Science online, older than we thought edition

A little brown bat covered with the white nose fungus. Photo by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Northeast Region.
  • First Ginsu salesman still millions of years away, though. Newly discovered bones bear scratch marks that could have been made by flaked stone cutting tools 3.4 million years ago—more than 800 thousand years earlier than previous evidence of such toolmaking by human ancestors. (Greg Laden’s Blog, Not Exactly Rocket Science)
  • I thought they said it had all magically disappeared? As much as 70% of the oil spilled by the now-plugged Deepwater Horizon well is still out there, somewhere. In fact, it’s probably suspended in the deep ocean, where microbes expected to break down oil may take months to finish it off. (Deep Sea News, Wired Science)
  • Thesis, antithesis. Synthesis! Razib Khan describes how R.A. Fisher united Mendelian genetics and quantitative trait theory into a single mathematical model. (Gene Expression)
  • Really? Life doesn’t look a day over 640 million. New 650-million-year-old fossils may be the oldest examples of animal life. (Science Daily, Highly Allochthonous)
  • Being pecked to death never looked so unpleasant. Stress analysis of terror bird skulls suggest they killed prey by repeatedly stabbing it with the dagger-like tip of their beaks. (Not Exactly Rocket Science)
  • Is there an HVAC engineer in the house? We might be able to save bats from white-nose syndrome by heating their hibernation caves. (Wild Muse)

And now, via Ed Yong and BoingBoing, Humbolt penguins chasing a butterfly:

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Science online, speak up in the speakeasy edition

Nope. Not going for a single-entendre in the caption, either. Photo by law_keven.
  • Oh, that’s why he didn’t respond when I asked for a phone number. Drinking alcohol induces measurable hearing loss. (Neurotic Physiology)
  • No naughty intro necessary. Male ducks adjust when to grow a penis, and how long to grow it, based on the presence of competitors. (Wired Science, Discoblog)
  • They’re just hopping on the alternative energy bandwagon. Spotted salamanders may be effectively photosynthetic, thanks to algae living inside their cells. (Nature News)
  • Thousands of species in the sea, most of them not fish. A new comprehensive census of marine biodiversity estimates that for every known species in the sea, four are waiting to be discovered. (EveryONE)
  • Wild. Radioactive. Boars. More than 24 years after the Chernobyl disaster, Germany’s booming population of wild boars are still radioactive. (The Two-Way; original article in Der Spiegel)
  • Sip, don’t swig. Dave Munger sifts through evidence about the effectiveness of caffeine, and concludes that if you must drink coffee, it’s best in small, regular doses. (SEED Magazine)
  • Smells like adaptation. Selective breeding has reshaped dogs’ brains, particularly the location of the olfactory bulb. (80beats)
  • Batpocalypse now. The most common bat species in eastern North America could be extinct in the region within decades, thanks to a mysterious disease striking overwintering colonies. (Wired Science, original article in Science [$a])

Here’s a good video description of the syndrome that might wipe out those bats. (The Kentucky state biologist interviewed is exceptionally careful in her use of the word “hypothesis,” too.)

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