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

Three Years Later, Coauthor of “Blinded with Science” Paper Has Made Some Ironic Retractions

By Elizabeth Preston | February 28, 2018 7:46 pm

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EVEN MORE IRONIC UPDATE, 3/2/18: Despite what Aner Tal told me below, other researchers have tried to replicate this study—and failed. Thanks to those of you who pointed it out to me on Twitter. The 2014 post will be updated to reflect this.

Earlier this week, BuzzFeed published a detailed investigation of a prominent food psychologist who massaged and manipulated data to produce media-friendly results. You’ve probably heard of some of Cornell University professor Brian Wansink’s studies. There was the one with the “bottomless” soup bowl that refilled itself while subjects ate, to study portion control; the one about characters on cereal boxes making eye contact with kids from grocery-store shelves; and so on. Several of Wansink’s papers have been retracted for issues like duplicated material or unreliable data. More of them have been corrected after publication.

Reading about Wansink, I felt a sinking familiarity at the title of one of his papers: “Blinded with science: Trivial graphs and formulas increase ad persuasiveness and belief in product efficacy.” I wrote about it back in October 2014. Read More

MORE ABOUT: Nutrition, Psychology


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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