This week in Science: Octopi and Flies and Polar Bears, oh my!

A quick perusal of the ScienceNOW new released from Science yields a couple of interesting stories fun enough to be shared, but short enough not to warrant full fledged posts. Therefore, here they are, collected in one glorious package. Octopus mimics Flounder, confuses predators and biologists. Mentioned by the Lab Spaces blog (and tweeted and re-tweeted on Twitter last week) is a description of a particular species of octopus that has developed a unique camouflage. The Caribbean octopus mimics the peacock flounder while it swims, presumably to discourage octopus-loving predators with the appearance of an unappetizing flatfish. ScienceNOW provides video of said octopus, doing its best flounder impression.

Early polar bear discovered in Arctic tundra. The fossilized (and presumably frozen) remains of an ancient polar bear has been discovered by scientists in Norway's Svalbard archipelago. The male polar bear lived approximately 120,000 years ago, which for those of you who are counting, was at a time when wooly mammoths were still around. For more on why this discovery is so awesome, see the linked article. Perhaps with this discovery, scientists can finally begin contemplating a most important topic: who would win, polar bear or wooly mammoth? (In the swimming portion of the competition, my money's on the bear.)

Fruit flies contain intrinsic autopilot. Scientists have shown that fruit flies are able to adjust to changing wind currents and flight conditions on a time scale quicker than would be possible if the adjustment was a conscious effort: video at link. This research potentially explains the difficulty of fly swatting.

The award for most cheeky article name goes to: "Why are Dung Beetles so Horny", which is in fact about the unusually large horns of female dung beetles. Originally thought to be used exclusively during fights between males, researchers have identified a role for the horns sported by females, which are sizably larger than those seen on males. In short, it seems that females use their horns to conduct sumo-like wrestling matches. The winner gets the larger ball of dung, and is therefore able to produce more offspring.


Astra Bryant

Astra Bryant is a graduate of the Stanford Neuroscience PhD program in the labs of Drs. Eric Knudsen and John Huguenard. She used in vitro slice electrophysiology to study the cellular and synaptic mechanisms linking cholinergic signaling and gamma oscillations – two processes critical for the control of gaze and attention, which are disrupted in many psychiatric disorders. She is a senior editor and the webmaster of the NeuWrite West Neuroblog