When female fruit flies mate, their immune system responds to the sperm the same way it does to germs. University of California, Santa Barbara evolutionary biologist Andrew Stewart sees the immune system as a battleground, a place where the sexes can compete—a female’s immune system will rev up so it can fight off the proteins in the ejaculate, so she can live longer and have more babies.
But the exact reason for this immune response is still up in the air. It’s possible the male knows that the female has mated with other male flies, and uses the pathogens in his sperm to beat the other males in fertilizing eggs. Regardless, females still pay a heavy price: Most females mate with several partners, even though if they mate just once, their life span is shortened significantly.
But the beetles have it worse, because their mating is so brutal: When a female decides to mate, she repeatedly gets jabbed by the male’s sexual organ, which looks more like a medieval weapon than pleasure tool. But the females put up with the roughness, apparently because they are so thirsty.
Have no fear, the tooth fairy gene is here. Researchers at Oregon State University have found the gene responsible for growing tooth enamel, a discovery that could transform the much-hated trip to the dentist.
So does this new discovery mean an end to fillings and dentures once and for all?
Well not yet, but it might someday. Researchers have known for a while that the gene called Ctip2 plays a role in immune response, as well as skin and nerve development. But this is the first time anyone explored its role in regulating the growth of tooth enamel.
Sure, Google can map just about anything. But who knew it could actually influence geography from the ground up?
The French coastal town of Eu is getting no Internet love, and its mayor is about to do something about it. Marie-Françoise Gaouyer believes that the decline in tourism—down by as much as a third—is the result of the town’s poor standing in “Eu” Google searches. So, she’s advocating to change the name of the town on the belief that additional syllables will increase its Internet visibility. Her decision to act was triggered when even the French national railway’s computer system did not recognize Eu’s existence.
Instead of tourist accommodations, Google currently yields sites related to the European Union or, for French searches, to the past participle of the verb “avoir.” Gaouyer thinks that to increase awareness of Eu among potential tourists, she can either pay search engines like Google to place the town at the top of “Eu” searches, or simply change the town’s name.
Doctors in Switzerland have diagnosed a skin disorder that editors at The Onion could very well have created. PlayStation palmar hidradenitis is the name given to a condition that skin specialists have identified as being caused by the use of video game controllers. Swiss doctors have reported their findings, which are based on one patient, a 12-year old girl, in the British Journal of Dermatology.
The girl had recently started to play games on PlayStation for several hours a day, and continued to do so despite the appearance of red, painful sores. Four weeks after the sores developed, she was examined at the Geneva University Hospital and diagnosed with a skin disorder called “‘idiopathic eccrine hidradenitis,” which normally causes red, sore lumps on the palms of the hands and soles of the feet. It has been identified before, but rarely on the hands alone and is usually seen on the soles of children’s feet after they have engaged in intense physical activity.
According to Reuters:
The researchers suspected that grasping the console’s hand-grips together with repeated pushing of the buttons produced minor but prolonged injury to the palm of the girl’s hands, which can be made worse by sweating during a tense game. The doctors recommended the girl stop playing and she recovered fully after 10 days, the researchers said.
Seemingly straight out of a science-fiction movie, a fish with tubular eyes and a see-through head discovered off the coast of California.
Researchers in Monterey Bay have released pictures of the first Macropinna microstoma to be found with its “soft transparent dome” intact. The six-inch “barreleye” fish lives more than 2,000 feet below sea level and spends most of its time motionless, but has eyes that can rotate within its head, allowing it to see whatever is directly above it.
This butterfly has a really funny mustache. So does this mean it looks more like Borat or Brad Pitt? Jokes aside, when the curators at the Natural History Museum in London noticed a butterfly with extra hair around its mouth, they took a closer look and discovered that it’s a new species.
The museum’s butterfly expert, Blanca Huertas, originally found the specimen four years ago on an expedition to the Magdalena valleys in Colombia. When she brought it back to the U.K., it promptly got lost in the museum’s three-million-and-change butterfly collection.
The good news is that she’s finally gotten around to classifying it: Huertas matched the butterfly to a reference species in the museum—a 90-year-old specimen known for having hairy mouthparts—and confirmed that it is a new species after all. It is now called Magdelena Valley Ringlet (or if you want to get all scientific, it’s also called Splendeuptychia ackeryl). But our nickname of Tom Selleck will do.
Image: flickr/ Tom
Humans might be the only species that actually choose to go under the knife to have their sex changed. But sometimes gender switches are a semi-regular occurrence in other species. In Colorado, fish are changing sex at rapid rates, reportedly due to the estrogen dribbling into Boulder’s Wastewater that’s concentrated enough to turn males into females.
Now, we can add sea coral to the list of organisms that are changing sex as a response to environmental factors: Israeli scientists report that Japanese corals change their sex to survive the pressures of climate change.
Zoologist Yossi Loya from Tel Aviv University discovered that female mushroom coral becomes male when the ocean floor gets too hot. Even a shift in a few degrees in temperature can be detrimental to coral, causing it to bleach and even die. In order to cope with the added stress of climate change, female corals adapt by changing their gender.