Flashback Friday: Scientists catch male spiders giving oral sex.

By Seriously Science | December 15, 2017 6:00 am

Darwin’s bark spiders are hands down the best spiders: they make giant webs that can span 25-meter-wide rivers, their silk is one of the strongest materials known to man, and, according to this study, male Darwin’s bark spiders give their mates oral sex. That is, if you define oral sex as “salivat[ing] onto female genitalia pre-, during, and post-copulation.” I know I do.

Spider behaviors include oral sexual encounters.

“Several clades of spiders whose females evolved giant sizes are known for extreme sexual behaviors such as sexual cannibalism, opportunistic mating, mate-binding, genital mutilation, plugging, and emasculation. However, these behaviors have only been tested in a handful of size dimorphic spiders. Here, we bring another lineage into the picture by reporting on sexual behavior of Darwin’s bark spider, Caerostris darwini. This sexually size dimorphic Madagascan species is known for extreme web gigantism and for producing the world’s toughest biomaterial. Our field and laboratory study uncovers a rich sexual repertoire that predictably involves cannibalism, genital mutilation, male preference for teneral females, and emasculation. Surprisingly, C. darwini males engage in oral sexual encounters, rarely reported outside mammals. Irrespective of female’s age or mating status males salivate onto female genitalia pre-, during, and post-copulation. While its adaptive significance is elusive, oral sexual contact in spiders may signal male quality or reduce sperm competition.”

Related content:
In beetles, it’s the female genitalia that need to be hard.
To avoid sexual cannibalism, praying mantis males choose well-fed females.
Study finds that male fiddler crabs are a**holes.

The secret to getting your cat to poop out its hairballs? Beet pulp.

By Seriously Science | December 11, 2017 6:00 am
Image: Flickr/Paul Anderson

Image: Flickr/Paul Anderson

Here’s a paper with a title that reads like poetry: “Beet pulp intake and hairball faecal excretion in mixed-breed shorthaired cats”. Laugh if you want, but if you’ve ever had a cat with hairballs, anything that gets them to poop them out instead of puke them up is pure poetry. Let’s just hope the beet pulp is no longer bright red because that would be… less than optimal.

Beet pulp intake and hairball faecal excretion in mixed-breed shorthaired cats.

“Hairball formation may induce vomiting and intestinal obstruction in predisposed cats. Some insoluble fibres as sugarcane fibre and cellulose can prevent hairball formation. The aim of this study was to evaluate the effect of beet pulp consumption, a moderate soluble and fermentable fibre source, on faecal trichobezoars excretion in adult shorthaired cats fed kibble diets. Read More

Flashback Friday: The scientifically-proven method for getting your bartender’s attention.

By Seriously Science | December 8, 2017 6:00 am

We’ve all been there: waiting at the bar, dying for a drink, but unable to catch the bartender’s attention. It’s easy to assume that we are being served (or rather, ignored) by a crappy bartender. But maybe it’s us. Maybe we’re the ones not giving the right signals that say “Beer me! Now!”. This is actually the best-case scenario, because it’s fixable, and these German scientists are here to help (and, eventually, to build a bartending robot). To determine the best way to signal to a bartender that you want a drink, they recorded real customer-bartender interactions and determined which signals caused patrons to be served: “The results revealed that bar staff responded to a set of two non-verbal signals: first, customers position themselves directly at the bar counter and, secondly, they look at a member of staff. Both signals were necessary and, when occurring together, sufficient.” And there you have it, folks. In terms of proving cause and effect, it doesn’t get better than “necessary and sufficient”. So, the next time you fail to get served at a bar, remember that it might not be the bartender–it might be you.

Automatic detection of service initiation signals used in bars.

“Recognizing the intention of others is important in all social interactions, especially in the service domain. Enabling a bartending robot to serve customers is particularly challenging as the system has to recognize the social signals produced by customers and respond appropriately. Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: ethanol

The bad news: your ice cubes are full of bacteria. The good news: we know how to kill it!

By Seriously Science | December 7, 2017 6:00 am
Image: Flickr/rich_f28

Image: Flickr/rich_f28

Yup, you read that right: according to this study, the ice you make in your freezer is full of bacteria, and some of it is the bad kind. Store-bought ice isn’t too bad, but you might want to be suspicious about the ice from your local watering hole. The good news is that many drinks we pour over the ice can kill those bacteria, including “alcohol, CO2, pH and antibacterial ingredients of vodka, whisky, Martini, peach tea, tonic water and coke.” I guess that makes it a carbonated peach tea with vodka for me!

Presence of pathogenic bacteria in ice cubes and evaluation of their survival in different systems.

“In this study, 60 samples of ice cubes produced at different levels (domestic, restaurant and industrial facilities), within a restricted geographical area, were investigated for their general microbiological characteristics through the analysis of populations other than enteric bacteria. Read More

Flashback Friday: Microbiologists discover caffeine-adapted bacteria living in the sludge in their office coffee machine.

By Seriously Science | December 1, 2017 6:00 am
Photo: flickr/Ricardo Bernardo

Photo: flickr/Ricardo Bernardo

We can just imagine the scenario that spawned this paper: a bunch of microbiologists sitting around the lab coffee machine, looking for a way to procrastinate, and voila…coffee machine microbiome! Here, the researchers not only sampled bacteria from 10 different Nespresso machines, but they also “conducted a dynamic monitoring of the colonization process in a new machine” (charge new lab coffee machine to grant: check). They found that bacteria rapidly colonized the sludge that sits inside the machines, and many of these species were adapted to the high levels of caffeine and other compounds found in coffee. We’d suggest that they study what lives in the office fridge next, but really–not even a microbiologist wants to go there!

The coffee-machine bacteriome: biodiversity and colonisation of the wasted coffee tray leach

“Microbial communities are ubiquitous in both natural and artificial environments. However, microbial diversity is usually reduced under strong selection pressures, such as those present in habitats rich in recalcitrant or toxic compounds displaying antimicrobial properties. Caffeine is a natural alkaloid present in coffee, tea and soft drinks with well-known antibacterial properties. Here we present the first systematic analysis of coffee machine-associated bacteria. Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: eat me

Do emotions related to alcohol consumption differ by alcohol type?

By Seriously Science | November 30, 2017 6:00 am
Photo: flickr/Nick Harris

Photo: flickr/Nick Harris

When you’re choosing a drink at a bar, what goes into that decision? We know that taste has a lot to do with it, but according to this study, emotions may come into play as well: more specifically, the emotions brought about by the type of alcohol itself. Here, researchers used an online survey of almost 30,000 people around the world to explore the emotions associated with drinking different kids of alcohol. They found that “Overall 29.8% of respondents reported feeling aggressive when drinking spirits, compared with only 7.1% when drinking red wine. Women more frequently reported feeling all emotions when drinking alcohol, apart from feelings of aggression.” Beer and wine also made people feel relaxed and tired, while hard alcohol made people energetic, confident, and sexy, but also ill. Check out Table 1 in the paper for the full results–just in time for the holiday season!

Do emotions related to alcohol consumption differ by alcohol type? An international cross-sectional survey of emotions associated with alcohol consumption and influence on drink choice in different settings

Objectives To examine the emotions associated with drinking different types of alcohol, explore whether these emotions differ by sociodemographics and alcohol dependency and whether the emotions associated with different drink types influence people’s choice of drinks in different settings.

Design International cross-sectional opportunistic survey (Global Drug Survey) using an online anonymous questionnaire in 11 languages promoted through newspapers, magazines and social media from November 2015 to January 2016.

Study population
Individuals aged 18–34 years who reported consumption of beer, spirits, red and white wine in the previous 12 months and were resident in countries with more than 200 respondents (n=21 countries; 29 836 respondents).

Main outcome measures
Positive and negative emotions associated with consumption of different alcoholic beverages (energised, relaxed, sexy, confident, tired, aggressive, ill, restless and tearful) over the past 12 months in different settings.
Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: ethanol, feelings shmeelings

FlashBlack Friday: Which makes you happier: anticipating an experience or a purchase?

By Seriously Science | November 24, 2017 10:32 am
Photo: flickr/monkeymashbutton

Photo: flickr/monkeymashbutton

Psychologists have known for some time now that so-called “experiential purchases” (when you spend money to experience something, like a Broadway show or a vacation) make people happier than material purchases (like a couch or car). This may seem somewhat counter-intuitive because experiences always end at some point, whereas material purchases last longer. However, it’s well known that people get used to things that are around them every day, and they soon lose their appreciation for even the most expensive couches and cars. But all that’s after the fact; these scientists wondered whether the anticipation of the different types of purchases would also differ. To test this, they used a combination of lab experiments, surveys (www.trackyourhappiness.org), and analysis of news archives about people waiting to buy things. They found that the mere anticipation of experiential purchases was also more pleasurable, likely also because of their fleeting nature. The authors summarize their results on a (somewhat ridiculous) poetic note: “People are less inclined to wait for a Volvo, Polo, or Lenovo than to sip Pernod, take a furlough, or open a Merlot because waiting for the latter is simply more pleasurable.”

Waiting for Merlot: Anticipatory Consumption of Experiential and Material Purchases

“Experiential purchases (money spent on doing) tend to provide more enduring happiness than material purchases (money spent on having). Although most research comparing these two types of purchases has focused on their downstream hedonic consequences, the present research investigated hedonic differences that occur before consumption. We argue that waiting for experiences tends to be more positive than waiting for possessions. Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: feelings shmeelings

Flashback Friday: Men with beards are more likely to be sexist.

By Seriously Science | November 17, 2017 6:00 am
Image: Flickr/Loren Kerns

Image: Flickr/Loren Kerns

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.

The Association Between Men’s Sexist Attitudes and Facial Hair.

“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

Are the oysters listening?

By Seriously Science | November 14, 2017 9:06 am

originalRemember the scene in the original Alice and Wonderland movie when the walrus lures a group of baby oysters out of the water by playing the flute? Obviously, the plausibility of this scene relies heavily on oysters having a sense of hearing – but how realistic is that? These scientists set out to answer this question by playing different frequencies of sounds to Pacific oysters and measuring their valve movements in response. They found that “oysters transiently closed their valves in response to frequencies in the range of 10 to <1000 Hz, with maximum sensitivity from 10 to 200 Hz.” These frequencies are produced by many of the oysters’ natural predators (fish, lobsters) as well as human activity (boats, drilling) and — you guessed it — flutes. Clearly, the walrus knew what he was doing.

The sense of hearing in the Pacific oyster, Magallana gigas

“There is an increasing concern that anthropogenic noise could have a significant impact on the marine environment, but there is still insufficient data for most invertebrates. What do they perceive? We investigated this question in oysters Magallana gigas (Crassostrea gigas) using pure tone exposures, accelerometer fixed on the oyster shell and hydrophone in the water column. Groups of 16 oysters were exposed to quantifiable waterborne sinusoidal sounds in the range of 10 Hz to 20 kHz at various acoustic energies. The experiment was conducted in running seawater using an experimental flume equipped with suspended loudspeakers. The sensitivity of the oysters was measured by recording their valve movements by high-frequency noninvasive valvometry. The tests were 3 min tone exposures including a 70 sec fade-in period. Three endpoints were analysed: the ratio of responding individuals in the group, the resulting changes of valve opening amplitude and the response latency. At high enough acoustic energy, oysters transiently closed their valves in response to frequencies in the range of 10 to <1000 Hz, with maximum sensitivity from 10 to 200 Hz. The minimum acoustic energy required to elicit a response was 0.02 m∙s-2 at 122 dBrms re 1 μPa for frequencies ranging from 10 to 80 Hz. As a partial valve closure cannot be differentiated from a nociceptive response, it is very likely that oysters detect sounds at lower acoustic energy. The mechanism involved in sound detection and the ecological consequences are discussed.”

Related content:
Flashback Friday: Researchers identify mysterious sounds first heard by 1960s submarines.
Anemones can detach from rocks and swim, and it looks hilarious.
Study finds that male fiddler crabs are a**holes.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: fun with animals

Flashback Friday: Apparently, vigorous orgasms can burst a blood vessel in your eye and blind you.

By Seriously Science | November 10, 2017 6:00 am

Image: Flickr/SuperFantastic

Image: Flickr/SuperFantastic


Who doesn’t love a good medical case study involving sex? We certainly do! Here’s one about a patient who became blind in one eye after a vigorous romp in the sack. Apparently he experienced what’s known as a “valsalva manoeuvre” during orgasm–basically, by holding his breath and pushing on his diaphragm (like you do when you’re trying to clear your nose), he drastically increased the blood pressure in his eye. The result? A burst blood vessel and blindness. It turns out that this isn’t uncommon during orgasm–but hey, at least it’s temporary!

Postcoital visual loss due to valsalva retinopathy.

“A 29-year-old male patient presented to eye emergency clinic after noticing a left paracentral scotoma on waking. On direct questioning the patient revealed an episode of vigorous sexual intercourse the preceding evening. Read More

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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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