Atom in the Atmosphere
Quick Science News - all sorts of lovin’

No really a fish made this…Image taken from:

The bluer the tits the better the mother. According to the a new study published in Behavioural Ecology, female blue tits (Cyanistes caerulues) with bright (by UV standards) blue crowns care better for their young then duller plumaged birds. They found that although the brighter coloured females laid the same number of eggs as their duller counterparts, they kept more of their offspring alive to fledging and had lower levels of stress hormones. Jesus, these birds looked amazing (who doesn’t want a blue crown?) and remained calm and relaxed about the whole parenting things - talk about unobtainable standards you crazy blue tits. 

Bright birds make good mothers

Mysterious crop circles (when are crop circles not mysterious?) have been photographed on the ocean floor since the mid 90s with no explanation for their existence till now. Turns out they are not mysterious or crop circles but a big flashing ‘let’s get it on ladies’ sign for the male pufferfish (Torquigener sp.). A perusing female will be treated to the delights of a male pufferfish swimming frantically within the centre circle. If she deems his circle good enough, she’ll lay her eggs in the centre.  Let take a moment to appreciate that a fish that reaches 12cm in length will spend the time and has the skill to create a circular pattern reaching up to 2m in diameter and then you think, maybe buying me flowers just isn’t trying hard enough.

Interestingly male pufferfish abandon their intricate and time consuming love circle once the deed is complete.

And to round off our theme of crazy things we do for love/procreation, male Antechinus stuartii - a mouse-sized marsupial found in Australia, South America and Papua New Guinea - literally sex themselves to death. During the mating season, the females are pretty open to all suiters, meaning that mate choice happens once the sperm has been deposited, inside the female (how romantic was that sentence?). This means males don’t have to compete with other males for access to females, it ultimately means that their sperm has to compete with other sperm for access to the eggs. Because of this they put an extraordinary amount to time  and energy into sperm production and, well, delivery. Copulation can last for up to 12 hours all the while the males are producing copious amounts of testerone and stress hormones, diverting all their energy and reserves into copulating. Because of this, they are far more likely to not be able to fight off an infection and most males don’t make it to a second mating season.

Because they look so alike

Mongolian Death Worm - do I need to say more?

Image taken from:

I can’t believe I have lived this long without knowing about the Mongolian Death Worm (olgoi-khorkhoi). The Mongolian Death Worm, has never been officially described or seen but it is the cautionary tale of the Mongolian people. Apparently the Mongolian Death worm roams the Gobi desert looking for its victims - it’s reported to be bright red and up to 1.5 metres long - when you consider the length of an earthworm, 1.5 metres is freaking huge. What is the best thing about the Mongolian Death Worm (other than the name) is that it kills it’s victims by both spitting acid AND the disconcerting term “electric discharge”.

 While not finding any traces of the Mongolian Death Worm, scientists have found two new species roaming the Gobi Desert. Eisenia nordenskioldi mongol and E. n. onon, live in an extreme temperature range from -30 to 40 degrees which makes them pretty cool but it’s no spitting acid death worm.

doi: 10.3897/zookeys.285.4502

X-ray image of a Bull shark (Carcharhinus leucas) with biencephaly (two heads)

X-ray image of a Bull shark (Carcharhinus leucas) with biencephaly (two heads)

Quick Science News - grunting cod, the bacterial war of the vagina and violently birthing dinosaurs

Image from:

Who could possibly think scientists are weird or dull when they are eavesdropping on cod having sex? Scientists have been listening in on marine animals such as whales and dolphins for decades but have only recently turned their attention to frisky fish. Both male and female cod emit a ‘grunting’ sound in everyday life, during spawning only the males make ‘grunting’ sounds (how do you tell the difference between a male grunt and a femal grunt). Also note, not all cod species grunt. Armed with this knowledge a group of scientists went about recording a spawning season. Atlantic cod (Gadus morhua) are known to practice spawning site fidelity - they return to the same site to spawn year after year - so researchers were able to predict the spawning location. They recorded male grunting over this period and found it was most common during May and June and during daylight hours. They are now trying to determine whether the grunt data could be translated into population abundance data - sounds fancier than ‘listening to fish have sex’.

There is a bacterial war raging in your vagina and it’s as icky as it sounds. It is well known the vagina is the stage in which different colonies of bacteria wage war against each other for precious space. An article published in Applied Environmental Microbiology has found that certain Steptococci bacteria can cause toxic shock syndrome toxin, which can be deadly (yes your vagina can kill you), but it can also be neutralised depending on the other bacteria in the vagina. Researchers compared swabs from vaginas with a healthy status, intermediate status (what makes for a vagina of intermediate health?) and those with bacterial vaginosis. They found that the presence Lactobacillus bacterial species (like those in yoghurt, cheese and probiotics) actually reduced toxin production. And so the battle rages on….

American Society for Microbiology

This post has absolutely no common thread….

The dinosaurs were ushered into the Jurassic period with a bang, well actually many many volcanic bangs that wiped out most of the other animals but such is Mother Nature. After dating basaltic lava across the United States and Morocco (which were once a part of Pangaea) scientists have confirmed (in Science) what scientist already guessed, that the cause of the end-Triassic period and subsequent mass extinction was caused by massive volcanic eruptions along the Central Atlantic Magmatic Province (CAMP). The volcanic eruptions would have released large amounts of CO2, sulfur and methane into the atmosphere causing an impressive global warming event that killed off 76% of the animals. On the upside, we got dinosaurs! DINOSAURS!

Quick Science News - shiny sharks and drunk 5 year olds

Imade taken from:

Sharks get lit up! And this isn’t a lure and bait type luminescence, no, this is ‘I’m here bitches, what of it?’ (yep that’s the precise translation). New research from Scientific Reports has shown that the seductively named velvet belly lanternshark (Etmopterus spinax) has photophores running alongside its dorsal defensive spine which could be seen by potential predators, as warning (?). What makes this more interesting is the velvet belly lanternshark is not named velvet for nothing, its belly actually shimmers, which is called counterillumination. This is used as a form of camouflage for many deep sea animals as if you are below the animal look up then their shimmering underside just looks like more ocean. 

So we have a shark that’s belly want to camouflage it from potential predators but its luminous spine is saying ‘Do you feel lucky punk, well do ya?’. Who knew one shark species could say so much? It’s one of the first times that two contradictory strategies are in one organism

Not only is standing on one leg a sign of sobriety for operating a motor vehicle it is also a sign of a child’s development (I would think a child that can drive sober is a remarkable sign of there development but then I mixing things up aren’t I?). Up until now there has been no standard measure for a child’s fine and gross motor skills under the age of 5. Tanja Kakebeeke and Oskar Jenni from University Children’s Hospital in Zurich have developed such a test. Apparently not many 3 year olds can stand on one leg for vey long but by the age of 5 they all could. So if your 5 year old cannot pass a simple roadside sobriety test I would be concerned.

Tadpoles swimming in Cedar Lake, Canada
From my favourite National Geographic

Tadpoles swimming in Cedar Lake, Canada

From my favourite National Geographic