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These can be school child errors, but are
also monkeys, named for their deep and
powerful roars, among the loudest in the
animal world. It would make sense to
assume that the loudest male roarers would
impress potential mates and intimidate
rivals. Jacob Dunn and his Cambridge
colleagues investigated the species and
found, among other things, that in general,
the males with louder howls had smaller
testes. How they did so was not explained.
This suggested an evolutionary trade off:
given limited resources, howlers had to
choose whether to invest energy in roaring
or making sperm to maximise their chances
of reproducing? The reader is invited
to decide if this decision is applicable
to the human condition. You probably
know people who have considered both
This is not a problem exclusive to warm-
blooded critters. Margaret Couvillon
(University of Sussex) noted that some
flowers produce caffeinated nectar, and
bees feeding on them become addicted,
which makes them more active but less
productive. She provided sugar water
containing caffeine and the bees kept
returning, even well after the supply dishes
Caffeine-stimulated bees also perform
more enthusiastic wiggle-dances, which
encourages more bees to forage, even
though the nectar source has dried up.
Thus the beehive becomes less productive,
and bee-keepers don’t like this. They
probably reach for the Roundup.
There is a lot of it about. Matthew (5:5) says
“ The meek shall inherit the earth” to which
billionaire J Paul Getty added “but not its
mineral rights!” He knew all about them
and became quite well off. In September,
2015, the US National Academy of Sciences
reported: “At the age of 50, life expectancy
for a man in the US in the poorest 20
per cent of the population had declined
slightly in the last 30 years to 26.1 years.
By contrast, life expectancy in the richest
20 per cent had improved by 7.1 years to
38.8 years, a difference of 12.7 years”, i.e.,
an extra 12 years of life!
In the United Kingdom, Health Minister
Jeremy Hunt said a book by Michael
Marmot stated that there was an 18 year
gap in male life-expectancy between the
richest and the poorest in the London
borough of Westminster, one of the richest
spots on the planet. He added that we
should be able to do something about it.
Amen to that. It is a shame that being rich
is a good or even acceptable way of living
Many readers will know about this process.
Andreas Herrmann and his colleagues
at the University of Groningen have
developed an antimicrobial plastic by
combining quaternary ammonium salts
with conventional dental resin polymers.
The surface of these resins disrupts
negatively charged bacterial membranes
and kills microorganisms.
Their next step was to put the ammoniated
resin into a 3D printer and make artificial
teeth. They found that these teeth killed
over 99 per cent of the decay-causing
bacteria they were exposed to, compared
with the less than one per cent for control,
non-ammoniated resin teeth.†
A New Scientist reader asked in its ‘The
Last Column’ section whether there were
any green mammals, and if not, why not.
Several experts pointed out that nearly all
mammals are too big for a single colour
to provide camouflage against predators.
Small animals tend to be dappled or
striped. On the other hand, all-green
critters such as some frogs are hard to see
amongst the greenery.
However, there are at least two all-green
mammals. They both live in trees. The
green ringtail possum Pseudocheirus
archeri occurs in a small area in northeast
Queensland, and has black, grey, yellow
and white hairs which colour it a lime
green. It does not build a nest, and sleeps
curled upright on a branch and curled into
a ball. It would make an attractive pet, but
is protected. The other is the tree sloth,
occurring in several species, and is related
to ant-eaters. The sloth has an unusual
physiology, is very slow-moving and has fur
which is home to several species of algae,
which in turn support an ecosystem of
non-parasitic insects. The green colour of
the fur is an effective camouflage. Only a
masochist would have one as a pet.
This is the name given by US cartoonist
Charles Schultz to a character in his carton
series ‘Peanuts’. Pigpen was pictured
surrounded by a swarm of black dots, which
could have represented flying insects, or, if
you prefer, dust, dirt or germs. If the latter,
Schultz could have drawn Pigpen’s aura
around all of his cartoon characters. James
Meadow (University of Oregon), noting that
humans are home to perhaps 100 trillion
bacteria, viruses and fungi, had people sit
still in a small, sterile room and took air
samples from one metre away and from the
floor. The investigating team then analysed
the DNA of the collected microorganisms.
Nine of the 11 people tested had
distinct, personalised signatures of the
microorganisms that were collected.‡
The result shows how easy it can be to
transmit some infections, even without
intimate contact. It also demonstrates a
possible forensic application: identification
of people by their microorganism mist.
Bloodhounds do it naturally, and can
usually follow an individual through a
crowd. But they have, along with many
other canines, a 100 to 1,000 fold better
ability to detect smells.
Family doctors in the UK are now being
told to refuse to provide prescriptions for
patients requesting antibiotics to treat
minor ailments. If they don’t comply they
risk disciplinary action. The UK National
Institute for Health Care Excellence (NICE)
is seeking to cut antibiotic prescriptions.
Of the 40 million made last year, they
estimate that 10 million were unnecessary.
They advise that overuse leads to
antibiotic resistance in patients. It was not
mentioned in the report that it also leads
to generalised resistance in waste water
and the environment.
They are extraordinary. Some female
parasitic wasps have them in their eggs,
and when they inject an egg into their
chosen butterfly caterpillar host, the viruses
go with it. The viruses then invade almost all
the caterpillar’s body cells and turn off the
caterpillar’s immune defences. Thus the wasp
larva survives and becomes a wasp, but the
caterpillar does not become a butterfly.
These bracoviruses do not, themselves,
replicate. Instead, the genes making them
have become incorporated in the wasp
genome. Over the last 100 million years,
some wasp species have turned free-living
viruses into packaged biological weapons.
There are now thousands of species of
braconid wasp, each of which lays eggs
in their specific species of butterfly.
† For more information, see: Advanced Functional
‡ Peer: DOI 10.7717/peerj1528.
38 | ADA NEWS BULLETIN | FEBRUARY 2016
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