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Current Biology

Scientists Discover Female Insects With “Inflatable,” Spiny Penis

Aren't most penises inflatable, technically? You know what? Probably better just not to think about it.

In the animal kingdom, gender is decided along different rules from just who has what kind of situation going on in their pants, and science has found the first animal that has a penis on the female members of the species instead of the males. The female penis also does a lot more in the way of function than ones you might be more familiar with.

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Your Genes May Determine What You Can And Can’t Smell

Like, how do I know that the daisy you smell and the daisy I smell are the same daisy smells, man?

Whether you can smell a scent -- and what characteristics it has to you -- may be highly dependent on your own genetic makeup, say two new studies published in the journal Current Biology that look to explain how two people can smell one scent -- the powerful stink of blue cheese, for example -- and have different reactions to it.

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How the Chicken Lost Its Penis

A Current Biology study published this week explains how evolution left most bird species penis-free.

Researchers have long wondered why evolution robbed many bird species -- like the chicken -- of a piece of anatomy considered pretty key in most of the breeding we're familiar with -- the penis. A new study of a wide range of birds has revealed a key gene that stymies penis growth in males and suggests a few reasons that nixing the penis could be evolutionarily advantageous for the animals, though it does make calling a male rooster a cock among the crueler jokes in the history of time.

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Fruit Flies Taught to Be Helpless and Depressed for Science

Don't take this wrong, but in a lot of ways, you're not so different from a fruit fly. At least, the same sort of things that can make you depressed, like feeling helpless to change or bad situations in your life, also make fruit flies exhibit similar symptoms, such as slower movement and general lethargy. That's according to a study set to be published next month in the journal Current Biology which suggests that the roots of depression may go much deeper than once thought.

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Nothing Personal: Ants Execute Their Own To Prevent Damaging Population Booms

Around many ant colonies, laying eggs is a one-woman-show, the duty of the queen ant. It's a facet so ingrained in ants that a number of species have been known to drag females who start laying eggs out of the colony, biting and stinging them to death, a behavior that has been seen in the past as a move to eliminate competition to the queen. According to new research published this week in the journal Current Biology, though, the executions have nothing to do with competition among ants and everything to do with the health of the colony as a whole, suggesting the execution may be analogous to a cellular immune response in other animals.

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First Ever Video Of A Thought Taking Shape Captured [Video]

Researchers at Japan's National Institute of Genetics believe they've captured a world first video -- images of a thought making it's way through the brain of a zebrafish. It's not a particularly complicated thought -- essentially 'Hey, that looks like it could be food.' -- but the fact that the team has imaged the very stuff of even simple thought for the first time is really kind of amazing -- not unlike magic. Keep reading to see the video of this unprecedented look into the mind of a zebrafish.

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Dung Beetles Know Where to Roll Their Dung Balls by Watching the Stars, Milky Way

Oscar Wilde famously wrote "We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars," and it turns out he might have really hit the nail on the head. After all, you don't get much more in the gutter than dung beetles, a species of insect famed for making balls of other animals droppings, and it turns out those humble creatures are avid stargazers. In fact, without a night sky and the Milky Way above them, the insects seem to get lost and are unable to move in a straight line.

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Flies Raised On Booze Need Alcohol To Learn, Just Like College Students

Fly larvae -- fine, maggots -- that are raised on food spiked with alcohol grow up into flies who can't learn normally without the aid of a little booze juice, marking yet another way in which maggots are pretty much just like college students. A study demonstrating the difficulties maggots experienced while trying to process new information without the aid of a morning beer to take the edge off things appears this week in the journal Current Biology, which reminds us that keg stands are not always recreational choices -- sometimes they are educational tools.

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Key Ingredient In Mucus Could Fight Hospital Superbugs

Of all the gross things that the human body can produce -- and let's face it folks, we can get pretty gnarly sometimes -- mucus has to be near the top of the heap. As unpleasant as it may be, though, that gunk does serve an important purpose, trapping bacteria and viruses before they can further infect your body. Now, MIT researchers are exploring the possibility that mucus could have the same disease preventing properties outside of your body, preventing bacteria from forming fortresses called biofilms.

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World’s Rarest Whale Seen for First Time When Mother and Calf Wash Ashore And Die

The spade-toothed beaked whale is one of the ocean's most mysterious creatures. Known to science only because of a few skulls that have washed up on beaches in Chile and New Zealand, the creature is largely a mystery. Thanks to DNA testing, though, researchers know one more thing about the whales today: there are two fewer than there used to be after a mother and her calf washed ashore dead in New Zealand in 2010, marking the first time anyone had actually seen an intact specimen of the rare species.

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Hey, Everybody, Watch This Elephant Speak Korean!

I mean, not speak it like terribly well or anything, but still! This is Koshik, an elephant at a South Korean theme park who has picked up a couple words of korean language that he can vocalize to his trainers by sticking his trunk in his mouth. Researchers have just finished a two year study of the animal, trying to understand how it came to imitate human language so accurately. Well, accurately for an elephant. Don't take our word for it, though -- listen for yourself in the following video.

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Size Does Matter: Beetles With Larger Genital Spines Are More Successful Breeders

Bad news today for less-than-well-hung males. Well, male seed beetles at least. It turns out that contrary to the gentle reassurances of female seed beetles the world over, males with larger genital spines make for more successful and more attractive mates.

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Eunuchs Live Longer, Not Necessarily Happier Lives Than Non-Castrated Men

Historical research out of South Korea suggests that male sex hormones may be to blame for the shorter lives of men across cultures. The evidence for this? The shocking longevity of several centuries of Korean eunuchs. Researchers combing through the meticulously detailed birth and death records of the Korean Chosun Dynasty found that eunuchs  -- castrated men who worked as servants at court -- were a staggering 130 times more likely to live to see 100 than men in the modern age.

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Gamers Make Equally Accurate Decisions Faster

A new study from the University of Rochester in New York, that will be published in the upcoming journal Current Biology, has proven something most gamers know, but other people may not: gamers make equally accurate decisions faster than non-gamers.

The study focused mainly on action games, most likely because that genre of gaming consists of the quickest stimuli and results in the most negative outcome (usually death), finding that gamers develop a higher sensitivity to their surroundings compared to non-gamers. The authors of the study say gamers' fast decision-making comes from gamers having a faster probabilistic inference, which is the process by which the brain forms and refines probabilities, due to the nature of the stimuli in their games.

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