Who’s gonna die of heart disease? People who eat lots of meaty meat meat full of carnitine, the wickedest amino acid that goes crazy in your intestines and hardens your arteries. “[T]he more you eat red meat … the more you develop this bacteria, which then develops this harmful metabolite, so it really is sort of a snowballing effect.” This study compared red meat-eaters to vegetarians and vegans, and the non-meat-eaters came out with “very little of this bacteria, and very little of this effect.”
You want nice useful arteries? Stop eating meat. Duh.
(Source: The Wall Street Journal)
“Cruelty thrives on abstraction.” Josh Tetrick, CEO of Hampton Creek Foods, makers of Beyond Eggs, spoke with the Animal Legal Defense Fund about what makes global mass egg production so horrible, and what we can do to stop it. For example, stop eating eggs. Read more at ALDF’s site. Egg-free living through science, you guys; we can do it.
Welcome to the world, endangered limosa harlequin frog! You are the product of the very first scientific program to breed your species, because we selfish-jerk humans can’t stop wrecking your habitat and making you extinct.
To get the small amphibians to mate, researchers went to great lengths. They built a rock platform to mimic the underground caves in which the frogs breed, and piped in oxygen-rich water between 72 and 75 degrees Fahrenheit (22 and 24 degrees Celsius), according to a release from the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute.
Young frogs only feed on algal mats coating rocks. So scientists with the Panama Amphibian Rescue and Conservation Project, which bred the frogs, also painted the rock platforms with spirulina algae and then let it dry. When placed inside the enclosure, the algae grew and fed the animals.
Gosh they’re tiny, aren’t they? They must lay the tiniest eggs. Ultimately the scientists breeding these itty-bitty amphibians plan to release them into the wild, though if we don’t work on repairing the places they live, the limosa harlequin frog may only survive in captivity.
[photo by Brian Gratwicke, Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute via Live Science]
The Brain Scoop
Episode 17: PANGOLINS
I’ve been fascinated by pangolins (Order: Pholidota) ever since I first learned about them, and moreso after I realized they are basically real-life Pokémon. I am asked frequently about my favorite specimen in the museum so when I opened up the option to decide between a few other animals - without any additional context - I was thrilled that the masses chose ‘pangolins’. As a side note, if you’d like to get involved with crowd-inspired shows in the future be sure to stay tuned to my Twitter or our Facebook page!
Speaking of pangolins, let’s learn all about them (a single animal can eat up to 70 million ants every year! their tongues are so long they have muscles in their pelvis!) from science queen Emily Graslie and The Brain Scoop!
Yes, your dogs is smiling: Humans can recognize emotions in other animals »
“Classifying dogs’ (Canis familiaris) facial expressions from photographs,” a study by Tina Bloom and Harris Friedman published in February in scientific journal Behavioural Processes, has shown that people can correctly identify emotions in dogs’ faces. It used a series of photographs of one dog’s face (meet Mal the Belgian shepherd!) and involved 50 human volunteers of varying degrees of experience with dogs, who were asked to identify the dog’s emotional state in each photo. The results?
Both groups [“people experienced and inexperienced with dogs”] were able to read the dog’s emotions. Paradoxically, experienced people were less accurate reading aggressiveness. Experienced people were better identifying behaviorally defined situations.
With only one dog and 50 volunteers, it wasn’t exactly a rigorous study, but … you totally know when your dog is happy or ashamed or surprised, right? And now science totally supports your claims.
[Photo from Casa-Rodríguez Collection via Flickr]
The Brain Scoop
Episode 16: Horns vs. Antlers
We get a lot of requests to fulfill common queries about the odd animal world - differentiating between horns and alters is one of them. Certainly there is a lot more that can be said on this subject, but here’s your basic bite-sized rundown of similarities and differences. Someday soon we’ll be discussing the freakshow exceptions to the rules: rhinoceroses, the American pronghorn, the common raccoon.
Get down and educational with Philip L. Wright Zoological Museum and Comparative Skeletal Collection! I love some light science, don’t you?
Dogs can recognize other dogs! Thanks, science! »
The researchers found that despite the huge diversity of dog breeds and non-dog species shown to these nine dogs, each one managed to successfully recognise which faces belonged to dogs and which faces didn’t. Whether it was the face of a big, shaggy dog or a tiny, sleek one, the dogs managed over a number of different trials to lump them all into the same category, away from any of the other species.
Following up on two studies on dogs’ ability to recognize pictures of other dogs, and humans (your dog totally knows your face!), researchers in France did a big experiment to see “whether dogs can recognise each other as a separate group, away from other animals, despite their incredible physical diversity.” Answer, per Becky Crew at Running Ponies blog: yes! They can tell other dogs are other dogs, no matter how different two breeds are.
“What’s left to do now is to figure out what physical characteristics the dogs were using to distinguish the pictured dogs from the other species.”
Animals are amazing! Are dogs secret geniuses, or have we just been arrogantly underestimating them for millennia? Probably both.
[Photo by saturday_flowers via Flickr]
Video: Starlings return to Israel in amazing murmuration »
This formation is called a “murmuration” of starlings, and while we understand why the birds do it—to search for food and defend against predators—per Wired, we don’t understand “what physiological mechanisms allow it to happen almost simultaneously in two birds separated by hundreds of feet and hundreds of other birds.”
Until science figures it out, we can certainly appreciate it as part of the magic of nature, which is pretty incredible.
Eating raw will not ruin your life! »
When Megan Rascal sent me this article asserting that a mostly raw diet is inherently unhealthful, I debated whether to write a response or just ignore it. It’s always a toss-up when ill-informed crap ends up in my inbox; I thought I might ignore it because I believe that giving press to bullshit can sometimes just perpetuate the bullshit, but I decided to respond because of the (growing? I hope not) misconception that raw food = crazy people food, and that high-to-fully raw people know nothing about nutrition or how to take care of ourselves, and are basically just all counting our days until our nutritional deficiencies kick in and turn us into vegetables.
The article I’m referring to, also published on a “science” blog, claims that a raw vegan diet is super unhealthful. I’ll be honest, it’s got some good (if obvious, already widely known) points in support of expanding a raw diet to incorporate cooked food. Yes, some cooked food has value, and yes, if you don’t supplement your B12 or take a multivitamin bad things will happen, but how the author takes these points and comes to such rash conclusions makes me wonder if he had a bad break-up with a raw vegan or something. When I read lines like “You have nothing to gain and much to lose by going totally or even mostly raw,” I wonder if this article was written to prove that the author’s target was on the wrong path, damn it, and look! now it says so on the Internet!
The piece completely misses the point of a high-raw vegan diet, which incorporates tons of raw greens, veggies, and fruits in whole, unprocessed form, and just picks on the zealots who refuse to supplement and only eat bananas. It even brings up the “you’ll kill your kids if you feed them raw food!” argument, which we have heard about all forms of vegan diets and continue to prove wrong.
(Side note: I hate it when vegan doctors are cited to prove that one vegan diet is better than another. This article cites Dr. Eseystein and Dr. McDougal, both of whom have made millions hawking their unique brands of veganism, as evidence against a high-raw vegan diet, which has its own doctors rooting for and staking millions in its value.)
I really appreciate Gena Hamshaw’s balanced, science-driven approach to raw food in her post “Why Raw? Revisiting the Question.” I love Vegan RD Ginny Messina’s compassionate post, “Raw or Cooked Foods? Which Is the Best Diet for Vegans?,” on why raw foodists should consider incorporating some (or lots) of cooked vegan foods to round out their diets and have an easier time staying vegan. There are plenty of folks who jettison veganism or raw veganism when health issues come up, and while I have no judgement for them I supremely admire folks who take every measure to hold true to their values while minding their health needs. Bonzai Aphrodite recently posted this beautiful long-read about how she’s navigated health issues while staying vegan. Brava! I wrote a Vegansaurus post about why there are so many ex-raw vegans and advocated for folks to consider adopting a more expansive raw vegan diet. In the context of these articles, the anger and all-or-nothing conclusions made by this article and many like it baffle me and make me think there’s a personal grudge.
Closing thoughts: Some (but not all) raw foodies are inflexible and unrealistic, just like some (but not all) vegans and some (OK, most) meat-eaters. Everyone should be taking B12, and probably a multivitamin, omega-3, and maybe a D supplement, too. Mostly raw vegans can be very happy and healthy. I am doing pretty damn well on a high-raw vegan diet that includes lots of raw greens-rich salads and raw smoothies and juices on the reg, as well as a variety of cooked foods. I just got my bloodwork done as a routine every-few-years thing so I can brag in articles like this, and my doctor said my blood is so groovy it makes her want to go vegan. So to the author of these articles, I say this: Please don’t judge all high-raw vegans based on a tiny fraction of us who go to extremes, and in return, I promise not to call the raw vegan who broke your heart and alert this person that you’re hella casting aspersions on them.
Fake meat future: Hack//Meat takes on the science of legit meat substitutions »
Last weekend, New York hosted the Hack//Meat conference, where experts gathered to “brainstorm the issue of meat.” Per Businessweek:
One of the more interesting proposals to come out of Hack//Meat is from Foodpairing, a food industry research company and app developer. Foodpairing has broken down flavor to its molecular components and has compiled databases that can match the flavor of those ingredients against other completely different ingredients. By compiling “foodpairing trees” its technology can identify vegetable or seafood ingredients that reinforce the flavor of different meats, or in some cases, can act as a substitute for a meat entirely.
Yes, “molecular gastronomy” gives you a case of the eyerolls, but past the “sciencing your food all up” part, this sounds like an interesting way of making meat substitutes that meat-eaters will accept and maybe even embrace. Let’s go science!
[Photo by Rick Harrison via Flickr]