Findings — From the November 2016 issue

Findings

Paleontologists noticed that a 48-million-year-old fossil was of an insect eaten by a lizard eaten by a snake. A western desert tarantula fought its way out of a Sonoran Desert toad, and an Indian python regurgitated an antelope after being scrutinized by villagers. Australian catfish were found to be eating many mice, maple and beech saplings can tell when their buds are being eaten by roe deer, and slugs are eating baby birds, but no defense mechanism has yet been exhibited by adult birds, one of whom was observed incubating a slug that was eating the bird’s chicks. Zebra-finch hatchlings sing like their families, even after the hatchlings have been deafened by scientists. The melody of a human infant’s first cry depends on its mother’s native language. Zika could be spread by tears. Ebola that hid in a man’s testes for 500 days emerged and killed eight people. A Manchester man was found to have died of complications from a fungal infection acquired from his bagpipes. A Hector’s dolphin with an inoperative blowhole has learned to mouth-breathe. Miami Seaquarium refused to release its orca into the wild, stating, “There is no scientific evidence that the 49-year-old postreproductive Lolita could survive.”

A female Greenland shark who died as fishing bycatch was around 400 years old. A shortage of fish urine will harm coral reefs. Scientists described a new crab genus in a Chinese pet market and a sleeping beauty rain frog in a Peruvian rainforest. Giraffes are four species. The first confirmed puppy twins were born. A herd of 323 reindeer were killed by lightning. A queenless colony of ants were found living in a Soviet nuclear bunker, perpetually starving to death and being replenished by new ants who fall from the surface. The last Achatinella apexfulva snail, a nine-year-old with no offspring, remained alive in a lab in Hawaii. Hawaiian crows can use tools to extract food, but will never need to do so, because they are extinct in the wild. Indian bird dealers continued embellishing and disguising birds with coal dust, food coloring, lamp soot, oil, shoe polish, spray paint, and textile dyes. New Zealand hoped to design new stoat traps using anal-gland technology in order to avoid attracting endangered alpine parrots. The last woolly mammoths died of thirst.

The sixth taste may be starchy. “Food altars” of leftovers from meetings and miscellaneous offerings may endanger American offices. Vegetarians spend less money on groceries than carnivores do, but “partial vegetarians” tend to be richer and to spend more. Researchers discovered a genetic variant for “thrifty” fat storage in Samoans. Cuddlier infants are at lower risk of obesity. Swaggering walkers are more aggressive. Teen boys at all-male therapeutic boarding schools adopt feminine behaviors to reassert masculine dominance. Many four-year-olds are not sufficiently coordinated to go to school. People enjoy being helped with omelet preparation by a clumsy and apologetic robot more than by a competent and laconic one. A ratchet spanner and a tap aerator were removed from the penises of two old Danes using a condom and an angle grinder. Canadian doctors described a penetrating penile injury by nail gun. PTSD is notably absent from Middle Byzantine military records. Sleep consolidates the memory of new Welsh words best in those who care about Welsh. Neuroscientists offered a theory of the wandering mind.

A triptych photograph of Mussel Rock, the epicenter of the 1906 San Francisco earthquake, near Pacifica, California, by Josef Jacques. Courtesy the artist

A triptych photograph of Mussel Rock, the epicenter of the 1906 San Francisco earthquake, near Pacifica, California, by Josef Jacques. Courtesy the artist

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