Episode 41: Eyes Before Flippers

This week early tetrapods pull themselves up on land by their eyes… metaphorically, that is. It’s the Buena Vista hypothesis and you’re going to love it.

MacIver, M. A., L. Schmitz, U. Mugan, T. D. Murphey, and C. D. Mobley. 2017. Massive increase in visual range preceded the origin of terrestrial vertebrates. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the USA DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1615563114.

…and the puzzle is about diagnosing a disease called stinky stink (perhaps named after something my 5-year-old says).

Episode 38: Flying Mosquitoes

Mosquito seen from eight angles at the same time. Data from Bomphrey et al. (2017).

Mosquitoes make a different sound from other flies their size because they beat their wings twice as fast as other insects their size. With such a high frequency, you knew something weird had to be going on.

The paper is:

Bomphrey, R. J., T. Nakata, N. Phillips, and S. M. Walker. 2017. Smart wing rotation and trailing-edge vortices enable high frequency mosquito flight. Nature DOI: 10.1038/nature21727

…and the puzzle is about a martini.


Episode 37: Laughing Parrots

Behold the majestic kea of New Zealand, which frequently chews on the rubber parts of parked cars. Bat expert Bill Schutt is shown for scale.

When you hear people laugh, you are more likely to laugh. This kind of thing has never been shown for a bird before, so let’s do some playback experiments with keas!

Schwing, R., X. J. Nelson, A. Wein, and S. Parsons. 2017. Positive emotional contagion in a New Zealand parrot Current Biology. DOI: 10.1016/j.cub.2017.02.020

Episode 36: Self-Medicating Neanderthals with Food in their Teeth

This week we learn a lot about Neanderthals from the DNA in the crap in their teeth. There’s some neat stuff here.

The paper is:

Weyrich, L. S., S. Duchene, J. Soubrier, L. Arriola, B. Llamas, J. Breen, A. G. Morris, K. W. Alt, D. Caramelli, V. Dresely, M. Farrell, A. G. Farrer, M. Francken, N. Gully, W. Haak, K. Hardy, K. Harvati, P. Held, E. C. Holmes, J. Kaidonis, C. Lalueza-Fox, M. de la Rasilla, A. Rosas, P. Semal, A. Soltysiak, G. Townsend, D. Usai, J. Wahl, D. H. Huson, K. Dobney, and A. Cooper. 2017. Neanderthal behaviour, diet, and disease inferred from ancient DNA in dental calculus Nature. DOI: 10.1038/nature21674

This week’s puzzle is about coffee.

Episode 35: Beetles Pretending to be Ants

This week it’s a great story about “ant-loving” (i.e. ant parasitizing) beetles that hide among army ants by looking and acting and smelling like one of them. This has evolved independently multiple times, even though the rove beetles are a very old group with lots of time diverge.

Maruyama, M., and J. Parker 2017. Deep-Time Convergence in Rove Beetle Symbionts of Army Ants Current Biology. DOI: 10.1016/j.cub.2017.02.030

The puzzle this week is called Andy’s Heart. Enjoy!