What’s the News: It turns out that humans aren’t too different from blue-footed boobies, at least when it comes to age and fertility. Researchers have recently discovered that the sperm of blue-footed boobies declines with age. And unlike humans, the blue feet of the boobies also fade with age, revealing that one reason why female boobies tend to mate with brighter-footed males is to ensure the robustness of the sperm and the health of their offspring. “The study provides us with a new way of looking at what lies behind sexual signals,” lead author Alberto Velando told TIME, “pointing to the importance of sexual selection in eliminating genetic mutations.” Read More
What’s the News: Scientists have known for a while that if you put harmful bacteria into outer space, they tend to get even more harmful. Since that discovery, researchers have been itching to know if the zero gravity and radiation of space will have similar effects on beneficial bacteria. With Monday’s launch of Endeavor, scientists can finally try to answer that question: alongside the astronauts, NASA launched the first ever space-faring cephalopod, along with the bioluminescent microbe with which it has a symbiotic relationship, to see if their relationship can stand the stresses of space travel. “This is the first [study] to look at beneficial bacteria” in space, lead researcher Jamie Foster told New Scientist.
Image: flickr / daveeza
At first glance, biologists slapping motion capture gear onto kangaroos sounds like a scientific foray into the 3-D-movie craze. But James Cameron can rest assured: The scientists are merely performing their day jobs, studying kangaroos—and using a nifty new camera to do it.
As kangaroos mosey along at low speeds, they walk, using their tail as a fifth limb. But as they speed up, they slip into their signature bounce. The mystery for scientists is why such large animals—some being over six feet tall—are so darn springy, and as Alexis Wiktorowicz-Conroy, a researcher at the Royal Veterinary College, told the BBC, “We can’t really explain … why their bones don’t break at high speeds.” Read More