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Tricking Taste Buds: Easy as Miracle Fruit Pie?

December 18, 2014

© Getty Images / BBC

Here in Kerala we get the Indian gooseberry, or amla, which is described as sour, astringent, pungent, and bitter, but also sweet. A weird combination, right? Well after reading the article by Veronique Greenwood excerpted below, it seems that the transition from sour to sweet in one or two bites can be explained through some chemistry that takes place on the tongue:

Your tongue is not a blank slate. What you’ve just eaten can change the flavour of what you eat next – for better or for worse. It’s all because your taste buds respond differently when the environment around them shifts – an effect you can use to go on a little mouth-hacking tour. Read more…

First Witnessed Bonobo Birth

December 18, 2014

© BBC

Bonobos are the smaller and less researched species of chimpanzee, and just a few days ago the first birth witnessed in the wild by a human took place in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The three main discoveries that primatologist Pamela Heidi Douglas made while observing the birth were: the mother bonobo gave birth in a tree, rather than on the ground; the mother had two other females present at the birth, who may have served as midwives or at least supporters; and the mother and her female friends all ate the placenta after the birth. Matt Walker reports for the BBC:

For almost two years, Douglas has followed and studied the bonobos at Luikotale, as part of her research towards her PhD.

“One component of my Ph.D. research is the study of reproductive endocrinology in female bonobos,” she told BBC Earth.

To do this, Douglas regularly collected urine samples from Luna and other females in the community on a regular basis.

These were tested with human pregnancy kits, which can detect pregnancy in bonobos as well as other non-human primates.

Read more…

Bird of the Day: Asian Paradise Flycatcher (Nandi Hills, Karnataka)

December 17, 2014

Asian Paradise Flycatcher by Brinda Suresh - RAXA Collective

Predatory Selection

December 17, 2014

© BBC

Writing for the BBC Earth section, Colin Barras explores “how the ‘art of killing’ changed the world.” Did multicellular organisms arise because single-celled ones were too easily attacked? Did skeletons evolve primarily as protection against predators? And, maybe the hardest question to answer with certainty: did animals move from water to land because it would be easier to avoid getting eaten? Read the excerpted introduction below and follow the link to learn about these theories and others from Barras.

If you’ve ever seen a lion or a polar bear on the hunt, you know how powerful predators can be. Life may well have been troubled by these killer species since its very beginning, over 3.5 billion years ago, and they have wrought untold death and destruction. As a result they get a bad press: even the word “predator” stems from the Latin term to rob or plunder. Small wonder that, when people imagine paradise, it normally doesn’t have any predators in it.

Read more…

Hyphal Highways

December 16, 2014

Hyphae are filaments of cells that join together to make the structures in fungi. When you look at the fuzzy patch of mold growing on any of the fruit in your kitchen, you’re looking at lots of hyphae growing into the strands of mold (chances are the mold is a strain of Botrytis cinerea). There’s hundreds of reasons to be studying fungi today — the parasitic wonders they can achieve, the materials they can provide through science in the future, and the foods and medicines that can be cultivated or collected from them.

Read more…

Bird of the Day: Ibis (Sanibel Island, Florida)

December 16, 2014
photo credit: Stephen Crafts

photo credit: Stephen Crafts

Aquatic Ecstasy, Safely

December 16, 2014
Greg Long at the the 2004-2005 Mavericks Big Wave Surf Contest; Half Moon Bay, March 2, 2005. CREDIT PHOTOGRAPH BY BY ROBERT B. STANTON/WIREIMAGE VIA GETTY

Greg Long at the the 2004-2005 Mavericks Big Wave Surf Contest; Half Moon Bay, March 2, 2005.
CREDIT PHOTOGRAPH BY BY ROBERT B. STANTON/WIREIMAGE VIA GETTY

We are looking forward to the arrival in a few weeks of our colleague Derek, coming to us from Costa Rica, where he grew up at Bosque del Cabo. Which means that, among other things, he is a surfer dude like his dad. Which means, while he knows the thrill of a wave he also knows that safety is essential.

Derek will be leading the Aquatic Ecstasy initiatives at our newly opened Marari Pearl and this blog post below reminds us of one of his key imperatives if there is to be any lasting effect of aquatic ecstasy. Safety. We excerpt the blog post below beginning the quotation after some gruesome description of what waves can do, and some language (the type of salty language that surfer dudes use in the most harrowing situations) that our younger readers do not need to see, but you can read the whole post here):

…With more influential surfers wearing the vests, inflatable technology caught on quickly. Dorian’s Billabong wetsuit, too, found a market among professionals. (Neither the V1 suit nor Patagonia’s vest are available commercially yet.)

“No one’s doing anything in giant surf without flotation devices unless they’re trying to act macho or something,” Hamilton said. Read more…

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