animals

Ancient documents decay over time. Understanding the underlying cause of the deterioration is obviously necessary to prevent or reverse it.

Many ancient documents were created on parchment, which is derived from animal skin. Over time, parchments can be covered in purple spots, making the documents unreadable. (See upper left image.) For the past 40 years, scientists have tried to figure out what was responsible for the splotches, but little progress was made. But now, a team of mainly Italian researchers believes it has identified a potential cause.

The authors obtained a nearly 800-year-old, 5-meter-long parchment from the Vatican Secret Archives that details the story of a young soldier who accidentally killed a man and went into a self-imposed exile for 34 years. The...

Biologists have long known that small animal species, if they migrate from the mainland to an island or other isolated habitat, will evolve over time to become larger. Conversely, large animal species evolve to become smaller, a phenomenon referred to as "insular dwarfing." Combined, these two observations have led to the "island rule," which suggests that animals on islands evolve to an intermediate size.

Like most evolutionary modifications, changes to the average body size of an entire species generally take thousands of years. But now, researchers describe wild cattle on Amsterdam Island in the southern Indian Ocean that lost about 25% of their body size in just over 100 years.

In 1871, five...

It has been a gruesome few weeks for United Airlines. After making international headlines for dragging a paying customer off a plane, it earned yet more notoriety when a giant bunny died on one of its flights. 

This led Business Insider to research which airline was the worst when it came to pet deaths. Its investigation led to the brutal headline: "United had more pet deaths in 2016 than any other major US airline."

Ouch! But is it true? Technically yes, but statistically no. And it's the statistics that matter, not the raw numbers.

Here's the original graphic Business Insider created:

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Are you your dog? Is your dog you? Or, elements of your personality traits anyway. Researchers set out to explore these and other queries.

Can we extrapolate from this new science to apply these questions to your human children?

Faculty from the University of Vienna’s Department of Behavioral Biology in Austria sought to explore the human-dog dyad (aka a group of two -units, entities, humans, animals) suggesting owner and dog social characteristics impact each other’s stress responses and thereby influence coping capacity. Recognizing the human role is more influential, they investigated “intra-individual cortisol variability” (iCV) which is regulated and adjusted by interactions that range from contentious to emotionally supportive. Heart rate (HR) and its fluctuations...

More rational than you?

Though we consider ourselves quite clever (Homo sapiens means "wise man"), humans are notoriously poor at risk perception.

As this cartoon cleverly illustrates, people get worked up over tiny threats, like Ebola, while ignoring much greater dangers like obesity and tobacco. People play the Mega Millions lottery even though they have a better chance of being struck by lightning, eaten by a shark, or murdered

Other animals aren't any smarter. In a recent experiment, reported by Science's...

Smarter than the average orangutan

Though reality TV would seem to challenge the notion, highly social creatures tend to be more intelligent than non-social creatures. The reason is because it takes brain power to communicate and thrive in a society. A successful wolf, for instance, must be bright enough to pick up on behavioral cues from the alpha male and to understand his place in the social hierarchy.

Cognitive scientists believe that social learning -- i.e., learning behaviors from others -- enhances an animal's ability to learn new things by itself. In other words, social intelligence helps promote individual intelligence. This idea, called the cultural intelligence hypothesis, also has a corollary: Social species should have evolved to be better at problem-solving than related, non-social species. 

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