Episode 34: “I’m Not Left-Handed, Either!”

What is the advantage of being right/left-handed? How does that change if you’re a predator attacking with a group? And how can a fish have handedness in the first place? Relax. All will be answered.

Today’s paper is:

Kurvers, R. H. J. M., S. Krause, P. E. Viblanc, J. E. Herbert-Read, P. Zaslansky, P. Domenici, S. Marras, J. F. Steffensen, M. B. S. Svendsen, A. D. M. Wilson, P. Couillaud, K. M. Boswell, and J. Krause 2016. The Evolution of Lateralization in Group Hunting Sailfish Current Biology. DOI: 10.1016/j.cub.2016.12.044

And the decent puzzle is called “ten gloves.”

Episode 33: Can Dark Feathers Protect Birds from Pollution?

You can’t see the heavy metals in this picture, but they’re there. So how is this pigeon supposed to deal with that?

Feathers are made darker by melanin, which is known to bind heavy metals. In this study, researchers test the idea that darker birds might be protected from things like lead by the ability to store that crap in their feathers.

Chatelain, M., J. Gasparini, and A. Frantz. 2016. Do trace metals select for darker birds in urban areas? An experimental exposure to lead and zinc. Global Change Biology. DOI: 10.1111/gcb.13170

This week’s decent puzzle is called “Two Trees.”

Episode 32: Why do Seals have Whiskers?

Harbour Seal (Photo by Mark Dodge)

Whiskers are specialized hairs that are especially sensitive to touch. Your cat uses them to know when it’s walking along a wall in the dark. So why would a swimming seal need them? Oh, wouldn’t you like to know! Have a listen. I guarantee the seals will impress you.

The paper is:

Niesterok B., Y. Krüger, S. Wieskotten, G. Dehnhardt, and W. Hanke. 2015. Hydrodynamic detection and localization of artificial flatfish breathing currents by harbour seals (Phoca vitulina). Journal of Experimental Biology. DOI: 10.1242/jeb.148676.

Episode 31: Madagascar’s Most Mysterious Bat

Madagascar’s Eastern Sucker-footed Bat

This bat has adhesive organs on its wrists and ankles that it uses to hold on to the smooth surfaces of leaves. It can even hang upside down from a horizontal pane of glass! But that’s not what makes it Madagascar’s most mysterious microbat. Have a listen.

The paper is:

Ralisata, M., D. Rakotondravony, and P. A. Racey 2015. The Relationship between Male Sucker-Footed Bats Myzopoda aurita and the Traveller’s Tree Ravenala madagascariensis in South-Eastern Madagascar. Acta Chiropterologica. DOI: 10.3161/15081109ACC2015.17.1.008.

Episode 30: Does seeing the poor make people more generous?


Seeing poor people makes subjects less supportive of laws to help poor people.

What the hell is wrong with humanity?

Depressing? Maybe. But if you’re someone who tries to build support for social programs, there’s some important stuff here.

The paper is:

Sands, M. L. 2017. Exposure to inequality affects support for redistribution. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the USA. DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1615010113.

Episode 29: How to Crowd-source Correct Answers

If you ask a large group of people a question, to which only some of them know the right answer, how can you use their responses to find the truth? A new paper in Nature describes a method that the authors show works really well.

The paper is called:

Prelec, D., H. S. Seung, and J. McCoy. 2017. A solution to the single-question crowd wisdom problem. Nature. DOI: 10.1038/nature21054.

Puzzle 29 is called “Rolling a Six.”