Science online, sociable tortoises edition

Hey, there! Photo by hankplank.

“Sociable tortoises” would make a pretty good name for a band. I assume they’d be somewhere in the genre phenotype space between Vampire Weekend and The Decemberists.

  • Call it the “smugness threshold.” Higher income is only associated with greater emotional well-being up to a point—but past that point, people with higher incomes still report greater perceived happiness. (Neurotic Physiology)
  • Heads up! Tortoises follow the gaze of other tortoises, indicating unexpected social intelligence. (The Thoughtful Animal)
  • Who knows what a fish is thinking? Siamese fighting fish will famously attack other fish or their own mirror images with equal vigor—but their brains express different genes when looking at their own images! (NeuroDojo)
  • Best paleontological reconstruction illustration ever. Pterosaurs may have launched into the air by “vaulting” on their arms, not jumping with their teeny-tiny legs. (80 Beats)
  • Phylogenies on the witness stand. Ed Yong surveys the use of evolutionary trees as evidence in legal cases. (Not Exactly Rocket Science)
  • Can’t wait to see the phylogeny of the Septuagint. Texts, especially hand-copied manuscripts, mutate over time in much the same way as DNA. (The Atlantic)
  • Especially in Hitchcock’s classic “To Catch a Prairie Dog.” Film scores contain sound patterns strikingly similar to animal alarm calls. (Wired Science; original article at Biology Letters)
  • We are also the beaver. New analysis of fossils identifies the sister group to Castor, the genus containing modern beavers. (Open Source Paleontologist; original article on PLoS ONE; interview with one of the authors)
  • That’s what undergrad field assistants are for. A classic study of bitter taste as predator deterrent had students taste-testing tadpoles. (Wonderland)

Apparently trying to top the transcendent union of “Star Trek” and Monty Python, the Internet presents Harry Potter singing Tom Lehrer. I’ll admit, this upgraded my opinion of Daniel Radcliffe from “Hollywood nerd” to “nerd.”