Saturday, October 15, 2016

Hearing voices: elephants can distinguish friends and foes

With experience, elephants learn that some humans are dangerous, while others are harmless.

Cool Elephant Fact 1:  When faced with a leopard call, elephants will not bother moving or changing their activity. When faced with a lion call, they freeze in place, perk up their ears to listen, and move off silently to avoid trouble.

Cool Elephant Fact 2:  They do the same with different groups of people.

One key to survival and biological fitness is knowing your enemies -- fleeing costs energy, so animals that know when to run and when to keep feeding will get to feed more than those that are perpetually nervous or interrupted while feeding.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Starting the day right means a good breakfast -- or not?

Yep. Fido makes a great point.

Nutritionists favoring a daily breakfast say that skipping that first meal increases hunger throughout the day, making people overeat and seek out snacks to compensate for missing that first – and some would say most important – meal of the day. Is this a myth?

And does skipping breakfast lead to weight gain?  Not really.  Or maybe, it depends on the study and the confounding factors. Men that skipped breakfast also tend to drink and smoke more, which can be controlled for, but likely do other things differently from breakfast eaters, things still undetected by researchers.

Nutrition studies are often based on observations or self-reporting, so the science behind nutritional recommendations can be insufficient, biased, or based on false information. Transparency in interpreting results would help, though more gray area tends to confuse a public already uncertain of how and what to eat!

What, in fact, is a breakfast for champions?

All this talk of dogs and eating reminds me of the ultimate dog tease — enjoy:

Thursday, September 1, 2016

A snaccident waiting to happen

What is snacking?

Is it eating small portions of healthy foods or drinks between main meals to keep your energy level up?

Or just grazing on what's handy because your stomach is rumbling?

Or pigging out at night while you are working, writing your blog post, or uploading photos to your favorite social media site?

Debate continues on the health benefits vs threats from snacking:

It could stabilize your blood sugar or curb your appetite so that you eat less during the next meal. (but apparently, this doesn't happen that often)

Or it could lead to weight gain, depending on your portion and the energy density (calories) of the foods. Research on the topics suggests:

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Head, shoulders, trunks and toes: how to tell elephant species apart

Up ahead, you see a massive grey animal. It has very little hair, small eyes and a long trunk for a nose. An elephant, of course. But do you know the difference between African and Asian elephants?

Here are the basics:

They are two different species!
Image credit: Thomson Safaris, Pinterest

Sunday, July 3, 2016

Octopuses take on aqua-jogging

octopus jetting across the ocean floor
An octopus jets across the ocean floor. Fwooosh!
Photo: Albert Kok, Wikimedia
Any injured runners who have tried to "run" in the water know it's hard -- the resistance to movement in water is far greater than in air -- so why would an octopus run?

Especially when they typically move through the water by jet propulsion.

Octopuses (octopi?), like other cephalopods, have both a mouth, which sits in the center of their arms, and a tube-shaped organ called a funnel, or siphon, near their heads, that they use to breathe by bringing oxygenated water to their gills.

They also use the siphon to create their own personal jet propulsion, by filling up their muscular mantle cavity (their body, basically) with water and then quickly expelling the water out of the siphon. Fwoooosh.

Sunday, June 5, 2016

Sunglasses don't just look cool, they protect your eyes and lids

Skin is sensitive to the sun's ultra-violet radiation. Ask Ellie!
Photo: George Powell
Summer's already here unofficially in North America. Time for us all to hit the beach remember to wear sunblock, a hat, and sunglasses.

Sunlight helps us maintain sufficient vitamin D in our systems, historically warding off tuberculosis and ricketts and possibly lowering the risk of some cancers (lung, colon, and breast cancers).

However, exposing our skin to too much ultraviolet (UV) light contributes to a host of health problems, sunburn being just the most immediate and obvious.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

How far can you carry your seed?

A North American migrant, the American robin,
is known for catching the worm, but over half its diet is fruit!
photo: Kristof-vt, Wikimedia commons
As we speak, millions of birds from hundreds of species are migrating north from the tropics to their summer breeding areas in Europe, northern Asia, and North America, where new leaves, fruits, seeds, and insects are super-plentiful now but disappear in the winter (when the birds fly south again).

The migration itself is miraculous, given the small size of many of these animals. Not just that they travel so far and so fast, but that some carry seeds between stops along the way, helping plants disperse over larger distances than people realized.