Monthly Archives: June 2016

Scientists stumped by worrisome rise in shark attacks on sea otters

The number of sea otters off the coast of California that die after being bitten but not eaten by great white sharks has grown so rapidly over 15 years that shark bites are now the greatest source of sea otter mortality, and the trend could affect the species’ survival. Climate change, shark population shifts and other factors are among the drivers scientists have considered, but they are largely stumped, as there’s no evidence a great white has ever actually eaten one of the mammals.

National Geographic News (free registration) (6/23)

CDC reports ties between salmonella outbreaks and pet turtles

Fifteen salmonella outbreaks across the US from 2006 to 2014 were associated with handling pet turtles and resulted 921 individuals being infected, with about half of cases occurring in children younger than 10, according to a CDC study published in Emerging Infectious Diseases. The findings also showed that patients were hospitalized in 156 cases and one infant died.

ABC News (6/15),  HealthDay News (6/15)

Blame evolution for finicky cats

Cats are notoriously finicky eaters, but they’ve evolved that way, according to a study published in Royal Society Open Science. Cats are hypercarnivores, requiring a 1:1 ratio of energy from protein to energy from fat, and the study showed cats will choose foods with that balance even when that food choice is less aromatic and tasty than others. Cats also are naturally neophobic, instinctively avoiding new foods because eating something with the wrong content in the wild could mean serious gastrointestinal upset. Veterinarian Martha Cline suggests domestic cats may need more protein in their diet.

Seeker (6/15)

Complexity of bird brains explains their talents

Birds have been documented using tools, recognizing their own reflections and storing food for future consumption, and a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences helps explain why. Bird brains pack more neurons into each gram of brain tissue than most other species, including humans, and birds have more neurons in the pallium, the part of the brain that helps regulate voluntary actions, while mammals have more cerebellar neurons than birds.

Quartz (6/17)

Study: sticky mucus helps chameleons secure prey on their tongues

Chameleons keep their prey glued to their tongues with sticky mucus, a new study published in Nature Physics suggests. Chameleons quickly snatch their prey with their strong, fast tongues, but scientists at Belgium’s University of Mons wanted to know how the prey stays attached during the process, so they studied chameleons’ spit and found it has the viscosity of honey.

The Christian Science Monitor (6/20)

Contraception implants may stem kangaroo population

Kangaroos outnumber people in Australia by two to one, which results in conflicts between the two species, high levels of disease and poor health among the animals, and annual culling of over 5 million kangaroos. However, University of Melbourne scientists tested a contraceptive implant in kangaroos, finding that of the 75 females given the contraceptive device in 2013, only one became pregnant.

New Scientist (6/20)