Flashback Friday: Yes, Cats Do Have Facial Expressions

By Seriously Science | April 20, 2018 6:00 am
Photo: flickr/liz west

Photo: flickr/liz west

If you’re a cat owner, then you probably have a pretty good sense of whether your cat is happy, angry, or frustrated. But do cats, like humans, actually have common “facial expressions” that accompany these emotions? People have actually been studying questions like this for decades (and even back to Charles Darwin), but not always in a scientifically rigorous manner. Enter these scientists, who set out to create a “facial coding system” for cats, which they term “CatFACS” (fortunately not related to putting cats into a flow cytometer). This type of framework can help link up behaviors and emotions in cats, as well as other related animals. Be sure to check out the figure below for a handy guide to cat expressions!

Facial correlates of emotional behaviour in the domestic cat (Felis catus).

“Leyhausen’s (1979) work on cat behaviour and facial expressions associated with offensive and defensive behaviour is widely embraced as the standard for interpretation of agonistic behaviour in this species. However, it is a largely anecdotal description that can be easily misunderstood. Recently a facial action coding system has been developed for cats (CatFACS), similar to that used for objectively coding human facial expressions. This study reports on the use of this system to describe the relationship between behaviour and facial expressions of cats in confinement contexts without and with human interaction, in order to generate hypotheses about the relationship between these expressions and underlying emotional state. Read More

Study claims beans don’t make you fart after all.

By Seriously Science | April 18, 2018 6:00 am
Image: Flickr/Marco Verch

Image: Flickr/Marco Verch

Beans, beans, the musical fruit! The more you eat, the more you toot! Well, not according to this oldie-but-goody study (published in 1984, doubleplusgood!). Here, scientists had 12 men eat kidney beans for 23 days and measured how much they farted. It turns out that the gas quantity didn’t change during that time, no matter if the men typically ate a lot of beans or not. However, the longer they ate the beans, the better they felt (less discomfort). So let’s eat beans for every meal!

Influence of frequent and long-term consumption of legume seeds on excretion of intestinal gases.

“The objective of this study was to determine the influence of long-term and frequent consumption of legume seeds on the excretion of fermentation gases. Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: eat me, ha ha poop

Flashback Friday: Who was a real U.S. president, Alexander Hamilton or Chester Arthur? Most Americans get the answer wrong.

By Seriously Science | April 13, 2018 6:00 am

1024px-Alexander_Hamilton_portrait_by_John_Trumbull_1806Americans aren’t exactly known for our knowledge of history (or geography, for that matter). But we should at least know our own presidents, right? Enter these researchers, who used an online survey to measure how well people can distinguish real U.S. presidents from others with well-known or presidential-sounding names. They found that, while people were actually able to recognize 88% of U.S. presidents by name (the exceptions including lesser known presidents like Franklin Pierce and Chester Arthur), they were also likely to incorrectly identify several non-presidents, including Alexander Hamilton and Benjamin Franklin. Of course, the researchers point out that the study was performed before the popularity of the Broadway musical “Hamilton”, which might make people more aware of Alexander Hamilton’s place in history. Maybe for the sake of public education, the next hit musical should be “Pierce”?

Recognizing the Presidents: Was Alexander Hamilton President?

“Studies over the past 40 years have shown that Americans can recall about half the U.S. presidents. Do people know the presidents even though they are unable to access them for recall? We investigated this question using the powerful cues of a recognition test. Specifically, we tested the ability of 326 online subjects to recognize U.S. presidents when presented with their full names among various types of lures. Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: reinforcing stereotypes

Flashback Friday: Does watching porn make people less religious?

By Seriously Science | April 6, 2018 6:00 am
Photo: flickr/teofilo

Photo: flickr/teofilo

If you had to guess, you’d probably say that people who watch a lot of pornography are less likely to be religious. And you’d be right — to a point. But according to this study, which looked at the connection between porn viewing and later religiosity, there actually appeared to be a more complicated relationship between porn and religious sentiments. More specifically, people who watched no porn were likely to be religious, and religious levels declined with more frequent porn use up to “once a week.” But as viewing got more frequent — up to “once a day or more” — religiosity actually went back up. This just might be the best use of our “Holy correlation, Batman!” blog post category to date!

Does Viewing Pornography Diminish Religiosity Over Time? Evidence From Two-Wave Panel Data.

“Research consistently shows a negative association between religiosity and viewing pornography. While scholars typically assume that greater religiosity leads to less frequent pornography use, none have empirically examined whether the reverse could be true: that greater pornography use may lead to lower levels of religiosity over time. I tested for this possibility using two waves of the nationally representative Portraits of American Life Study (PALS). Persons who viewed pornography at all at Wave 1 reported more religious doubt, lower religious salience, and lower prayer frequency at Wave 2 compared to those who never viewed porn. Considering the effect of porn-viewing frequency, viewing porn more often at Wave 1 corresponded to increases in religious doubt and declining religious salience at Wave 2. Read More

🎶Rubber ducky, you’re the one…who’s filled with nasty biofilms🎶

By Seriously Science | April 4, 2018 9:27 am
Photo: flickr/Chris Combe

Photo: flickr/Chris Combe

If you’re a parent, you know that kids’ bath toys can get pretty gross, especially the ones with a small hole that allows water to get in and never come out. Well, these scientists were inspired by that observation to actually figure out what’s inside that gross black moldy residue. To do this, they collected “19 real bath toys (e.g., rubber ducks) from five different Swiss households” (in the acknowledgements, they thank the children “for the generous donation of their beloved bath toys”). They then proceeded to “dissect” the toys in half and use a variety of methods to characterize the gunk growing inside. Unsurprisingly, they found fungi (mold), as well as “dense biofilms with complex bacterial and fungal communities.” Check out Figure 1 below for all the gory details… if you dare!

Ugly ducklings—the dark side of plastic materials in contact with potable water

“Bath toys pose an interesting link between flexible plastic materials, potable water, external microbial and nutrient contamination, and potentially vulnerable end-users. Here, we characterized biofilm communities inside 19 bath toys used under real conditions. In addition, some determinants for biofilm formation were assessed, using six identical bath toys under controlled conditions with either clean water prior to bathing or dirty water after bathing. Read More

Flashback Friday: Study shows dogs know how to lie.

By Seriously Science | March 23, 2018 6:00 am
Photo: flickr/Alan Levine

Photo: flickr/Alan Levine

We know that dogs have a guilty look, but can they actually be guilty? Well, according to this study, the answer is… kind of. Here, researchers show that dogs are capable of “deceptive-like behavior.” In a set of experiments, dogs tended to lead a human “competitor” away from food when that human would keep it for himself. However, the same dogs happily lead their “cooperative” owner to the noms, who would give the food to the dog. Bad dog!

Deceptive-like behaviour in dogs (Canis familiaris)

“Deception, the use of false signals to modify the behaviour of the receiver, occurs in low frequencies even in stable signalling systems. For example, it can be advantageous for subordinate individuals to deceive in competitive situations. We investigated in a three-way choice task whether dogs are able to mislead a human competitor, i.e. if they are capable of tactical deception. Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: fun with animals

Think you know when you made your earliest memory? Think again.

By Seriously Science | March 21, 2018 6:00 am
Image: Flickr/Hartwig HKD

Image: Flickr/Hartwig HKD

It seems that every time I learn about my memory, the less I trust it. Take this study, for example. These researchers found that adults, like children they investigated in earlier studies, misdate their childhood memories. And they don’t misdate them by a small amount, but rather by several years. Interestingly, our memories seem to telescope in one direction, meaning that your earliest childhood memories may very well be from earlier than you think. 

Looking at the past through a telescope: adults postdated their earliest childhood memories.

“Our previous studies have consistently shown a telescoping error in children’s dating of earliest childhood memories. Preschool children through adolescents systematically date their earliest memories at older ages, in comparison with the age estimates provided by their parents or by themselves previously. In the current study, we examined the dating of earliest childhood memories in two samples of college adults and collected independent age estimates from their parents. Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: old-skool, rated G, told you so

Flashback Friday: Finally, science answers the question “Are blondes really dumb?”

By Seriously Science | March 16, 2018 6:00 am
Photo: flickr/lil'_wiz

Photo: flickr/lil’_wiz

We’ve featured so many studies that reinforce stereotypes on this blog that we have a whole category full of them. So it was refreshing to find this study, which set out to test whether blondes are actually dumber than people with brown, red, or black hair. More specifically, the author crunched data from a large survey of young baby boomers, which conveniently included both hair color and IQ information for most respondents. He found that not only are blonde women not dumb–they’re actually MORE likely to be geniuses than women with other hair colors. Perhaps “Legally Blonde” is actually a work of nonfiction?

Are Blondes Really Dumb?

“Discrimination based on appearance has serious economic consequences. Women with blonde hair are often considered beautiful, but dumb, which is a potentially harmful stereotype since many employers seek intelligent workers. Using the NLSY79, a large nationally representative survey tracking young baby boomers, this research analyzes the IQ of white women and men according to hair color. Read More

Dogs Prefer You Talk to Them in ‘Dog Talk’

By Seriously Science | March 13, 2018 6:00 am
Photo: flickr/Susan E Adams

Photo: flickr/Susan E Adams

Do you talk to your dog differently than you would to a person? Have you ever wondered why? Maybe it’s because he or she seem to prefer that kind of “dog baby talk”. These researchers found that dogs prefer this “dog-directed speech” – both because of its sound and also because of the “dog-relevant content words.” See, you’re such a good boy. Such a good boy! Does Fido want a bone? Does he? Does he?!?

‘Who’s a good boy?!’ Dogs prefer naturalistic dog-directed speech

“Infant-directed speech (IDS) is a special speech register thought to aid language acquisition and improve affiliation in human infants. Although IDS shares some of its properties with dog-directed speech (DDS), it is unclear whether the production of DDS is functional, or simply an overgeneralisation of IDS within Western cultures. One recent study found that, while puppies attended more to a script read with DDS compared with adult-directed speech (ADS), adult dogs displayed no preference. In contrast, using naturalistic speech and a more ecologically valid set-up, we found that adult dogs attended to and showed more affiliative behaviour towards a speaker of DDS than of ADS.



To explore whether this preference for DDS was modulated by the dog-specific words typically used in DDS, the acoustic features (prosody) of DDS or a combination of the two, we conducted a second experiment. Here the stimuli from experiment 1 were produced with reversed prosody, meaning the prosody and content of ADS and DDS were mismatched. Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: fun with animals, Top Posts
MORE ABOUT: animals

Flashback Friday: Monkey on Deer Sex…It Happens

By Seriously Science | March 9, 2018 6:00 am
Image: Flickr/Petra Bensted

Image: Flickr/Petra Bensted

If you’re looking for weird interspecies sex, look no further than Japan. Not only do Japanese macaques like to ride deer (!), but according to this study, at least one male Japanese macaque likes to have sex with them… and some of the deer let him do it. Apparently, interspecies sex is really rare in the wild. In fact, the only previous report was that of “sexual harassment of king penguins by an Antarctic fur seal.” As they say, “Whatever spanks your monkey!”.

Interspecies sexual behaviour between a male Japanese macaque and female sika deer.

“Interspecies sexual behaviour or ‘reproductive interference’ has been reported across a wide range of animal taxa. However, most of these occurrences were observed in phylogenetically close species and were mainly discussed in terms of their effect on fitness, hybridization and species survival. The few cases of heterospecific mating in distant species occurred between animals that were bred and maintained in captivity. Only one scientific study has reported this phenomenon, describing sexual harassment of king penguins by an Antarctic fur seal. This is the first article to report mating behaviour between a male Japanese macaque (Macaca fuscata yakui) and female sika deer (Cervus nippon yakushimae) on Yakushima Island, Japan. Although Japanese macaques are known to ride deer, this individual showed clearly sexual behaviour towards several female deer, some of which tried to escape whilst others accepted the mount. This male seems to belong to a group of peripheral males. Although this phenomenon may be explained as copulation learning, this is highly unlikely. The most realistic hypothesis would be that of mate deprivation, which states that males with limited access to females are more likely to display this behaviour. Whatever the cause for this event may be, the observation of highly unusual animal behaviour may be a key to understanding the evolution of heterospecific mating behaviour in the animal kingdom.”

Related content:
Sex burns 3.6 calories a minute.
Apparently, brown bears like oral sex, too!
Scientists catch male spiders giving oral sex.

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Seriously, Science?

Seriously, Science?, formerly known as NCBI ROFL, is the brainchild of two prone-to-distraction biologists. We highlight the funniest, oddest, and just plain craziest research from the PubMed research database and beyond. Because nobody said serious science couldn't be silly!
Follow us on Twitter: @srslyscience.
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