Researchers from Michigan State University have found a wrinkle in how hyenas use their noses that might have implications for how we understand the sense of smell in many other animals as well. Like most species of dogs, hyenas use scent as their primary sense -- it's how they find prey, how they look for mates, and how they communicate with one another. New research published this month in the journal Scientific Reports shows that hyenas from different clans appear to have different colonies of bacteria living in their scent glands. The study marks the first time that widely different communities of odor-causing bacteria have been found in the same species, and could offer insight on how animals communicate by smell.
Google's ongoing attempt to turn the libraries of the world into a single, massive collection of scanned documents has found an unusual use in the hands of some physicists. Venturing into realms usually left to the English majors and linguists, the researchers used Google Books' scanned tomes as a massive data set announcing new findings on the evolutionary life and death of words, including the assertion that English contains about 1,000,000 words -- far more than most dictionaries would have you believe.
Put down that Darjeeling, dear friends, because that tea may not be what it seems. Students at New York's Trinity High School recently had a study published in the Nature journal Scientific Reports which found that commercial teas are chock full of extra, unlisted ingredients. The teenage scientists wanted to work on a project using DNA barcoding to investigate the makeup of food items. It turns out that every species has a distinct portion of their DNA that can be sorted out amidst a mish-mash of genes and genetic material. The team went about their investigations by purchasing more tea than any human should, including 70 teas and 60 herbal teas from 33 companies in 17 countries. Once purchased, they tore open the tea bags, and sorted through the grass clippings tea leaves inside. After they'd matched up similar looking plant material, they sent their samples off to a commercial DNA lab for testing. Their results were surprising.