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Biology Letters

Being Friendly May Help Monkeys Survive In Harsh Conditions

Study in sociality means it's finally time to take a few survival tips from an endangered species.

That need most of us have to bond with others? The drive to maintain a semblance of social acceptability when we would rather hide under the blankets in ratty pajamas binge watching Netflix? Turns out, it's not just good manners and a way to ensure regular showering -- it may also be an evolutionary trait that helps us survive tough times. A study of Barbary macaques in Northern Morocco suggests that natural selection may favor the ability to make social connections.

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Make It Count, Dude: Spider Species Dies After Having Sex

Male dark fishing spiders have just one roll in the hay in them. After mating, the arachnids immediately curl up and die.

I know the human dating game can seem rough at times, but the fact of the matter is, we have it pretty good. Don't believe me? Consider if you will the sorry state of Dolomedes tenebrosus, the dark fishing spider. A recent study of the spiders, common around the American midwest, found that males of the species get a grand total of one shot at breeding -- immediately after copulation, their work on this Earth done, the creatures promptly curl up and die.

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Pikas Prefer to Eat Plants Peppered With Caterpillar Poop

Life in the wilderness is no bowl of cherries, and animals aren't exactly known for graciously sharing their food. One exception, though, may be Canadian pikas. A recent study from the University of Alberta shows that the little mammals actually prefer leftovers sometimes, choosing to dine on patches of vegetation that have already been grazed on -- and thus also pooped on -- by caterpillars. Exactly why isn't understood yet, but researchers suspect that the caterpillars' leavings may act as a sort of seasoning for the plants.

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Cold as Ice and Then Some: Penguins Are Colder Than the Air Around Them

A team of European penguin researchers found some unexpected results when they turned infrared heat sensing cameras on a group of emperor penguins they were studying. The outer layer of the birds feathers, they found, was actually colder than the surrounding air. While it goes against common sense, keeping their outermost layers ice-cold may actually help penguins stay warm deeper inside -- where it counts.

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Sea Slug Leaves Its Penis Behind After Mating, Grows A New One Later

The sea slug chromodoris reticulata might not have a catchy name, but it can do a neat trick never before seen in the animal world. After mating, the hermaphroditic sea slug, which has both male and female sex organs, loses its penis. Don't fret for it though, as the slug can regrow a new one within 24 hours.

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Worth A Shot, I Guess: Male Atlantic Mollies Go Gay To Boost Mating Chances With Females Later

We've brought you stories about some of the more interesting techniques animals will go to to improve, even slightly, their chances at breeding. Heck, you barely need us for that -- head down to your local watering hole any Friday night and you'll no doubt get to glimpse folks going to some lengths for the chance to land a mate, even (or especially) just for one evening. A study published online today in the journal Biology Letters suggests that we may have a winner in the "weird ways to get freaky" sweepstakes, though. Researchers studying the Atlantic molly, a small tropical fish related to the guppy, found that some smaller, less dominant examples of Atlantic molly manhood have developed a curious mating tactic -- to improve their chances of breeding with a female, they will first copulate with other males to demonstrate their sexual fitness.

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Women Can Tell A Cheating Man, Men…Not So Much


Cheating men may have reason to feel nervous that their significant others know what they're getting into on the side, while women engaging in flings could have an easier time hiding their indiscretions from their mate. That's according to a recent study from the University of Western Australia. Published this week in the journal Biology Letters, the study found that women were reasonably accurate at determining how faithful a man had been in his life just by looking at his face. Men in the same study, meanwhile, showed no such skill, thereby living up to the stereotype that we're never paying attention to anything. Way to go, dudes.

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Quarantined: Finches Avoid Sick Members Of Their Flock

We've all found ourselves ducking friends, loved ones, significant others and co-workers when they develop a sniffle or two. We're not the only species to show that rather mercenary brand of common sense, though. A recent study shows that the common house finch, usually an intensely social avian, can tell when other finches are ailing and will avoid sick members of their own species to prevent the spread of disease.

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People From Cold Climates Have Bigger Eyes And Brains

Researchers from Oxford University have discovered that humans who live in polar regions (far from the equator) have evolved bigger eyes and larger brains to help them process information at the low level of light typical in those areas. A team of anthropologists led by Eiluned Pearce collected 55 skulls dating from the 1800s that represent 12 different populations around the world. By measuring the eye socket and brain volumes and plotting the data against the latitude of each individual's home country, the researchers were able to compare eye and brain size with location. The researchers found a positive correlation between size and latitude. People from cold climates, like the northern-European country of Scandinavia, had the biggest brains, and people from warm climates close to the equator, like Micronesia, had the smallest. According to the researchers, these bigger brains are not the result of increased intelligence, but rather the need for a larger portion of the brain devoted to vision. This helps the brain overcome the low-light conditions caused by bad weather and long winters in northern climates.

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Awesome Eight-Year-Olds Publish Bee Study in Legit Scientific Journal

This is both adorable and encouraging: A group of eight- to ten-year-olds in England wrote and published a journal article in the very legit "high-powered" scientific journal Biology Letters. According to an excerpt from the article's abstract, the study covers "whether bees could learn to use the spatial relationships between colours to figure out which flowers [to visit]." With the exception of the abstract, the kids wrote the entire article themselves. What have our kids been doing lately? The 25 kids, who attend Blackawton Primary School in Devon, England, conducted the study through the educational science program, "i, scientist," which encourages children to conduct their own scientific research and is overseen by the kids' head teacher, David Strudwick, and neuroscientist Beau Lotto, whose son, Misha participated in the study. (There's a half-hour video about the program here.) The kids are officially "the youngest scientists to publish an article in a Royal Society journal."

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