Double X: Their chirpin’ cheatin’ hearts

May 15, 2009

My latest Double X post is up…and it’s all about tits. Blue tits, that is.

The hoary old evolutionary explanation for gender differences is that males are slutty and females are choosy. Males sleep around in order to fertilize as many eggs as possible, while females guard their virtue until Prince Charming comes along. But with the advent of genetic techniques (and in my opinion, female biologists), scientists have found that nature overflows with wanton females. Figuring out evolutionary reasons for looseness in ladies is harder—since each egg can only be fertilized once, having lots of sex won’t necessarily lead to more babies. A study on a European songbird, published in last month’s Current Biology, reveals one possible reason for female infidelity—bastard chicks are bigger and stronger than their legit half-siblings.

Check out the rest at the Oyster’s Garter outpost.


My Double X debut: dolphin smackdown!

May 13, 2009

ResearchBlogging.org

My very first blog post at the new Slate spinoff Double X is up. As Double X’s resident marine biologist, I figured that I needed to get the dolphin issue out of the way post haste.

It never fails. Every single cocktail party, as soon as someone finds out that I’m a graduate student studying marine biology, they ask, “So, do you get to play with dolphins?” Since my heart is as black and cold as the oceanic abyss, I usually take this opportunity to disillusion yet another poor soul of their childhood fantasy of Mystical Dolphin Love.

Dolphins are not gentle or psychic. If they could talk they would not impart eco-wisdom or deep spiritual truth. Dolphins are violent predators with a predilection for baby killing and rape. I feel it’s my duty to warn you, despite the risk of insulting creatures made of hundreds of pounds of muscle and rows of sharp teeth. Throw out your rainbow dolphin painting, and check out dolphins’ low-down dirty secrets:

Head over to the shiny pretty Double X site for the rest.

Don’t believe my tales of dolphin deeds done dirt cheap? The original peer-reviewed research is listed below. Or check out the lads of Southern Fried Scientist on dolphin worship and the evils of dolphin-safe tuna.

Oh, and you know that whole thing about Double X syndicating the Oyster’s Garter? Well, somehow I got it totally wrong. Most weeks, I’ll be posting at the Double X outpost on Tuesdays and Thursdays. The rest of the time I’ll be comfortably ensconced right here.

The research behind the Scientific Dolphin Smackdown:

Connor, R., Richards, A., Smolker, R., & Mann, J. (1996). Patterns of Female Attractiveness in Indian Ocean Bottlenose Dolphins Behaviour, 133 (1), 37-69 DOI: 10.1163/156853996X00026

LYAMIN, O., MANGER, P., RIDGWAY, S., MUKHAMETOV, L., & SIEGEL, J. (2008). Cetacean sleep: An unusual form of mammalian sleep Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews, 32 (8), 1451-1484 DOI: 10.1016/j.neubiorev.2008.05.023

Patterson, Reid, & Wilson (1998). Evidence for Infanticide in Bottlenose Dolphins: An Explanation for Violent Interactions with Harbour Porpoises? Proc Biol Sci., 265 (1402)


TGIF: Glowy jellyfish-puppies

April 24, 2009

Why make glowy transgenic jellyfish-puppies? Because…because…SCIENCE!


Subtle ways to tell your elephant seal that she’s not fat enough

April 22, 2009

Along with several other ocean bloggers, I recently received a email from AskMen.com plugging their Top 10 Ocean Rivalries piece. Though I generally think that bringing ocean love (or slime or violence) to new audiences is a Good Thing, some of the assholery at AskMen.com sets my feminist leg hairs on end. Then I realized that ocean love and mocking sexist bullshit are two great tastes that taste great together. So without further ado:

Subtle ways to tell your elephant seal that she’s not fat enough

Don’t you hate it when your special seal hauls up on the beach and you notice that she’s just not jiggling the way she used to? Blubber loss is a sensitive issue – after all, she’s spent weeks nursing a pup without eating. You can’t just bark “You’re losing weight and I find you less attractive!” You’ve got to make sure that’s she’s in the mood for love before she goes back to sea – as alpha male, it’s your job to get her pregnant before she goes back to sea for the year.

Don’t worry. We here at AskPinnipeds.com are here to give you the top subtle ways to tell your elephant seal that she’s not fat enough.

1) Dig her a comfy hole in the sand, but make it too big. When she tries to settle in but doesn’t fit, she’ll realize that she’s half the seal she used to be.

2) Couch it in terms of her health. What if she freezes in the deep sea or starves during molting season? Remind her that she’ll be going back to sea already pregnant, and that she needs her strength.

3) Playfully poke at her sides. She’ll feel self-conscious about her puny layer of fat and go back to sea early.

4) Pour sealant over her favorite section of the beach in order to glue the sand grains together. That way, when she hauls out, she’ll won’t even make a dent. Nothing plays on a seal’s self-esteem like undented sand.

5) If all else fails, “accidentally on purpose” squash her during mating. She’ll realize that if she was bigger, it wouldn’t be so unpleasant. That’ll show her!


TGIF: Parasite-themed klezmer

April 10, 2009

Please enjoy your klezmer with a side of toxoplasma. Happy Pesach! (Via Julie at Modern Mitzvot, whose seder I am very excited to be attending tonight.)


Walrus toots her own horn

March 27, 2009

TGIF, everyone!

Via Best Week Ever and Martini-Corona


Amazing stealth photos from camera traps

March 9, 2009

The World Wildlife Federation has a network of camera traps set up around the world. They’re triggered by infrared sensors that take a photo whenever something with heat moves. And the photos are so cool. Here’s a few selections from their Flickr group:

Devil panda:

AIEEE! Flash!

I wake up to this when I forget to feed the fat cat:

Thanks to @rmacpherson on Twitter. Ok, fine, I am hooked on Twitter.


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