Findings — From the November 2009 issue
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Among highly sociable stingless Brazilian bees, a quarter of males—who can develop from unfertilized eggs—were found to be the sons of workers and not of the queen; because worker bees put the colony at risk when they choose to reproduce rather than work, the queen often eats their eggs. Queen bees were found to control their workers’ brains with homovanillyl alcohol. Cape honeybees were seen fanning their wings to chase away intrusive ants, and the bee-balls formed by Japanese honeybees wishing to cook hornets to death were found to function by oxygen-deprivation as well as by overheating. Scientists worried that the fussiness of short-haired bumblebees may impede their reintroduction to the British Isles, where the great yellow bumblebee was moving southward. Twenty percent of Britain’s honeybees were found to have died last winter, down from 30 percent the previous winter. Researchers warned that honeybees may die if fed high-fructose corn syrup in warm weather, behavioral ecologists worried that honeybee queens were mating with too few partners, and honeybee colonies continued to dwindle as the bees’ ribosomes were attacked by such pathogens as Deformed Wing Virus and Israeli Acute Paralysis Virus. China planned to begin monitoring its butterflies.
Biologists concluded that dogs arose, 16,000 years ago, among several hundred tame wolves living south of the Yangtze River, and that these original dogs likely were bred to be eaten. East Asians, in observing the faces of Western Caucasians, frequently mistake disgust for anger. Scientists in California found that pluripotent stem cells can be created from unwanted liposuctioned fat. “We’ve identified a great natural resource,” said one of the study’s authors. “Thirty to 40 percent of the adults in this country are obese,” added another. A survey of head traumas recommended that brain-injury victims be administered ethyl alcohol. “Despite the intriguing findings,” said a brain-injury specialist, “the message must be the same: If you wish to avoid a brain injury, use alcohol with care and moderation.” Circadian-rhythm disruption was reported among binge-drinking hamsters. Researchers suggested that surrealism may enhance learning. Children younger than three cannot learn new verbs from television, and children with tiny heads, according to the American Academy of Neurology, are more likely to have cognitive disabilities. Physicians were afraid to ask the mentally ill to stop smoking. The incidence of posttraumatic stress disorder among Iraq veterans was estimated at 35 percent, and scientists found that lobsters are repelled by the stench of their own dead.
Scientists discovered a bald bulbul in Laos; a six-foot-long, scaleless, fatty, gelatinous fish (which they assumed was probably inedible) off the coast of Brazil; and a new species of rat-eating plant (which they named for David Attenborough) in the Philippines. In Papua New Guinea, an expedition of biologists discovered a three-foot-long species of rat. “This giant bloody rat,” said one of the biologists, “the size of a cat. Amazing!” Bats were found to sing love songs, and vampire bats were flourishing in Peru. In a cave in the Bukk Mountains of Hungary, great tits were eating hibernating pipistrelle bats; scientists previously suspected tits of eating bats, but the only evidence had been dead bats with wounds that implicated the beaks of tits. When offered sunflower seeds and bacon, the great tits left the bats alone. In Tanzania’s Mwofwomero Forest, a squirrel killed a fruit bat. “The least likely hypothesis is that the squirrel was preparing to eat the bat,” said the mammologist who observed the savaging of the bat by the squirrel. “Another possibility is that either the squirrel or the bat was mentally off balance.” Titus the Gorilla King died in Rwanda.
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