We all know penguins are cute, especially when they waddle around on land. So the idea of putting penguins on a treadmill, like they do in this study, sounds like an easy way to rack up YouTube hits (e.g., see video below). Well, apparently this cute activity also has a scientific purpose. In the study, the authors measured the metabolic rates of penguins on treadmills, comparing males, breeding females, and moulting females. Because metabolic rates are related to food consumption, the results of these measurements can be incorporated into models of the food chain in Antarctica. Hey, as long as it means more penguins on treadmills, I’m on board!
“Twenty-four macaroni penguins (Eudyptes chrysolophus) from three groups, breeding males (N=9), breeding females (N=9) and moulting females (N=6), were exercised on a variable-speed treadmill. Heart rate (fH) and mass-specific rate of oxygen consumption (sVO2) were recorded from the animals, and both fh and sVO2 were found to increase linearly with increasing treadmill speed. Read More
We’ve featured many unfortunate allergies on this blog, from a peanut allergy transferred via lung transplant to a magician who was allergic to his own rabbit. But perhaps none is as unfortunate as the allergy described in this study. Here, the authors examined 45 Dutch men suffering from “postorgasmic illness syndrome” (POIS), which is characterized by a series of flu-like symptoms that come on about 30 minutes after ejaculation. After testing the men for allergies, the doctors conclude that the men with POIS are actually allergic to their own semen. Fortunately, the doctors successfully treated these poor fellows in a follow-up paper. The treatment? “Multiple subcutaneous (SC) injections with autologous semen.” That’s right–they gave allergy shots using the men’s own semen. At least it wasn’t someone else’s?
Postorgasmic illness syndrome (POIS) is a combination of local allergic symptoms and transient flu-like illness. In this study, the investigators propose five preliminary criteria to establish the diagnosis.
To describe the clinical details in 45 males being suspected of having POIS and to test an immunogenic hypothesis as the underlying mechanism of their presentations. Read More
If you’re like most people, you probably think that looks are mostly genetic–either you’re genetically “blessed” with good looks, or you’re not. But apparently it’s not as simple as that. According to this study, facial attractiveness in high school yearbook photographs increases with paternal education and parental income, “with the latter effect being stronger for female subjects.” In other words, rich kids tend to be more attractive, and especially girls. Whether the parents themselves being rich was related to their looks (which might make the effect genetic after all)…well, we’ll leave that for another study.
“Socio-economic conditions during early life are known to affect later life outcomes such as health or social success. We investigated whether family socio-economic background may also affect facial attractiveness. We used the Wisconsin Longitudinal Study (n = 8434) to analyze the association between an individual’s parental socio-economic background (in terms of father’s highest education and parental income) and that individual’s facial attractiveness (estimated by rating of high school yearbook photographs when subjects were between 17 and 20 years old), controlling for subjects’ sex, year of birth, and father’s age at subjects’ birth. Read More
Some dog owners swear that they can tell whether their dog is happy or sad by the expression on the pooch’s face. But how about the reverse — can dogs tell whether their owner is happy or sad just by their facial expression? According to this study, the answer is yes: in a series of experiments, dogs were able to distinguish between photos of happy and angry humans, even when the pups had never seen the photo before. This is actually the first study to demonstrate that an animal can distinguish between emotional expressions of a different species; the authors propose that dogs developed this special skill during the domestication process. We think it probably helps them know when to look guilty as well.
Dogs Can Discriminate Emotional Expressions of Human Faces
“The question of whether animals have emotions and respond to the emotional expressions of others has become a focus of research in the last decade [ 1–9 ]. However, to date, no study has convincingly shown that animals discriminate between emotional expressions of heterospecifics, excluding the possibility that they respond to simple cues. Here, we show that dogs use the emotion of a heterospecific as a discriminative cue. Read More
Happy Monday! For your (reading) pleasure, here is a study in which the authors–whose last names, by the way, are Herbenick, Barnhart, Beavers (ahem), and Benge–measured the average size of sex toys sold on popular websites. The conclusion? The average sex toy has similar dimensions to the average penis. But the extremes? Well, maybe you should just read the table (below) yourself…
Vibrators and Other Sex Toys are Commonly Recommended to Patients, But Does Size Matter? Dimensions of Commonly Sold Products.
Vibrators and dildos are commonly used by women and men in the United States, and are increasingly recommended by clinicians. In addition, sex toys and various household objects are sometimes used for sexual stimulation in ways that pose health risks to their users. Data about the dimensions of such products may inform clinicians’ recommendations.
The purpose of the present study was to assess the sizes (length and circumference) of vibrators and dildos marketed for vaginal or anal insertion on websites that sell sexual enhancement products.
Eight websites that sell sexual enhancement products were identified for inclusion in the study. The dimensions of vaginal vibrators and dildos listed for sale on each website were noted, and descriptive data were calculated for each website. Read More
Does the dog in the photo look guilty to you? If you are a dog owner, you might be more likely to answer yes to this question. But is there any scientific basis to the idea that dogs can look guilty? To find out, these researchers videotaped 14 different dogs in different situations, including giving the dogs “the opportunity…to disobey an owner’s command not to eat a desirable treat while the owner was out of the room.” Later, the owner either did or did not scold the dog for eating the treat. After careful analysis of the videotapes, the scientists found that the dogs only displayed the owner-identified “guilty look” when they were scolded, and especially when they had actually been obedient. Based on these results, the authors conclude that the so-called “guilty look” has more to do with being scolded rather than the dog actually knowing that he did something wrong.
Disambiguating the “guilty look”: salient prompts to a familiar dog behaviour.
“Anthropomorphisms are regularly used by owners in describing their dogs. Of interest is whether attributions of understanding and emotions to dogs are sound, or are unwarranted applications of human psychological terms to non-humans. One attribution commonly made to dogs is that the “guilty look” shows that dogs feel guilt at doing a disallowed action. In the current study, this anthropomorphism is empirically tested. Read More
Have you ever wondered why there are so many languages in the world, and why certain kinds of languages are found only in certain regions? According to this study, the answer to both of these questions might have something to do with the climate. Specifically, these scientists found that complex tonal languages, like those found in east Asia and central Africa, are more likely to exist in places with high humidity. Apparently, the humidity in the air affects which sounds we’re able to make with our vocal cords, and the sounds in tonal languages require higher humidity levels than those in other languages. Which of course leads me to wonder: what happens when Vietnamese is spoken in the middle of the Sahara?
“The sound systems of human languages are not generally thought to be ecologically adaptive. We offer the most extensive evidence to date that such systems are in fact adaptive and can be influenced, at least in some respects, by climatic factors. Read More
Do you like it hot? So hot it makes you cry? Well, according to this study, that means it’s likely you have a lot of testosterone. Here, researchers tested whether liking spicy food is related to testosterone levels in men. And sure enough, men with the highest levels of testosterone added the most Tabasco sauce to their mashed potatoes. This leaves us wondering whether this correlation holds for women, too. Thesis, anyone?
“In the present study, we analyzed the relationship between eating behavior of spicy food and endogenous testosterone. Read More
Penile fracture is no joke. It is a serious injury that occurs when an engorged penis is bent, breaking the lining of the corpus cavernosum, the two cylinders inside the penis that fill with blood. A broken penis can often be heard as a cracking sound, followed by intense bruising. Left untreated, this can result in life-long deformities and/or erectile dysfunction. Clearly, the best solution to all of this is to avoid breaking one’s penis altogether. But before you sign yourself up for a lifetime of abstinence, you should learn about the work of these researchers, who have combed through a number of penile fracture cases to determine which sexual positions are most dangerous. The number one culprit? Heterosexual sex with the woman on top. You’ve been warned.
“Purpose. To determine the mechanisms predisposing penile fracture as well as the rate of long-term penile deformity and erectile and voiding functions. Read More
Language is one of the most obvious features that distinguishes humans from their closest relatives, chimpanzees. Although chimps do make sounds that refer to specific objects (e.g., a certain grunt for “apple”), it was generally thought that these sounds, once learned, don’t change depending on the context. Enter these scientists, who moved a group of chimps from the Netherlands to the Edinburgh Zoo in Scotland to see what happened. Turns out that the Dutch chimps soon adopted the Scottish chimps’ sounds, which differed in their acoustic structure. Not only that, but the change only occurred after the immigrant chimps formed social bonds with their Scottish hosts, suggesting the Dutch chimps were learning the Scottish chimp language. Honestly, this sounds to me like the basis of a pretty awesome reality TV show…
“One standout feature of human language is our ability to reference external objects and events with socially learned symbols, or words. Exploring the phylogenetic origins of this capacity is therefore key to a comprehensive understanding of the evolution of language. While non-human primates can produce vocalizations that refer to external objects in the environment, it is generally accepted that their acoustic structure is fixed and a product of arousal states . Indeed, it has been argued that the apparent lack of flexible control over the structure of referential vocalizations represents a key discontinuity with language . Here, we demonstrate vocal learning in the acoustic structure of referential food grunts in captive chimpanzees. Read More