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Experts were unable to explain the washing ashore of a thousand starving sea-lion pups in California; thousands of dead prawns and crabs in Chile; hundreds of dead puffins in eastern Scotland; hundreds of cormorants, gannets, guillemots, and razorbills, both living and dead, in Cornwall and Devon; five live seals in New Jersey (including one at the Taj Mahal, one at Avalon, and one at Loveladies); and tens of thousands of small fish, twenty-four dolphins, two penguins, and at least one leafy seadragon in South Australia. Scientists remained uncertain whether to blame the recent spike in porpicide in the Gulf of Mexico on fishermen or on sociopaths, whether the Xenoturbella bocki worm is the earliest human ancestor, and why cranes sometimes dance alone. China was driving demand for the gill plates of manta rays and was stealing West Africa’s fish, and Philippine authorities detained a Chinese crew after their ship ran aground on a protected coral reef while carrying eleven tons of illegal pangolin meat. A seal boarded the Royal Navy’s HMS Bulwark, and the Ukrainian Defense Ministry denied reports that three military dolphins had deserted in search of sex. Marine biologists recorded seventy-five days’ worth of the male Atlantic cod grunting and identified three new species of cryptic clam. All eight St. Lawrence eels whom scientists had hoped to track to the Sargasso Sea died en route, presumably prey to porbeagle sharks. Invasive predatory green crabs were saving Cape Cod salt marshes from the ravages of native grass-eating crabs, whose herbivory is discouraged by the mere sight of a green crab. The extinct Seychelles mud turtle was found never to have existed. It seemed likelier that the grass-ringed fairy circles of the Namib desert are caused by termites than by an unknown fairy.

Vanderbilt researchers debuted a humanoid robot to teach social skills to autistic children, who were found to omit “silly” flourishes when copying adults’ actions, whose condition was correlated with older grandfathers and with mothers who were abused as children, and in whose brains endocannabinoid signaling was found to be impeded. British psychologists established guidelines for driving while demented, Brigham Young University researchers published behavioral guidelines for stepfathers, and the American College of Physicians and the Federation of State Medical Boards discouraged doctors from friending patients. The relative severity of pain suffered by women following sexual assault was linked to the presence of the single-nucleotide polymorphism A118G. Relapsing schizophrenics are twenty-nine times more likely than nonschizophrenics to have a UTI. Childless British men feel more angry, depressed, isolated, jealous, and sad about their childlessness than do British women, who feel more guilty and yearnful. Anesthetic injected into the gums of children may retard the growth of wisdom teeth. Civilian populations’ disapproval of wars causes mental distress in returning soldiers, according to a study of subjects who killed wood lice with a coffee grinder and then learned that others had refused to do so. Women with MBAs do less work. Female octopuses reaching for food inside a tube will elongate their arms 23 percent farther than males, while both sexes prefer to use their third left arm. Some rats are born lazy.

A previously unknown oceanic plate was found to have been consumed by the American Plate’s westward expansion. Archaeologists confirmed the location of the Hierapolitan gateway to hell. Google established an Inactive Account Manager for the dead. Tylenol may reduce existential dread. Tink the hamster, of Painswick, came back to life on Easter. Chimpanzees possess botanical knowledge and know unknowns. Authorities in Munich confiscated the monkey of Justin Bieber. Circumcision substantially alters the microbiomes of Ugandan men’s penises, the wobble of the gelada is speechlike, and there is no ideal chin. Cambridge University published newly discovered correspondence between Charles Darwin and Joseph Hooker. “At last gleams of light have come,” wrote Darwin, “& I am almost convinced (quite contrary to opinion I started with) that species are not (it is like confessing a murder) immutable.” Nebraskan cliff swallows were evolving shorter wings to avoid being killed by cars.

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February 2014

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