A Farewell to Arms

By Elizabeth Preston | June 29, 2018 8:19 am


Hello friends!

After 8 years and 679 posts, the time has come for me to wrap up this blog. Most cephalopods don’t live more than a year or two, so I’ve been very lucky.

I started Inkfish when I was working as a magazine editor; I wanted an outlet to share scientific stories that excited me with my friends and family, and maybe—I hoped—some other readers. Later I moved from good old Blogspot to the blog network Field of Science, and finally to Discover. I wrote about many weird animals, and many familiar animals doing weird things, and sometimes I wrote about people (maybe the weirdest animal).

I also became a full-time freelance science journalist, which is what I’m focusing on now. If you’ve enjoyed Inkfish, I hope you’ll check out my other work or follow me on Twitter @Inkfish.

Thank you so much to everyone who read and shared Inkfish, and to Discover for being my friendly seafloor crevice these last few years. And many thanks to my husband, who back in 2010 convinced me that “Ephemeroptera” (the order of mayflies, those ephemeral insects whose adult life lasts only a day) would be a terrible name for a blog.

— Elizabeth

Photo: by sheraca (via Flickr)

Friendly Monkeys Have More Cuddle Buddies

By Elizabeth Preston | May 31, 2018 9:26 pm


A kind word or gesture from a friend can give you the warm fuzzies. But a warm, fuzzy friend can give a macaque a better chance of surviving the winter. After following dozens of macaques through snowy woods for months, scientists found that friendlier monkeys earned themselves more cuddle buddies on cold nights.

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CATEGORIZED UNDER: evolution, friends, top posts
MORE ABOUT: Animals, Evolution

No Eyes? No Problem. Sea Urchins See with Their Feet

By Elizabeth Preston | May 29, 2018 11:29 am


Threaten a sea urchin, and you may see it point its spines at you. This defensive response is pretty unremarkable—except for the fact that, if you look closer, you will not see the sea urchin’s eyes. It doesn’t have any.

Sea urchins are the only animals that have vision despite “conspicuously lacking eyes,” write Dan-Eric Nilsson, a biologist at the University of Lund in Sweden who studies animal vision, and his colleagues. In a new study, the researchers gave the spiny sea creatures a kind of eyeless eye exam to find out how good their vision is. They concluded that the animals have pretty poor eyesight, and that it’s actually foot-sight. Read More

This Is the Oldest Tree in Europe

By Elizabeth Preston | May 23, 2018 10:20 pm

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This tree is not dead, despite appearances. It’s alive and happy, and it’s been clinging to this cliff in southern Italy since the eighth century A.D. Researchers invented a new dating method to figure out that the pine is the oldest known tree in Europe. Read More


We May Have Put the Wrong Whales on Our Albums

By Elizabeth Preston | April 30, 2018 10:47 pm

bowhead whales

Songs of the Humpback Whale was a 1970 album consisting of about 35 minutes of mellow blooping. It was extremely popular. But as a vocal star, the humpback may have unfairly overshadowed another whale—the bowhead. Recordings high in the Arctic have revealed that these animals have a far more extensive repertoire than the humpbacks do.

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At the Bottom of the Ocean, Octopus Moms Cling to Their Bad Decisions

By Elizabeth Preston | April 26, 2018 8:17 pm

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Parents may feel guilty when they use television to keep their kids quiet, or give in to a demand for cookies. But most of us are doing a better job than these octopus mothers. Scientists found them clustered on the sea floor, trying to grow their young in a warm bath that will certainly kill babies and moms alike. Read More

MORE ABOUT: Animals, Evolution, Ocean

This Flower May Make Multicolored Pollen Just to Please Bugs

By Elizabeth Preston | April 16, 2018 11:45 am

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The trout lily is a North American spring wildflower that’s cuter than its name suggests. Dappled leaves frame a little yellow blossom that keeps its face shyly toward the ground. Inside the bloom, the flower’s anthers and pollen vary from bright yellow to dark red. Researchers could find no purpose for the different colors—except, maybe, to satisfy the whims of pollinating insects.

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MORE ABOUT: Ecology, Evolution, Plants

Hagfish Take Weeks to Recover from Sliming Someone

By Elizabeth Preston | March 29, 2018 12:22 pm


If you see this animal, don’t anger it. A hagfish under attack releases thick, clear slime in astonishing quantities. Now scientists have learned that this mucus is a precious resource for a hagfish. After sliming a predator, the fish can take nearly a month to refill its slime glands.

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CATEGORIZED UNDER: magic, the ocean, top posts, weird animals
MORE ABOUT: Animals, Evolution, Ocean

To Scare Off Predators, Caterpillar Whistles like a Kettle

By Elizabeth Preston | March 23, 2018 12:53 pm

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It’s hard to yell “BACK OFF!” when you have no lungs, but this caterpillar has figured out a way. Under attack, the Nessus sphinx moth caterpillar emits a sort of crackling buzz from its mouth. Scientists compare the unusual mechanism to a whistling teakettle. Or a rocket.

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MORE ABOUT: Animals, Evolution, Physics

Worn-Down Tusks Show Most African Elephants Are Righties

By Elizabeth Preston | March 16, 2018 12:57 pm


You don’t need hands to be right- or left-handed. Many kinds of animals have shown a preference for using one side of their body or the other. They include apes, whales, dogs, cats, cows, toads, fish and even honeybees. Now, with data from a rather unsavory source, researchers have found evidence for “tuskedness” in elephants.

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CATEGORIZED UNDER: aging, brains, evolution, screwups, top posts


Like the wily and many-armed cephalopod, Inkfish reaches into the far corners of science news and brings you back surprises (and the occasional sea creature). The ink is virtual but the research is real.

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@Inkfish on Twitter


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