Chameleons, Already Dealt Unfair Share of Cool Traits, Also Have Fluorescent Heads

By Elizabeth Preston | January 30, 2018 10:00 am

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Maybe their moms told them nobody likes a showoff. That would explain why many species of chameleon are hiding fluorescent bone bumps on their heads that scientists only just discovered. Chameleons also have independently moving eyeballs, superlative tongues and sophisticated color-changing skills. The animals might use their glowing head bumps as signals to each other. These patterns of dots are invisible to a human eye, but may light up deep blue to the eye of another chameleon in a shaded forest. Read More

MORE ABOUT: Animals, Evolution, Physics

Crawling Robot Baby Bravely Explores Carpet Gunk

By Elizabeth Preston | January 18, 2018 8:43 am

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To find out just how your relaxed vacuuming schedule is affecting your baby’s airway, researchers built a slightly frightening robotic infant.

This legless, metallic baby crawled across five wool rugs from real people’s homes in Finland. (The grounded aluminum tape covering the robot helped to minimize static during its 25 crawling sessions of 20 minutes each.) Researchers had asked the people sharing their rugs not to vacuum for two weeks beforehand. As the robot crawled, advanced instruments measured what was in the dust it stirred up. Specifically, what biological tidbits—bacteria, fungi, pollen grains—would a real baby breathe in? Read More

Like to Hold Your Baby on Your Left? So Do Walruses

By Elizabeth Preston | January 12, 2018 1:19 pm

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Human moms prefer to hold their babies on their left sides. Although this does make it easier for right-handed parents to feed themselves and do other necessary tasks, scientists think the true explanation is deeper. Now, a study of walruses and bats has shown that mothers and babies in these species also cuddle on the left—even when the baby is the one choosing the side. Read More

MORE ABOUT: Animals, Evolution

Twelve Months, Eight Arms, Three Butts

By Elizabeth Preston | December 29, 2017 11:11 am


It’s the end of the year and we’re still swimming! So Inkfish is taking a moment to reflect on 2017 and enumerate some noteworthy posts. Don’t worry—it won’t take long, since octopuses can only count to eight.

Most unexpectedly popular post: Read More

MORE ABOUT: Animals, Ocean

Dead Squid Moms Are a Gift to the Ocean Floor

By Elizabeth Preston | December 22, 2017 11:29 am

Image captured from a video camera mounted on underwater remotely operated vehicle DocRicketts on dive number 344. The original MBARI video tape number is D0344-02HD. This image is from timecode 01:18:55:10 and time Sun Feb 26 14:51:02 2012 GMT. The recorded edited location and environmental measurements at time of capture are Lat= 24.409134 Lon= -109.883450 Depth= 1252.64 m Temp= 3.537 C Sal= 34.575 PSU Oxy= 1.915 ml/l Xmiss= 86.75%. The Video Annotation and Reference system concept: associations for this image is 'Gonatidae: identity-reference 3, life-stage dead, image-quality good'.

Animals living on the ocean floor, where it’s too dark for anything to grow, have to wait for food to fall on them. Mostly this means they eat “marine snow,” a steady drift of tiny life forms and detritus from the ocean’s surface. But robotic expeditions off the coast of Mexico have revealed what might be another major dining option on the ocean floor: dead squid moms.

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Poison Frog’s Homing Skills Baffle Scientists

By Elizabeth Preston | December 11, 2017 11:26 am

frog fanny pack

When researchers deposited the little fanny-pack-wearing amphibians deep in the jungle, they were already planning a rescue mission. The poison frogs were disoriented, half a mile from home, and in dense underbrush they’d never seen before. Yet, impossibly, the frogs turned themselves in the right direction. They hopped straight back to their home turf. And the results would no doubt teach scientists something about animal navigation—if they had any idea how the frogs pulled it off. Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: brains, navigation, top posts

Why Some Bird Babies Ride Piggyback

By Elizabeth Preston | November 30, 2017 12:05 pm


Having your children trail you like ducklings in a pond sounds pretty good to human parents, who are stuck carrying or pushing their offspring through toddlerhood. But some animals with mobile babies choose to carry them anyway. One scientist looked at waterbirds to figure out why certain species find it worthwhile to haul their kids around, while others leave them to paddle alone. The reasons he found range from snuggle time to murderous fish.

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CATEGORIZED UNDER: birds, evolution, fish, parenting, top posts
MORE ABOUT: Animals, Ecology, Evolution

High-Ranking Male Primates Keep Wafting Their Sex Stink at Females, Who Hate It

By Elizabeth Preston | November 21, 2017 2:31 pm


Researchers call it “stink flirting.” A male ring-tailed lemur rubs his signature scent onto his long, fluffy tail, then waves it over his head in the direction of a nearby female. Males seem to intend this gesture as a sexual overture. But it often gets them into fights—with lemurs of both sexes. In fact, scientists aren’t sure stink flirting helps male lemurs at all.

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CATEGORIZED UNDER: boys and girls, smell, top posts

Stuffed Animals Help Scientists Learn How Sea Lion Moms Recognize Their Babies

By Elizabeth Preston | November 10, 2017 11:45 am

sea lion models

Tending to a nursing newborn is hard enough, but sea lion moms have an extra challenge. To consume enough calories for themselves and their pups, they have to repeatedly leave their babies behind and swim out to sea to hunt. Each time the mothers return, they have to find their pups again. Australian sea lion moms use a pup’s smell and the sound of its calls to recognize it. They also use sight—which scientists learned by creating fake, stuffed sea lion pups, and leaving them for mothers to either accept or attack.

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CATEGORIZED UNDER: parenting, smell, sound, top posts, vision
MORE ABOUT: Animals, Senses

Boo! Lost Salamander Reappears, Dressed for Halloween

By Elizabeth Preston | October 31, 2017 10:59 am


Earlier this month, a guard patrolling a Guatemalan wildlife reserve photographed a young salamander. Its glossy orange-and-black skin made it look like a Halloween decoration. But the salamander’s appearance wasn’t just seasonally appropriate—it was the first time anyone had laid eyes on the species in 42 years. Read More

MORE ABOUT: Animals, Ecology


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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