Oh noooo, a new article in The Atlantic says that the huge increase in the numbers of visitors to Antarctica in recent years may be making the penguins sick.
A team led by Wray Grimaldi of the University of Otago in New Zealand found multiple infectious agents, including Salmonella and E. coli bacteria and West Nile virus in captive penguins dating back to 1947. A paper based on the team’s work published this month in the journal Polar Biology (paywall) reports that outbreaks of disease from those pathogens have killed thousands of penguins over the years.
I sure hope our intrepid polar explorer kitteh didn’t bring along any toxoplasmosis from home.
The area around Buffalo, NY was buried under an astonishing seven feet of snow this week, due to a phenomenon called “lake effect”, which is explained here. Meteorologists may find this fascinating, and kids may be happy to miss school, but at least one group of upstate New Yorkers is seriously disgruntled: the cats. Well, except for this guy. There’s always one.
A team of scientists led by Jonas Olofsson published a study this week in the Journal of Neuroscience, describing research that identified two areas in the brain which link odor to language. Using fMRI and other techniques, researchers were able to map areas of the brain which provide the interface between olfactory and verbal cues. The team hopes to use the findings to advance research into dementia. We hope they go on to experiment on cats, whose superior sense of smell is, alas, joined to a somewhat weaker verbal ability, particularly with regard to the word “the”.
A study published this week in the journal Neuron suggests why people learn better when their curiosity is piqued.
Researchers from UC Davis conducted fMRI scans on students and found evidence that activity in the midbrain was enhanced during states of high curiosity. The study indicated that curiosity was related to an increase in the activity of the brain chemical dopamine, which seemed to strengthen the students’ memories.
While this may be good news for human students and teachers, researchers have yet to test the findings on cats, a group to which curiosity is often said to be lethal. Good luck getting those proposals past IRB cat!
It was a long week, wasn’t it, kittens? But we made it through.