Last week, a fiery meteor streaked across the sky, then burst into bits over the border of Maine and Canada. As a time capsule from our solar system, the bits are so scientifically valuable that a Maine Museum is offering $25K for the first piece weighing at least 2.2 lbs. Find it! Or read on about rainbows, plant talk, and jellyfish nutrition.
If you’ve hoped to follow a rainbow to its end to find the pot of gold, we’ve got bad news for you. Although we usually see just the top “bow” of the rainbow, under the right conditions — i.e. where water drops refract light — it’s a full circle. The bottom of the circle is often obscured by the ground, but read HERE about how to see it.
Tomato and tobacco plants “scream” when they’re stressed
If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound? Apparently so. Not only does it crash down, but it also announces its distress, according to a recent study. But, if a tree falls in a forest and someone is around to hear it, they won’t hear the plant sounds because they’re ultrasonic, higher than our hearing range.
Previous studies showed that plants vibrate in response to drought stress. Researchers wondered whether the popping sounds — from air bubbles forming and then collapsing — had any signal value to animals or other plants. They confined plants to a greenhouse box with microphones and then either deprived them of water or snipped their stems (botanical torture?).
The plants did not disappoint. Using AI to interpret the sounds, says study author Lilach Hadany, “We can tell by the sound if it's a tomato or a tobacco plant and if the tomato is dry.” Curiously, tomato plants emitted more sounds. Sensitive little crops, aren’t they? The sounds carry far enough that they provide relevant information to herbivorous organisms with ultrasonic hearing.
"Near complete" dinosaur skull is the first of its kind in Australia
About 100 million years ago, Matilde, Alex, Oliver, and Ann were wandering around the swampy river plains of Queensland, Australia. While (at ~15 m long and ~15 tons) these Diamantinasaurus matildae were smaller than some of their titanosaur cousins, they would made footprints in the mud. But conditions must be just right for fossilization.
Thus, a recently discovered skull is only the fourth fossil specimen found of this species. Because it’s a rather complete skull, this specimen — “Ann” — provides evidence that D. matildae was closely related to another species that lived at the same time, Sarmientosaurus musaccioi. But the latter lived in South America, providing evidence of dinosaur travel via an Antarctic land bridge connection between the continents.
Explains study author Stephen Poropat, “The window between 100 and 95 million years ago was one of the warmest in Earth’s geologically recent history, meaning that Antarctica, which was more or less where it is now, had no ice.” So, titanosaurs of various species may have migrated across until their extinction at the cataclysmic asteroid that ended the Cretaceous.
Only monkeys with opposable thumbs are gullible to this magic trick
We already knew that monkeys are smart, but how smart? Researchers observed how three species of monkeys responded to a classic sleight-of-hand trick known as the French Drop. They performed the trick on 8 each of capuchin monkeys, squirrel monkeys, and marmosets. Instead of a coin, they used treats to make the trick more alluring.
In the new study, the squirrel monkeys were repeatedly duped by the trick, choosing the hand without the food reward 93% of the time, and the capuchins were not far behind at 81% poor choices. The marmosets were less gullible, choosing the empty hand only 6% of the time. Why?
The researchers hypothesize that the opposable thumbs of squirrel and capuchin monkeys make them fall for this trick since — like humans — they can picture the reward getting transferred in the fake thumb-forefinger pinch. Says study author Nicola Clayton, “How one’s fingers and thumbs move helps to shape the way we think, and the assumptions we make about the world.”
In another trial that did a trick with a no-thumbs power grab, all three monkey species went hungry. If you want to try slight-of-hand tricks using treats on other species, such as your dog, be prepared for some disappointment.
Between you and us, why would you ever eat a jellyfish? I guess, if you’re sharing a meal with a sea turtle, it’s a justifiable bonding experience (although see HERE that the diver pretends to bite). Seriously, jellyfish are mostly water, with little or no carbohydrates, fats, or proteins. Yet, they’re eaten by invertebrates, fishes, and marine turtles.
Now, a 2020 paper reported that jellyfish contain fatty acids, which are key to growth and reproduction; fatty acids are used to build cell membranes. The researchers analyzed moon jellies (Aurelia aurita) from a German fjord, sampling them every two weeks for two years. They found that mature jellies with reproductive tissues had higher concentrations of fatty acids.
Still, jellies are not much of a meal, but since they can’t run away, a predator can eat a bunch of them and benefit from the cumulative nutrition. Said study author Jamileh Javidpour, “It is true that a predator does not get much from eating a single jellyfish, but if it eats many, it will make a difference and provide the predator with valuable fatty acids.” It’s kind of like our getting vitamins from watermelon.
A recent study analyzing the nutritional composition of 150 moon jellies confirms that as they age, jellyfishes accumulate nutritious elements from their own diets. Baby jellies are restricted to filtering out tiny plankton, but as they grow, they can eat larger prey of larval shrimps and crabs. As they get older, they get longer and more numerous tentacles and larger bells surrounding their mouths. An adult jelly may even snag a grown fish, such as in this dramatic video.
"As they feed on bigger prey with higher levels of fatty acids, the jellyfish accumulate more of these fatty acids. This means bigger jellyfish might be considered more nutritious," says study author Jessica Schaub. That’s good to know, since they may become a sustainable food of the future; see how a chef waxes poetic about their meatiness HERE.
And on the subject of jellyfish in human diets, they’re also proving useful for weight control. You don’t see too many obese jellies, unless you count the blue blubber jellyfish, which isn’t fair because that’s just its natural shape: chubby arms covered with stingers and multiple mouths. Well, it turns out that jellyfish have satiety molecules — peptides — that humans might co-opt for weight loss.
Researchers recently identified a particular peptide (GLWamide) that suppresses feeding in jellies. When isolated and given to hungry jellyfish, they stopped eating. A similar peptide caused fruit flies to lose their appetite. Plus, an earlier study showed that obese rats treated with hydrolyzed jellyfish peptides lost weight and improved their BMIs. Who’s next?
Next time we’ll take a look at some innovations in monitoring human health.
Written by Devin Reese, Edited by Jake Currie
Copyright © 2021 Nerd Snacks, All rights reserved.
You are receiving this email because you signed up for the Nerd Snacks Newsletter.
Don't want to hear from us anymore?
We understand, but it won’t be the same without you!
Click here to unsubscribe
To view in your browser click here.