara Yurkiewicz from a poignant piece about checking on a patient post-surgery.

This will blow your mind! Upworthy headlines, & why they work/irritate. Dean Burnett on the underlying psychology.

A fiddly subject. What kind of violin really sounds best? It's a more fraught science topic than you might think. Great read by Ed Yong.

A Venus flytrap for brilliant minds.” The enigmatic Voynich Manuscript. Fascinating bit of literature, nicely explained by Simon Worrall.


Behind the scenes – the workings of life’s museum of natural history – discovery, communication, and education

Using the knowledge at hand. Matt Shipman describes the evidence showing that local expertise has great value for conservation.

Natural history becoming…history? Concern over loss of a discipline. Important case made by David Norman.

Homeopathy is not a science. It is not based in science.” ‘Nuff said. Helen Davidson on the latest evidence.

Getting the word out? Science communication is improving, but still lots of probs. Excellent consideration, by Dave Hone.

Hold the hype! Interpret “breakthrough” cancer treatment hyperbole cautiously. Important debunking, by Michael Wosnick.

Publish & perish? Science needs a publishing system beyond pushing a “publish” button. Great case made by Zen Faulkes.

Luxury we cannot afford? “Uncritical wide-eyed stories about the ‘wonder’ of science.” Susan Watts takes a critical look at science communication versus science journalism.

Peer review. Value of academics communicating their research to colleagues down the hall. Good advice, by Chris Buddle.

The value of celebrity. Why Stephen Colbert is a good thing for science. And the concern that may change. David Shiffman makes a great case.

Back to basics? No, ahead with basic. Basic research underpins desired innovation. Excellent case made by Athene Donald.

Open or shut. Funders say publish open access or great accounts will be shut down. Richard Van Noorden on an interesting development.

Steve Paikin questioned female participation on expert panels, and Melonie Fullick responds brilliantly.

I’ve had a good life, you know. Lots of adventures.” Peter Matthiessen. Amazing tribute to a great "explorer", by Jeff Himmelman.

End of exploration. Peter Matthiessen passed away last week. Superb tribute, by David Quammen.

Honouring the father. Kasra Hassani describes his experience visiting the tribute to the “father of genetics”, Gregor Mendel.


Leave a Reply

9 − = five