Morsels For The Mind – 13/06/2014

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

The only animal who buys the idea that humans aren’t animals are humans themselves.” Awesome critique, by Annalee Newitz. Read of the week.

Domestic bliss? Humans are just domesticated animals. Superb analysis, by Annalee Newitz.

Empathy knows no country, no species, is universal & has always been available.” Quote from an incredible, poignant read by Alexis Madrigal on the recovery of a mentally ill bonobo. Read of the week.

Bonobo kind. Our closest relatives say much about the nature of empathy. Excellent insights, by James Owen.

What to choose? Ask a chimp. They’re more strategic than we are. Fascinating research, expertly explained by Jason Goldman.

The mystery of meandering whale vaginas.” Marah Hardt on gaining insights into cetacean sex organs. Wow! Read of the week.

Fin for the win. Amazing fin whale breach, via Stephen Messenger.

A whale of a tale. Remarkable story of the orca, Old Tom, & the sharing of cetacean corpses, by Bec Crew.

Boys will be boys? Not when you consider all highly-related apes. Excellent critical take, by Eric Michael Johnson.

A matter of time. How animals see the seconds tick by. Brilliant piece on “flicker rate”, by Ferris Jabr. Read of the week.

The pleasure principle. Do non-human animals have sex for enjoyment? Jason Goldman looks at the evidence.

Coasting away. Coastal wolves growing distinct from mainland brethren. Fascinating example of species diversification, by Jason Goldman.

Tightly packed. Zoe Gough looks into two distinct wolf populations living adjacent to each other, separated only by the coastline.

A breed apart? Dog breeds with ancient American origins delineated. Interesting discovery, nicely explained by Jennifer Viegas.

Sit. Stay. Think. What we know about dog domestication & cognition, featuring David Grimm by Jake Swearingen.

Fido’s friendliness. Might oxytocin play a role? Interesting new study on canine behaviour, nicely covered by Virginia Morell.

Bold choices. The challenges & outcomes of testing for boldness in dogs. Great summary of her PhD thesis work, by Melissa Starling.

Dog on it. A problem-solving dog is a happy dog. Cool study, nicely explained by Zazie Todd.

Far from bored. The context-dependent nature of dog yawns. Great summary, by Linda Case.

Making sense of scents. Molly Birnbaum on how odour shapes a dog’s world view.

Dogs’ genitals were worn as amulets as an aphrodisiac & their vomit applied to the belly to encourage urination.” Quote by Samantha Sandassie from an eye-opening piece on our not always nice relationship with dogs.

A bearable life. Seeing the world through the eyes of a polar bear. View of the week.

By getting maced in the face in a concrete box, Growly may have saved countless fellow bears from a direr fate.” Quote by Amanda Hess from a genius piece on repelling bears. Read of the week.

Ursa major. One bear is sire, grand-sire, or great-grand-sire of all Pyrenees bears in last 20 years. Ashifa Kassam takes a look at the implications of the everywhere bear.

Rabble rousing rascals? Nope, raccoons have much to recommend them. Jason Goldman makes a strong case. (I made a similar case a while back.) Read of the week.

Quelling quolls’ tolls. Sanctuary to alleviate challenge of endangered mammals’ lives. John Platt takes a look.

Seen in a better light. Sarah Zielinski on how UV light makes deadly bat disease easier to diagnose.

No regrets? Not rats: they regret making wrong decisions. Mary Bates does another great job in her exploration of remarkable animal behaviour.

Oh, rats! Zoe Gough finds that even rodents feel regret over bad decisions.

Reducing roadkill? There’s an app for that. Good tech development, considered by Jason Goldman.

Finer feathered friends. In cities, great tits have narrower breast plumage stripes. Michelle Warwicker on an interesting example of urban evolution.

Inside information. Wrens teach secret password to embryos in eggs to beat brood parasite. Amazing discovery, beautifully described by Mary Bates.

Keeping it mum. Wren mothers teach offspring password in the egg, to outwit brood parasite. Virginia Morell on something that is bird-brained, yet not.

Caws & effect? Crows fail causality test. (But they are still smart!) Ed Yong on the things corvids can, and cannot do.

Cold comfort. Penguins survived last climate warming event. This time, not so good, as Jane Lee explains.

Macaroni &…jeeez! Apparently macaroni penguin chicks are tasty. That’s not good, as Elizabeth Preston makes clear.

Reality bites. And when a croc’s involved it’s rough, as Brian Switek explains.

Gone but not forgotten. Ewen Callaway describes a snake that mimics another that has undergone local extinction.

The other imposter syndrome. Charles Choi describes a remarkable case of mimicry involving an extirpated snake.

Curious Crocodylomorpha. Of crocs, gators, & gharials, by Darren Naish.

Minds in the gutters. Katia Moskvitch explains how sewage drains serve as megaphone for frog mating requests.

Catching a cold? Actually, catching fish is like catching a cool. They can cool warming waters. Elizabeth Harball on the other value of fish.

Who’s eating who? A healthy shark was tagged, & then… Wait! What?!

Facing facts. Tony Leung on a parasite that rides aboard fish faces.

Not just another sucker. Clingfish has powerful suction. Matt Simon continues to explore the world of remarkably bizarre critters.

Cephalopod spectacle. Awesome octopus. Great video by Dustin Adamson.

Shaping up. Cuttlefish use vision to mimic texture.

What the shell? Nautilus are being harvested for ornaments. That must stop, as John Platt explains.

Terrifically tentacled. Joseph Jameson-Gould looks at a nifty nudibranch.

A shark-eating barnacle. Yes, really. Amazing story on some equally amazing biology, by Ed Yong. Read of the week.

Little get together. Critter torn apart, reforms. Rebecca Helm brings on the bizarre critters to be found at sea.


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

Weevil ways. Marvellous little critter. Gwen Pearson does her usual wonderful job of looking at cool creepy crawlies.

Interesting angle on life. Spiders interpret stick figures. Angles are important. Amazing.

The chaste is better than the catch? On spider chastity. Stefan Sirucek on some interesting biology.

Butterflies' brilliant beauty. Gorgeous photographs, via Eliza Strickland.

King of the road? Road salt beefs up monarch butterflies. A good thing? Danielle Elliot provides the answers.

High on life. Katydid mating call has highest pitch, as Christine Dell'Amore explains.

The trip would culminate in completing a life-long quest.” On finding a rare bug. Wonderful description of personal discovery, by Piotr Naskrecki.

Life’s a ball. When you’re a marvellous millipede. Elizabeth Preston takes a look at the great things that millipedes do.

How to avoid catching a buzz. Janet Fang on how spider-venom-based pesticide is bee friendly.

Synchronised swimmers. Desert ant sperm swim as a team. Bethany Brookshire takes a look.

A meaty matter. Should we be feeding livestock insects? Fascinating insights by Nic Fleming.


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

Taking sides. Elizabeth Howell looks at ancient bilateral symmetry.

Making fish face. Carl Zimmer on jaw evolution, 505 million years ago.

Marvellous mouth. Face where jaws were born. Jane Hu takes a look.

Got a leg up. Kate Trinajstic explains how vertebrate sex organs evolved as extra legs.

Heat of the moment. Fossil forest fire. Megan Gannon on an interesting palaeontological find.

Luke-warm heads prevailed. Dinosaurs were likely mesotherms. Ed Yong looks at the latest evidence.

Dinosaurs even cooler than we thought? They may have been mesotherms: luke-warm blooded, as Alexandra Witze explains.

Curious claws. What did therizinosaur use them for? Jon Tennant considers what the fossil evidence suggests.

Egg-citing discovery. Fossil pterosaur eggs. Tanya Lewis looks into a clutch.

Land before time. Great renderings of dinosaurs by Julius Csotonyi, courtesy of Brian Switek.

A bone to pick. There is plenty of value in the study of dinosaurs. Mary Schweitzer makes a great case.

Making waves. During cetacean evolution, some lived like seals, between sea & land, as Travis Park explains.

Its fate was sealed? What ancient raccoon-like creature gave rise to the seal lineage? Darren Naish looks at the unusual suspects.

Watch your steppe. Christine Dell'Amore takes a look at the potential Tibetan plateau origin of hypercarnivore fox.

Steppe in the right direction? Did Arctic foxes evolve on the Tibetan plateau? Jane Qiu considers the latest evidence.

Bring ‘em back alive. Could extinct species, like mammoths, be “resurrected”? Thought provoking read by Dave Biello.


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

Imagine a safari in your neighbourhood.” The world on an oak tree. Simply fantastic photoessay, by Alex Wild. View of the week.

Fantastic flowers. Jennifer Frazer looks at the beauty of grasses.

Springing into action. Springtime flora.

Along for the ride. Virginia Morell on how plants hitchhike on birds’ backs.

Rays of hope. Forest sunshine. Beautiful photography by Kilian Schönberger.

Not showing their age. Carl Zimmer on how ancient plants stay young. It’s about the other stem cells.

When things come a cropper. GM debate distracts from real agriculture issues. Sarah Shailes does a great job of summarising Ottoline Leyser's position, and adding her own perspective.

If a tree falls in a city, does anybody hear? Yes. Economists. To tell you how much trees are worth. Pete Evans on the merger of biology and economics.


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

Rooting for change. Enhancing root associations with microbes to boost food production. Great story, by Cynthia Graber.

What wood you say? Should cheese makers be prevented from using wooden shelves? Interesting look at some questionable policy, by Russell Neches.

A tale of two papers. Unraveling confusing study of the MERS virus. Superb coverage, by Kai Kupferschmidt.

Got milk? If you’re getting it from MERS-infected camels, the virus is likely in it, as Martin Enserink explains.

Fear not? Is the re-creation of the 1918 flu virus “crazy dangerous”? Important consideration of recent research, by Ian Sample.

Everything old is new again. Rebuilding 1918 flu pandemic virus. A good thing? Debora MacKenzie considers the controversy.

Coming to an imported food store near you: antibiotic resistant microbes. Maryn McKenna on something that is decidedly not good.

The raw truth. Is it really possible to wash microbes off fruit & veg? Matt Shipman has the answer.


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 & epigenetics)

Long goodbye. Ed Yong takes a masterful look at the ancient origin of programmed cell death.

What can’t oxytocin do?! Latest research suggests age-reversing ability (in mice). Carl Zimmer on a remarkable find.

Lasting legacy. Holocaust survivors’ children may bear mark of trauma in genes. Superb read, based on a very personal experience with the research, by Josie Glausiusz. Read of the week.

Sequence of events. Razib Khan had his son’s genome sequenced for his birth. Cool story, by Antonio Regalado.

Cruising into history. Island-hopping boaters spread civilisation. Interesting melding of genetics research and history, by Andy Coghlan.

Last weekend, California Chrome tried to be the 1st Triple Crown winner in 36 years. Did his genes fail him? I wrote this.


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

In truth, it all counts, & for fundamental biological reasons.” Quote from a brilliant piece by Patrick Clarkin on genes, environment, & developmental plasticity. Great take on the nature & nurture discussion. Read of the week.

Divided loyalties. Microbial symbionts may drive speciation. Amazing. Super read, by Carrie Arnold. Read of the week.

If a tree falls in a forest, does anyone hear? Maybe not, but fish may feel it. Sarah Boon’s post on some surprising interconnections in nature is superb. Read of the week.

Prospect perspective. Silent listening in Prospect Park highlights value of urban parks. Matthew Wills on the returns of the sounds of silence.

Natural melodies. Creating “Living Symphonies” from a forest ecosystem. Simply wonderful video, by Noah Baker. View of the week.

Falling to pieces. Fragmented landscapes can promote spread of disease. Brandon Keim on a counterintuitive discovery.

Distant relations. Last common ancestor with chimps may have existed longer ago than thought. Dan Vergano on a surprising discovery.

Taking a hit. The male face is evolution’s version of a punching bag? Um, really? Quite a hypothesis, explained by Jonathan Webb.

Numb skulls. Great take down of that “skulls evolved for punching” just-so-story hypothesis, by Brian Switek.


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

This rocks. Phenomenal story of natural quasicrystals. Fabulous, must read by Natalie Wolchover. Read of the week.

Colourful crystal collages. Volcanic beauty.

Astounding ash avalanche. Erik Klemetti on an amazing instances of pyroclastic flow.

Water world. We may have three ocean’s worth of the wet stuff deep underground, explains Andy Coghlan.

Deep secret. Underground rocks may hold 3 times the volume of water in Earth’s oceans. Melissa Davey looks into it.

Rocky road. Plastic “stones” create a rough path ahead, as Rachel Nuwer explains.

The future is in plastics. And that’s not good. List of harrowing reads, courtesy of Meghna Sachdev.


Star attractions – the final frontier, space

Cosmic collision. Tadpole tail left in its wake. Valerie Jamieson takes a look.

Amazingly average. Cool globular cluster. Ethan Siegel takes you there.

Terrifically tiny. Phil Plait looks at the smallest star.

Wandering thoughts. How stars wandered shaped thinking about heliocentricity. Excellent consideration of some important history, by Thony Christie.

Bright sunshiny day. This week our Sun did something amazing. Wow!

Fantastic flare. Spectacular solar eruption, shared by Tom Yulsman.

Mercury rising. Mercury transiting the sun. Seen from Mars. That is all. View of the week.

Dark side of the moon. A'ndrea Elyse Messer considers why it is faceless.

Night moves. Beauty of nighttime sky. Ethan Siegel brings the wonder.

Greetings to our friends in the stars. We wish that we will meet you someday.” Quote from a wonderful, personal piece by Nadia Drake, about her mother’s voice travelling aboard Voyager into space. Read of the week.

Love this. The Pale Blue Dot. Carl Sagan’s words. Powerful images. Let it guide your actions. Great video by Reid Gower. View of the week.

Is there anybody out there? 100 million planets might be hospitable for life, explains Charles Choi.

Survival of the species? C’mon. Let’s go to Mars for the right reasons. Great critique by Bob McDonald, host of CBC's Quirks and Quarks.


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

Stable relationships. Determining the state of stability in the universe. Fascinating piece, by Jon Butterworth.

Well, it’s about time. No really, it’s about time - the arrow of time. Super stuff by Joe Hanson.

By the numbers. Magnificent maths in nature. Wow! by Cristóbal Vila View of the week.

A computer posing as a 13-year-old boy passed the Turing test?! Um, no. Great critical take, by Kelly Oakes. Read of the week.

It’s all smoke & mirrors, folks.” Great critique of “beating the Turing test” hype, by George Dvorsky. Read of the week.


A dose of medicine – science in practice in a medical setting, and health-, nutrition-, and exercise-related stories

María’s official diagnosis was sialolithiasis, a fancy word for the formation of stones in the salivary gland.” Quote by Cassandra Willyard, from an incredible, fascinating piece on a horrific condition. Read of the week.

Bloody hell! GrrlScientist takes a look at the science behind medicinal leeches.

Speed kills. Lag between disease detection & rate of spread costs lives. Jeremy Farrar makes a strong case for why this must change.

You’re wrong about breakfast. And so is everyone else.” Superb critical take by David Despain.

Healthy idea. Can free gyms create equality & transform public health? An interesting Brazilian experiment, perfectly covered by Catherine de Lange.

Take heart. Interval training probably not a bad thing for people aged 40+. Phew. Thanks to Alex Hutchinson for enabling a sigh of relief!

Don’t let life tick you bye. Learn about Lyme disease now. Important PSA, by Brooke Borel.

Supplemental data. Are “all natural, safe” dietary supplements what they claim to be? Kausik Datta has answers based on critical assessment.


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

I have spent much of my life trying to..reconsolidate my father’s memories, & ended up reconsolidating my own.” Quote from a beautiful, must read by Michael Specter on the neuroscience & personal nature of memories. Read of the week.

Some nerve. Karl Bates looks at a neuron that promotes formation of more neurons.

An image problem. Brain imaging isn’t perfect, but has great merit. Strong defence by Virginia Hughes.

While you were sleeping. Learning was consolidated. Mo Costandi expertly explains a fascinating discovery.

A nervous hic. The basis of, & battle with, hiccups. Intriguing overview, by Meeri Kim.

Summertime blues. Seasonal affected disorder doesn’t only occur in the winter. Important consideration of an overlooked problem, by Jason Goldman.

Colour my world? Is it possible to learn synaesthesia? Great look at fascinating research, by Frank Swain.

The situation is infuriating in many ways, & simply bringing attention to the issues is not enough.” Quote from an important read by Maria Konnikova on gender bias in hiring negotiations. Read of the week.

Burned in a job interview? If you use vocal fry while getting grilled, your chances may be cooked - or maybe not. Bethany Brookshire explores re-fried research.

As it is written? Literature on value of cursive writing in need of righting. Interesting critical look, by Philip Ball.

Sublime deception. A little bit of the unexpected is music to our ears. Literally. Philip Ball on the beauty of music.

Sleeping with the enemy? Smart phones have invaded our bedrooms. Is that good? Krystal D'Costa takes a critical look.


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

The models Lee created were based on actual crime scenes… she chose only the most puzzling cases.” Quote by Rachel Nuwer from a fascinating piece on macabre dollhouses & the birth of forensic science. Read of the week.

Never too late for “I’m sorry”. Apologising for a past error can make a difference today. Good lesson, based on Matt Shipman's personal experience.

A high degree of humour. Check out “The PhD Movie”. Jorge Cham and crew's production is great fun! View of the week.

Finish line in sight. Completing the marathon known as the PhD. Super perspective, by Suzi Gage.

A degree of change. Must prep grad students for career options outside academe. Great advice by Sarah Boon.

It’s academic. To avoid PhD crisis: rethink its purpose; admit fewer students. Joshua Rothman offers an interesting critical assessment.

Let go the coat. Jen Todd Jones on the need to break the stereotype of the lab-coated, bearded, male scientist.

No surprises here. Knuckle-headed comments underpinned by knuckle-headed maths. Great take down by Christie Wilcox.

Healthy reporting. Handling health research PR responsibly. Great insights / advice by Matt Shipman.

Across the universes. Sagan’s & Tyson’s Cosmos voyages. Super comparison, by Steph Taylor.

A glimpse of Bigfoot.” Bill Watterson returns to comics…briefly. Awesome story, by Stephan Pastis. Read of the week.


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