Despite the recent popularity of beards, facial hair can be controversial: as we’ve previously shown, it makes men less likely to get hired and more likely to be seen as guilty by a jury. Well, all you beard-haters out there, here’s some more ammunition for you. In this study, researchers surveyed men from the USA and India on both their facial hair and their attitudes towards women. They found that men with beards were more likely to be sexist, and they hypothesized that men who have sexist attitudes choose to grow beards to make them look more masculine and dominant. Nice try, Santa Claus.
“Facial hair, like many masculine secondary sexual traits, plays a significant role in perceptions of an array of sociosexual traits in men. While there is consensus that beards enhance perceptions of masculinity, age, social dominance, and aggressiveness, the perceived attractiveness of facial hair varies greatly across women. Given the ease with which facial hair can be groomed and removed entirely, why should some men retain beards and others choose to remove them? Read More
This report from Japan might just win the award for the cutest research of 2015. It describes how two elephants use their trunks like leaf blowers in order to move food into reach. The elephants, who live at the Kamine Zoo, control the number and length of the blows depending on how far away the food is. The video shows one elephant rounding up leaves with great accuracy… better than any rake I’ve ever seen!
Asian elephants acquire inaccessible food by blowing.
“Many animals acquire otherwise inaccessible food with the aid of sticks and occasionally water. As an exception, some reports suggest that elephants manipulate breathing through their trunks to acquire inaccessible food. Read More
It has already been shown that dogs wag their tails asymmetrically when presented with different stimuli, and other dogs seem to behave differently when viewing left vs. right wags of robot tails . But do dogs actually have different emotional responses to viewing left vs. right-wagging dogs? To investigate this, several Italian scientists hooked dogs up to heart monitors and showed them movies of other dogs, some wagging to the left, and others wagging to the right. Interestingly, viewing dogs with left-wagging tails induced higher heart rates and more anxiety than viewing right-wagging tails, implying that wagging might be a form of communication not only between dogs and owners, but also between dogs themselves.
“Left-right asymmetries in behavior associated with asymmetries in the brain are widespread in the animal kingdom, and the hypothesis has been put forward that they may be linked to animals’ social behavior. Read More
Conventional wisdom suggests that having sex more often should lead to greater happiness–after all, as John Updike said (at least according to this article) “Sex is like money; only too much is enough.” Well, these authors set out to test whether that’s actually true. By studying the results of nationwide surveys and using Amazon’s Mechanical Turk, they found that sex does make people happier…up to once a week, and only if they’re in a relationship. More often than that, and the effect plateaus (i.e., 4x a week has the same effect on happiness as 1x/week). Take that, Updike!
“Is it true that engaging in more frequent sex is associated with greater well-being? The media emphasizes—and research supports—the claim that the more sex you have, the happier you will feel. Across three studies (N ¼ 30,645), we demonstrate that the association between sexual frequency and well-being is best described by a curvilinear (as opposed to a linear) association where sex is no longer associated with well-being at a frequency of more than once a week. Read More
Several studies have found that men tend to view women with long hair as more attractive. But for some reason, no one has tested how a woman’s hairstyle affects men’s responses…until now. Enter our trusty friend Nicolas Guéguen and his band of female confederates. Guéguen had the women walk down the street with their hair in different styles (loose, ponytail, or bun) and pretend to accidentally drop a glove. They found that men (but not women) were more likely to help the women with their hair down. So what’s next for Nicolas? Check out his website for a pretty amazing compilation of topics, including “Women’s Hair Color and Donation: Blondes Received More Money.”
“Little research has examined the effect of women’s hairstyles on people’s behavior. In a field study, male and female passersby, walking alone in the street, were observed while walking behind a female-confederate who dropped a glove and apparently was unaware of her loss. The confederate had long dark hair arranged in three different hairstyles: one with her hair falling naturally on her shoulders and her back, one with her hair tied in a ponytail, and one with her hair twisted in a bun. Read More
Sexual fantasies: we all have them, yet many people think they’re in the minority when it comes to their own fantasy of choice. Enter these scientists, who took it upon themselves to catalog the most common sexual fantasies in a population of 1,516 people from Quebec, Canada. Turns out that very few fantasies are truly rare; the rest are primarily ranked as “common”, while a few are so common as to be “typical” (e.g., “receiving oral sex”). Curious where you rank on the list? See below for the full fantasy tally.
“Introduction: Although several theories and treatment plans use unusual sexual fantasies (SF) as a way to identify deviancy, they seldom describe how the fantasies referred to were determined to be unusual.
Aim: The main goal of this study was to determine which SF are rare, unusual, common, or typical from a statistical point of view among a relatively large sample of adults recruited from the general population. A secondary goal was to provide a statistical comparison of the nature and intensity of sexual fantasies for men and women. This study also aims at demonstrating with both quantitative and qualitative analyses that certain fantasies often considered to be unusual are common.
Methods: An Internet survey was conducted with 1,516 adults (799 ♀; 717 ♂) who ranked 55 different SF and wrote their own favorite SF. Each SF was rated as statistically rare (2.3% or less), unusual (15.9% or less), common (more than 50%), or typical (more than 84.1% of the sample).
Main Outcome Measures: An extended version of the Wilson’s Sex Fantasy Questionnaire with an open question.
Results: Only two sexual fantasies were found to be rare for women or men, while nine others were unusual. Thirty sexual fantasies were common for one or both genders, and only five were typical. These results were confirmed with qualitative analyses. Submission and domination themes were not only common for both men and women, but they were also significantly related to each other. Moreover, the presence of a single submissive fantasy was a significant predictor of overall scores for all SF in both genders.
Conclusion: Care should be taken before labeling an SF as unusual, let alone deviant. It suggested that the focus should be on the effect of a sexual fantasy rather than its content.”
Bonus table from the main text:
NCBI ROFL: 20% of people who turn to the internet for sexual fulfillment leave dissatisfied.
NCBI ROFL: The sexual histories of Catholic priests.
NCBI ROFL: References to the paraphilias and sexual crimes in the Bible.
Mushrooms! They’re cute, delicious, intoxicating, and might just kill you. And, if none of those abilities makes you crazy for basidiomycetes (the group of fungi that includes mushrooms), maybe this one will: according to these scientists, mushroom spores have the power to make it rain! Apparently, the structure of the spore surface allows water to condense around it. The resulting raindrop could help bring the spores down out of the clouds to the ground where they could germinate. The authors suggest that these spores may actually have a measurable effect on weather patterns. Mushrooms can make it rain–how trippy is that?
“Millions of tons of fungal spores are dispersed in the atmosphere every year. These living cells, along with plant spores and pollen grains, may act as nuclei for condensation of water in clouds. Read More
If you think love in the animal world is sweet, think again! From ducks who rape using corkscrew penises to a bedbug who “pierces the female’s abdominal wall with his external genitalia and inseminates into her body cavity” to spiders who self-castrate in order to fight harder, animal sex can be, well, beastly. But this study takes things to a new, and horrible, level. Here, scientists report that male orb-weaving spiders perform genital mutilation on females to ensure they never mate with another male. Yes, you read that right. Apparently, spider genitalia interlock during sex, and once the deed is done, the female’s external parts are removed, leaving her sterilized. The researchers go on to predict that this happens in at least 80 other species. Yikes!
Securing Paternity by Mutilating Female Genitalia in Spiders.
“Competition between males and their sperm over access to females and their eggs has resulted in manifold ways by which males try to secure paternity, ranging from physically guarding the female after mating to reducing her receptivity or her attractiveness to subsequent males by transferring manipulative substances or by mechanically sealing the female reproductive tract with a copulatory plug. Read More
Talk about being caught in flagrante delicto – these froghoppers somehow died while they were having sex, and they have now been doing the deed (in fossil form) for about 165 million years. In this paper, the archaeologists compare the bangin’ bugs’ positions to those of their living contemporaries, and find that “froghoppers’ genitalic symmetry and mating position have remained static for over 165 million years.” Insexy!
Mating behaviors have been widely studied for extant insects. However, cases of mating individuals are particularly rare in the fossil record of insects, and most of them involved preservation in amber while only in rare cases found in compression fossils. This considerably limits our knowledge of mating position and genitalia orientation during the Mesozoic, and hinders our understanding of the evolution of mating behaviors in this major component of modern ecosystems. Read More
We all know that plastic is generally terrible for the environment because it doesn’t biodegrade, and just sits in landfills. (Or even worse, gets tangled around some poor animal’s neck!) Fortunately, the lowly mealworm may hold the answer. As these scientists report, the worm Plodia interpunctella contains bacterial strains in its gut that are capable of breaking down polyethylene, the most common form of plastic (found in grocery bags, plastic bottles, and much more). Now if only we could figure out how to host these bacteria in our own guts, and simply eat our food packaging instead of throwing it away…
“ABSTRACT: Polyethylene (PE) has been considered nonbiodegradable for decades. Although the biodegradation of PE by bacterial cultures has been occasionally described, valid evidence of PE biodegradation has remained limited in the literature. We found that waxworms, or Indian mealmoths (the larvae of Plodia interpunctella), were capable of chewing and eating PE films. Read More