The Secret’s in the Knots

brown recluse

A series of tiny knots make the silk of a brown recluse spider super strong. (Photo credit: Miles Boyer/Shutterstock)

Though most infamous for its deadly venomous bite, the brown recluse is also known for its unusual silk. Now researchers have discovered the secret behind the construction of this dangerous spider’s unique silk. [Read more…]

What’s That Smell?

corpse flower

The corpse flower can sure raise a stink. (Photo credit: Isabelle OHara/Shutterstock)

Its aroma is likened to that of decaying flesh or rotting meat. All who have gotten a whiff firsthand agree it’s a scent you won’t soon forget.  [Read more…]

Convinced Your Dog is Smart? You Might Be Right

guide dog

Humans have long recognized the alertness, trainability, and friendly temperament of many dog breeds and pressed them into service for such very personal tasks as serving as trusted guides for the visually impaired. New research out of Hungary shows that dogs may possess an even more beautiful mind the previously thought.(Photo credit: bobbymn/iStockphoto.com)

If you have a dog, you probably think yours is the smartest dog in the world. New research from Hungary just may prove you’re correct. [Read more…]

I Am Mouse, Hear Me Roar

mouse

Mice and many other rodents make ultrasonic sounds that they use to attract mates and defend territories. (Photo credit: Digital Zoo/Getty Images)

Stammering speech, or stuttering, has traditionally been thought to be an indication of anxiety or stress. A large amount of evidence, however, has long supported the idea that it must have some genetic component. For instance, identical twins often both stutter, as do other family members. In 2008, scientists at the National Institute of Deafness and Other Communication Disorders identified that those who stuttered often had a mutation in the gene Gnptab. The discovery was particularly interesting, because, previously, the gene had only been believed to be related to “general housekeeping” of the body, such as digestion. How could a gene that affects every cell of the body cause something so mechanical as stuttering? [Read more…]

A “Sixth Sense”? It May Be in Your Genes

blind-folded woman

Scientists have discovered proteins responsible for proprioception. (Photo credit: Sergey Nivens/Shutterstock)

As senses go, touch might be the least understood. While touch-associated maladies do exist, we don’t often read about sufferers from them. A team of researchers at the Scripps Research Institute spent decades looking into how organisms perceive changes in temperature and pressure. [Read more…]

This Antenna Has Teeth: The Psychic Sawfish

sawfish

The sawfish’s snout is an incredible tool. (Photo credit: TOM MCHUGH/Getty Images)

In cartoons, a sawfish could find itself being unwittingly plucked from the water to serve as a handy tool for any number of purposes. In reality, the long, sharp-toothed snouts of these shark relatives are found to be something much more than an appendage reminiscent of a handsaw. [Read more…]

Meet the Dung Beetle, Keen Navigator by Starlight

dung beetle

Dung beetles use starlight to navigate at night. (Photo credit: Cathy Withers-Clarke/Shutterstock)

It’s a disgusting way to live, but dung beetles do it … and thereby deserve their unenviable name. Males of the species seek out steaming piles of manure, descend on them, shape some of the smelly stuff into balls, and roll them away from chaos of the pile, hopefully attracting a mate along the way. [Read more…]

Do You Smell a Rat … Or Should the Rat Smell You?

African giant pouched rat

Some animals, such as this African giant pouched rat, are being used to sniff out disease in humans. (Photo credit: Penny Boyd/Alamy Stock Photo)

In 1989, a paper appearing in the British medical journal The Lancet made an astounding claim. Two dermatologists reported how a patient decided to come in for an exam because her dog kept sniffing a mole on her leg. The dog even tried to bite it off at one point. Tests proved it was a malignant melanoma nearly two millimeters thick. When removed, the woman survived, and the study would eventually become known as the ‘First Lancet Letter’ or the first time in a peer-reviewed medical journal that an animal’s senses had been linked to the detection of disease. [Read more…]

The Cockroach Communication Network

cockroach

New research indicates cockroach communication is dependent on microbes in their feces. (Photo credit: Erik Karits/Shutterstock)

Chances are, you’ve seen a gathering of cockroaches some place at some time. Conditions don’t even need to be especially filthy for these most reviled of insect pests to appear.

[Read more…]

Sweet Potatoes Genetically-Modified by Bacteria 8000 Years Ago

sweet potato

Scientists recently discovered that the sweet potato contains DNA sequences that originated in bacteria. (Photo credit: mama_mia/Shutterstock)

It’s Thanksgiving time again – that time for turkey, stuffing, cranberries, and, for many, sweet potatoes. While known for its nutritious qualities and sweet flavor, new research indicates that the sweet potato may also be the first known example of a naturally genetically modified food. [Read more…]