Morsels For The Mind – 20/06/2014

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

What’s this for? Elephant calves learn trunk use. Great collection of videos, collated by Melissa Cronin.

Pachyderm peril. Poaching is a real threat to existence of elephants. Matt McGrath has a look at a dire situation.

Going whole hog. We have changed pigs for our own purpose. Is this a good thing? Sujata Gupta on a fraught relationship. Read of the week.

Orange you glad to see this? Bec Crew takes a look at the lutung's awesome ochre coat.

Sunrise, sunset. Sarah Zielinski explains how time of day impacts plankton cycles & dolphin dining.

After holding orcas in captivity for almost 50 years, this is a pathetic research output.” Oh Seaworld. Quote from an excellent critique by David Shiffman of Seaworld's “research” on orcas.

A grizzly outcome? Hybridisation occurring with polar bears. Implications? Great take, by Tim McDonnell.

The eyes have it. Wolves communicate by gaze. Not all canines do, as Dave Levitan explains.

Packing for success. Wolf reintroduction only works on large scales. Important conservation lesson, shared by Jason Goldman.

Canine connection. Zazie Todd takes a look at the determinants of feeling emotionally close to our dogs.

Blind dog has sight restored. Sees family again. Oh my. Meg Wagner has a story with a video that will pull at your heartstrings.

Cool heads prevail. Being a hothead gives cheetahs trouble.

Cool for cats. Ways you could add years to your favourite feline's lifespan. Mikel Delgado on the science.

A shot against bats. Tequila manufacturing disrupts relationship between agave & its pollinator. Gwen Pearson on the biological hangover of making a margarita.

Secret to a long life? Naked mole rats may provide answers. Spectacular feature, by Joseph Stromberg. Read of the week.

Waiting to exhale. When some turtles hold their breath, they "breathe" through their butt. Esther Inglis-Arkell gets to the bottom of it.

The sound of music. Tuneful non-human animals. Carrie Arnold enables you to listen in.

Walk the walk. On water. Mary Bates looks at critters that can traverse streams, rivers, ponds and the like.

Fine feathered friends. Beautiful birds, brought to you by GrrlScientist.

Just like dad. Sometimes male zebra finches prefer male mates, as Joseph Bennington Castro explains.

Not so black and white. Might some penguins benefit from climate change? Jason Goldman looks at the possibilities and the real implications.

Passive passerines? Nope. Birds are feisty fighters. Darren Naish provides all the evidence you need.

Marvellous macaw. Henry Nicholls on the rarest of birds.

The birds and the bees…give pause to rethink what we mean by “intelligence”. As usual, a really thoughtful, thought-provoking post by Anne Buchanan. Read of the week.

That bites. Biting insects pushing loons off nests. Chicks suffer. Gretchen Ehlke has the story.

Second look. James Erickson on how snakes show convergent evolution’s complexity.

From such great heights… frogs survive. Hypothesis test for flying amphibians. As always, an interesting tale by Robert Krulwich.

Spectacular cephalopods. Awesome octopuses, courtesy of Shane Siers.

Ace of base? Actually, catfish sense acid to detect prey. Mary Bates explains how ocean acidification may trip that up.

Ahead by a head. Pygmy seahorses win the cuteness stakes, as Nick Stockton proves.

Stressed for success? Crustacean “anxiety” as a tool for survival tool. Rebecca Morelle looks at the latest evidence.

Purple & orange starfish clutch the rocks, as if hanging on for dear life. In fact, they are.” Quote by Katie Campbell & Ashley Ahearn from an exceptional piece on epidemic of sea star deaths. Read of the week.

The other polar bear. Antarctica's water bear - a newly discovered tardigrade.


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

Remarkable roaches. Susan Milius looks at marvellous, if maligned, critters.

The bees zzzzs. Wonderful look at clusters of snoozing pollinators, by Sean McCann.

Sucker for romance. Beetle’s suction cups hold onto mate. Victoria Gill describes some remarkable biology.

Group hug. Ed Yong on how ants embrace each other to make raft.

Getting it together. Emma Marris on how ants connect to create a raft.

Look of love. Elizabeth Preston finds that fruit fly males are not so picky.

Stroke of genius. Ants are strong swimmers. Peter Aldhous looks at the latest evidence.

A brush with the extraordinary. Painting mutant insects. Fantastic story, by Cornelia Hesse-Honegge. Read of the week.

Fiery fliers. Fireflies - gentle glow, fearsome foe. Jason Bittel has all the facts.

Flashy forest. Fireflies create phenomenal light show in the mountains. Great story, by Jen Doll.

Eat (picky) or be eaten. Choosy caterpillars win the day, as Elizabeth Preston explains.

Faking it. How & why spiders weave decoy spiders. Fantastic read, by Douglas Main. Read of the week.

Spectacular spider. Adrian Thysse looks at the marbled orb weaver.

Putting a stop to things. Katia Moskvitch explains how dwarf spider chastity-making mating plug is better older, bigger.

One & only love? Postcoital male spiders give mates chastity plugs. Rebecca Boyle on how it keeps other suitors at bay.

Phenomenal fishers. Spiders. Yes, really. Carl Engelking has the proof.

Gone fishing. That's what lots of spiders have done. They do it everywhere except Antarctica, as Beth Skwarecki explains.

A big deal. How a tiny spider tackles giant prey.

To each their own. Social spider personalities align with jobs. Ed Yong on some amazing arachnid biology.

Turning bad to good. Maggie Koerth-Baker on how we're using the process of extinction to eradicate an invasive moth.

A peeling idea? Can a wasp save the citrus fruit industry from a deadly disease? Hillary Rosner looks at the possibility.

Good idea gone bad? Is biocontrol the right way to deal with pests & pathogens? Colin Schultz considers both the positives and negatives.

No backbone? Is mothballing the invertebrate exhibit at a national zoo justified? Excellent take, by Gwen Pearson.


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

Fabulous frilly find. Mercuriceratops' neck shield. David Evans describes his research group's latest find.

The frill of victory. New dinosaur based on frilled skull discovery. Brian Switek on the fabulously frilling find.

Reptilian rowers. The paddling about of Nothosaurus.

High & dry? Were dinosaurs landlubbers or aquatic beings? Superb critical take, by Dave Hone.

Sound arguments. No, T. rex probably didn’t roar. Great take on dinosaur calls, by Matthew Martyniuk.

The T. rex in you. All of us contain water that once coursed through dinosaurs. Wonderful reminder, by xkcd. View of the week.

At home in the water. Ancient hippo swim tracks. Brian Switek looks into them.

Marvellous mini-moas. Andy Farke explains how DNA IDs chicks of giant extinct birds.

Something to chew on. Colin Barras explains how Neanderthals evolved to masticate before having big brains.

Changing it up. "Pit of Bones" shows how Neanderthal head evolved: piece by piece. Ewen Callaway pieces the story together.

Bit part. Fossils catch Neanderthal chewing in the act of evolving, explains Kate Wong.

Getting a head in life. Neanderthal fossils suggest heads evolved piecemeal, as Ian Sample explains.

Lingering illness. Snail-borne disease related to crop irrigation - with us for 6k years. Colin Barras looks into the evidence.


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

Seasoned traveller. Acacia's 18k km inter-island trek. Fascinating discovery, nicely explained by Emma Marris.

Hang on. This plant grows from a hanged man, & screams when uprooted. Or so we thought... Matt Simon on shifting botanical understanding.

Metal munchers. When plants get into heavy metal. Great graphic by Maki Naro.

Flower friendly. James Owen looks at the breadth of pollination.

Sometimes we don't know what we've got 'til it's gone. The value of a tree. Beautiful ode to a lost giant, by Francie Stotz.

Broccoli boots bad benzene, betters body. Eliza Barclay provides another reason to eat your veg.

Phenomenal flora. Fantastic flowers photographed by Lucie van Dongen.

Walk on the wild side. Wild progenitors of food crops still hold much promise. Colin Khoury looks at the latest on the oldest.


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

Bottoms up! Using toilet paper to get the low down on your gut microbes. Interesting personal story, by Tina Saey.

Aspects of our microbiomes about which we remain ignorant..are legion (but fascinating).” Quote by Rob Dunn from a super assessment of what we do, and don't, know about microbiomes.

There's a catch. Did we contract herpes virus from chimpanzees, and, if so, how? John Hawks considers the possibilities.

Breaking the rhythm. Microbes implicated in stress-related heart attacks, explains Sara Reardon.

Beauty is only skin deep. So are some forms of immunity. Skin microbes aid disease resistance, explains Jef Akst.

Gutsy players. Correlation between rugby, diet & gut microbes. Good assessment by Alexandra Sifferlin.


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)

On target? A focused approach to targeting drugs against TB. Interesting new science, nicely explained by Kausik Datta.

Up close & personal. Wonderful life.

Something for nothing? There’s a lot more to synthetic biology than text on a computer. Christina Agapakis delves into the details.

The fine print. Could 3D printing build organs from cells? Jordan Miller considers the possibility.


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

Play it again Sam? If we replayed evolution, would life as we know it reappear? Superb essay, by Zach Zorich. Read of the week.

That smarts! Our brains evolved from bacteria. Good stuff, brought to you in comic format by the talents of Dwayne Godwin & Jorge Cham.

Origin of the species. It can happen without sex!

A tragic example that large, widespread populations may not protect species from extinction.” Quote from a genius piece by GrrlScientist on extinction of the passenger pigeon. Read of the week.

What the flock?! Turns out we aren't solely to blame for passenger pigeon extinction, as Carl Zimmer explains.

When a tree falls in a forest, does anyone hear? Hard to say, but the fish get smaller, as Mark Kinver explains.

Surfin' turf. The perfect beach body...from a scientific perspective. Fun stuff, by Dean Burnett.

The air of our ways. How carbon & oxygen cycle through us & the biosphere. Exceptional interactive explainer, by Joe Hanson. View of the week.


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

What lies beneath. Suzanne Goldenberg takes a look at a frozen underworld.

This fills a vexing gap in the taxonomy of minerals.” Most abundant mineral gets a name. Brian Clark Howard on the name game.

The future is in plastic. Actually life's already in plastic...& dealing with it, as Julia Reisser explains.

When Earth hit <PAUSE>. Did tectonic stasis make biological stasis for "boring billion" years? Becky Oskin delves into it.

Water, water everywhere. Extracting wet stuff to quench global thirst. Super feature, by Quirin Schiermeier. Read of the week.


Star attractions – the final frontier, space

Holey moley. Imagine a whirlpool of black holes. Imagine no longer. Jason Major takes you there.

Enlightening experience. Star’s light pours into space. DL Cade takes a look at it.

Fantastically faint. Spectacular space spiral. Nathan Siegel looks into it.

Ringing it in. Stars born in gassy ring.

Cosmic catapult? David Portree on the remarkable history of Pluto's potential role as an orbit foiler.

Today's forecast. Mercury makes weather. IN SPACE. Jason Major takes a look.

A Titanic whiff of something. The odour of Saturn's moon, Titan, reconstructed in lab. Carl Engelking sniffs out a story with scents.

Titan's turbulent temperature. Jeff Hecht on a moon's icy existence.

Reading between the lines. Interpreting Charon’s icy cracks.

Taking the plunge. Venus Express is diving into Earth's "sister" revealing much as it goes. Nadia Drake on how an end can provide a new beginning for discovery.

Cold comfort. There’s no wind chill on Mars, but it’s still darn chilly, finds Sid Perkins.

Let the sunshine in. Nick Stockton on what happens when a coronal ejection hits Earth.


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

It takes two to entangle. Megan Engel on Einstein, relativity, time, & entanglement.

You are here. Precisely. Nola Taylor Redd on hoe the universe has been measured to greatest precision yet.

What's the matter? Maggie McKee looks into the mysterious role of neutrinos in the fabric of the universe.

Wonderful water. Makes cool, supercooled physics. Carl Engelking shows why.

Can't get there from here? Is teleportation really a possibility? Excellent, critical look, by Corey Powell.

Knotty by nature. Why earbud headphone cords get in a tangled mess. Physics! Jim Edwards untangles the science for you.

Is there anybody in there? Thinking beyond Turing to test for artificial intelligence. Joshua Batson considers another way to test AI.

Cheers! Gorgeous images of residues of the drinks you had last night, courtesy of BevShots.

Could any of us leave more than mere molecules & atoms when we die?” Yes. Light. Awesome tale, by Caleb Scharf. Read of the week.


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

Slick solution. Canola oil seems to have benefits for Type 2 diabetes patients, as Leslie Shepherd explains.

Living in the past? What evidence is there that the "palaeo diet" is healthier? Claudia Hammond looks for answers.

Leading the sweet life? What does science really say about low-carb diets? Melinda Wenner Moyer looks at the answers.

Get out! Seriously, get outside. It’s likely better for you, as Greg Wells reveals.

The run down. Is static stretching before running advantageous? Alex Hutchinson considers the science.


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

Get it together. During learning, neurons gang up. Fascinating sciences, expertly explained by Bethany Brookshire.

No laughing matter. Uncontrollable laughter caused by brain tumour. Incredible story, by Tanya Lewis.

The final frontier. Are we now able to traverse the blood-brain barrier? Fascinating new development, expertly explained by Helen Thomson. Read of the week.

He likely had enough life recognise what was in front of him: a man in crisis.” Quote by John Lorinc from a genius piece on the relationship between police & mentally ill people. Read of the week.

Word. Fictional Hodor has single word vocabulary rooted in a real condition. Fascinating multimedia long read, by Indre Viskontas.

Understanding how the world works is a more promising approach to intervention within it than mere description.” Quote from a genius post by Ian Bogost on the lessons of “Shaka, when the walls fell” from Star Trek TNG. Read of the week.

A new way of looking at things. How does novelty arise? Nice merger of a great story, and fascinating science by Virginia Hughes.

What were they thinking? How often do men really think about sex? Great critical take by Tom Stafford.

Power of anticipation. From Pavlov's dogs to drug addicts, expectation is powerful, explains Esther Inglis-Arkell.

The moral of the story? Kids more honest when read a “moral” tale. Intriguing science, perfectly explained by Jalees Rehman.

Better natured. There seems to be a relationship between seeing beauty in nature & satisfaction with life, explains Paige Brown.

Glad tidings. Sometimes we're so attuned to someone, we're “tidally locked”. Love this piece by Ann Finkbeiner. Read of the week.


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

We must have balance..between studying processes & the fascinating, oft-unexpected products of processes.” Quote by Jennifer Frazer from a fantastic, intelligent & passionate case to value natural history. Read of the week.

“You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.” Annalee Newitz on the misuse of science words. Read of the week.

Getting the word out. Matt Shipman on the language barrier in communicating the science of science communication.

Best science blog there is? Ed Yong's “Not Exactly Rocket Science” of course! Association of British Science Writers gets it right.

Ian Sample justly awarded prize for science writing. If you aren't already following him, you'll want to fix that.

Want to write a great scientific paper? Approach the truth like a fiction writer. Great advice, by Brian McGill. Read of the week.


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