The Kitchen Is Closing

By Christie Wilcox | August 31, 2018 8:00 am

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My very first blog post was September 2008. A lot has changed since then—I started and completed a PhD program at the University of Hawaii (where I met my partner and now baby-daddy), did a post-doc, wrote one book (that you should really read—just ask Amazon or Smithsonian) and edited another (on science blogging!), and started a new full-time editing job with the YouTube science channel SciShow. And over those ten years, I have written more than 800 blog posts, my blog has gone from being called Observations of a Nerd to Science Sushi, and it’s moved from Blogspot to Science Blogs to Scientific American to Discover—and now, it’s making one last move.

I started blogging because I wanted to share my passion for science with the world. And my posts have done that—they’ve also opened up new avenues for sharing my passions. I owe a lot to this online platform I started on a decade ago. If I hadn’t started blogging, I wouldn’t have the writing career I have now. Even my partner and I bonded over our mutual love of writing online (and I still think his blog is so much cooler than mine), so it’s impossible for me to imagine what my life would have been like had my friend Allie never suggested I try my hand at it. But now, I get to nerd out over awesome science every day in the scripts I work on for SciShow and through my freelance writing for places like National Geographic. So the time has come to close the book… or, the laptop, I guess.

It’s been a decade, and it’s time to move on. Since I’ll no longer be blogging regularly, Science Sushi is moving again—this time, to a permanent home, ScienceSushi.com. The archives will still be hosted here at Discover, as well as at my blog’s new home, but I won’t be updating the blog with any regularity. If I feel particularly moved to comment on the world of science, I reserve the right to post a new post every now and then at the new site, but this is my last post here at Discover.

Thank you to all of my regular readers—you have made the past decade truly wonderful. And to those of you who might just now be stumbling across this blog, don’t worry: I’m not going away. If you subscribe to SciShow and SciShow Psych, you’ll hear my words and the words I edit frequently, and you can keep up to date with any other freelance writing I do by following my Facebook page, Twitter, or periodically checking out my website. I’ll be somewhere on the interwebs, just not here—and I hope to see you around.

— Christie

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When Snails Attack: The Epic Discovery Of An Ecological Phenomenon

By Christie Wilcox | August 27, 2018 8:00 am
Amos Barkai discovered this now classic example of predator-prey reversal 30 years ago. Photo used with permission from Amos Barkai

Amos Barkai discovered this now classic example of predator-prey reversal 30 years ago. Photo Credit: Paul Hanekom (used with permission from Amos Barkai)

The year was 1983. Star Wars: Return of the Jedi had just hit theaters, The Police’s “Every Breath You Take” topped the charts, and Amos Barkai was a new graduate student at the University of Cape Town in South Africa. He’d recently gotten his bachelor’s from Tel Aviv University, and was excited to start his graduate work under George Branch. Little did he know he was about to discover an ecological phenomenon that would earn him a prestigious paper in Science. Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Ecology, select, Top Posts

Livestock Infected with Worms Belch and Fart 33% More Methane

By Christie Wilcox | August 14, 2018 8:00 am
Scientists find that parasites dramatically alter how much methane a sheep emits.

Scientists find that parasites dramatically alter how much methane a sheep emits.

It’s estimated that 40% of greenhouse gas emissions come from agriculture, and a substantial portion of that is directly ’emitted’ by livestock. And just last year, climate scientists reported that we’ve actually been underestimating the extent to which the combined belches and flatulence of farmed animals contributes to climate change by 11%. Unsurprisingly, there’s been renewed interest in reducing those emissions, especially considering the demand for livestock is only growing. Now, scientist from the UK report one thing that will help: keep the animals parasite-free.

Read More

Little Dogs Pee Higher To Make Themselves Seem More Intimidating, Study Suggests

By Christie Wilcox | August 3, 2018 9:00 pm
Scientists have discovered smaller dogs aim higher, most likely to appear larger. Photo Credit: Mike Finkelstein

Scientists have discovered smaller dogs aim higher, most likely to appear larger. Photo Credit: Mike Finkelstein

You know how people say you should aim high? Well, small male dogs have taken that advice to heart. A new study has found that they lift their legs higher when urinating than larger dogs, apparently attempting to appear bigger than they are.  Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Ecology, More Science, select, Top Posts

Chinese Medicinal Plant Tricks Predatory Wasps Into Dispersing Its Seeds By Smelling Like Prey

By Christie Wilcox | July 31, 2018 8:00 am
Chinese scientists have discovered how a plant tricks wasps into carrying its seeds great distances. Photo Credit: Gao Chen

Chinese scientists have discovered how a plant tricks wasps into carrying its seeds great distances. Photo Credit: adapted from Chen et al. 2017 Figure S1; used with permission from Gao Chen

Stemona tuberosa is well known for its use in Chinese traditional medicine, but it’s got a much more intriguing claim to fame. It’s one of less than a handful of plants known to science that engages in vespicochory—that is, it gets predatory wasps to disperse its seeds. It was a strange enough discovery that Gao Chen and his colleagues at the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Beijing wondered how the plants manage to convince the hornets to haul their offspring around. All it takes is the right scent, the team discovered: parts of the plant smell and taste like the insects the hornets normally hunt. Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Ecology, More Science, select, Top Posts

Centipedes Can Carry Rat Lungworm—Just In Case You Needed A Reason Not To Eat Them Raw

By Christie Wilcox | July 30, 2018 4:00 pm
Doctors recently discovered rat lungworm in Chinese red-headed centipedes after two people became ill from eating them raw. Centipede Photo: Yasunori Koide

Doctors recently discovered rat lungworm in Chinese red-headed centipedes after two people became ill from eating them raw. Centipede Photo: Yasunori Koide

When the 78 year old woman arrived at the hospital, it was clear something was wrong. She’d been suffering from headaches and been in a drowsy fog for weeks. So doctors checked her cerebral spinal fluid, and found it was cloudy and yellow instead of clear. It was brimming with white blood cells, indicating an infection. This, alongside a positive antibody test, led to a diagnosis of angiostrongyliasis—an infestation of the parasite rat lungworm (Angiostrongylus cantonensis).

As the name implies, rat lungworms usually set up shop in rat pulmonary arteries. But their complex lifecycle involves spending time in an intermediate host like a snail before making a home inside a rodent. If we happen to eat that infected host before a rat does, they can end up inside us instead, where they can get lost and cause serious infections in other places. The parasites are most dangerous when they make their way into the brain, causing swelling and inflammation—like the woman was experiencing. But the woman hadn’t been eating snails.

A few weeks later, her 46 year old son was also admitted, and he, too, was diagnosed with angiostrongyliasis. Both were cured after a few weeks on an antiparasitic and steroid. But the question remained as to how they became infected—he wasn’t eating snails, either. But, it turned out, both he and his mother had been consuming raw centipedes from a local market. And that led the doctors to question: could centipedes also carry rat lungworm? Read More

Red, White and Blue Crabs: These Tree-Climbing, Bird-Killing Crabs Come in Multiple Colors and No One Knows Why

By Christie Wilcox | July 4, 2018 8:00 am
Scientists are trying to solve the mystery of these big crabs' colorful differences. Photo Credit: John Tann

Scientists are trying to solve the mystery of these big crabs’ colorful differences. Photo Credit: John Tann

Coconut crabs (Birgus latro) are gigantic land-dwelling crabs found on islands throughout the Indo-Pacific. They can live for decades, and can grow to be more than 3 feet wide (legs outstretched) and weigh in at more than 6 pounds. So that name isn’t because they’re the size of a coconut—it’s because they can actually tear open coconuts to eat their tender meat.

“If a coconut falls out of a tree, they’ll clamp onto it on the top and then drag it back to their husking ground,” explained Victoria Morgan, a PhD Candidate in the Department of Evolution and Ecology at University of California, Davis. You can always tell where a crab hides out by the piles of coconut husks lying around.

And it just so happens that out these massive, tree-climbing crabs come in multiple colors. They start out white as juveniles, when they act like other hermit crabs and don a protective shell. Then, as they mature and grow, they turn either red or blue. Really, really red, and really, really blue. “It’s weird that the colors are so distinctive,” Morgan explained. Stark color differences within a species, or color polymorphisms as scientists call them, are found in other crab species, but they’re generally in young animals. Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Ecology, More Science, select, Top Posts

Butterflies Really Seem To Like Drinking Cougar Pee

By Christie Wilcox | June 30, 2018 8:00 am
Butterflies prefer drinking urine from mountain lions over that of cows or humans—though scientists aren't quite sure why. Photo Credit:Geoff Gallice

Butterflies prefer drinking urine from mountain lions over that of cows or humans—though scientists aren’t quite sure why. Photo Credit:Geoff Gallice

The sight of dozens of butterflies congregated in one spot might be beautiful, but if you know what they’re actually doing, you might not want to get too close. When butterflies get together like this, it’s usually to slurp up some nutritional goodies from an unexpected source—like, oh I don’t know, animal pee. Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Ecology, More Science, select, Top Posts

Becoming Fearless: Study Finds Major Changes to Domesticated Bunny Brains

By Christie Wilcox | June 27, 2018 1:23 am
Researchers have found changes to rabbit brains that may explain why your pet bunny is so snuggly. Photo Credit: Alex

Researchers have found changes to rabbit brains that may explain why your pet bunny is so snuggly.
Photo Credit: Alex

The process of domestication fundamentally changes an animal’s looks and behavior. Floppier ears and a loss of fear of humans, for example, are nearly universal in domesticated species. Now, researchers have learned what domestication looks  like in the brain—at least, for rabbits.  Read More

This Poisonous Frogs’ Bright Colors Weirdly Help Camouflage It

By Christie Wilcox | June 4, 2018 4:00 pm

A dyeing poison frog showing off its bright colors. Photo by Bernard DUPONT

The conspicuous colors of poison frogs are presumed to be a warning. Indeed, vibrant patterns so often signal toxicity that biologists even have a special term for them: aposematic coloration. But, weird as it might sound, new research suggests that radiant skin patterns might help these frogs stay hidden, too. Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Ecology, More Science, select, Top Posts
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