Deadbeat Birds

Pipestone Flyer


What do you call a feather-brained fellow who starts neglecting his offspring as soon as he perceives his mate is not as attractive as she once was? Apparently, you would call him a blue tit.  At least that was the findings of a report published on the open-access online science journal, ‘Frontiers in Zoology’. According to researchers, Katharina Mahr, Matteo Griggio, Michela Granatiero and Herbert Hoi, these feathered denizens of European and Asian woodlands exhibit behaviors we usually associate with deadbeat dads. 

The article, entitled “Female attractiveness affects paternal investment: experimental evidence for male differential allocation in blue tits”, demonstrated how the male birds would spend far more time away from the nest if they see the missus is getting a little drab.

To study this behavior, the researchers would ‘paint’ the brilliant blue crown of feathers on top of the females’ heads with a substance that inhibits UV light, basically making the plumage harder to see for the males. To ensure it wasn’t the scent or some other quality to the UV blocker that was impacting the errant bird’s behavior, a control group was painted with an identical chemical but without the UV blocking ability.

In every case, the male blue tits with their mates sporting the UV blocking hair gel spent less time on feeding their progeny and more time away from the area than the male tits with the non- UV treated nest-mates. The bird-watchers did note, however, that although the males were more neglectful of feeding activities and spent less time in the actual nest, they did hang around the nest area and were equally ready to defend their babies as much as the control group did.

According to the report, female blue tits spent more time preening themselves than the majority of birds they had observed, likely knowing that unkempt female tits must work harder make up for the male’s neglect. Apparently if you want your mate to help around the house, you have to keep your hair combed.

Testosterone Therapy Aids Weight Loss

Research has been done which suggests long-term, gradual weight loss is an unexpected but welcome side effect to testosterone replacement therapy. The therapy involved injecting ‘long acting’ testosterone into 255 men who were hypogonadal, or testosterone deficient. The study’s lead author was Dr. Farid Saad of Bayer Pharma, the Berlin-based company who brought us aspirin in the late 1800’s.

"The substantial weight loss found in our study — an average of 36 pounds — was a surprise," Dr. Saad was quoted as saying in the respected online news magazine Science Daily. Besides the weight, the study group lost an average of 3.5 inches from their waistline.

Testosterone replacement therapy is a treatment for low testosterone which afflicts many middle aged, particularly overweight or obese men. Lowered testosterone, according to the researcher, has been statistically linked to weight gain which further impacts on the patient’s testosterone level in a ‘vicious circle’. However, when testosterone levels in the subjects were returned to normal with the injections, they found significant weight loss whether the individuals exercised or not. They were not directed to adopt a special diet, either, all the men in the sample group were supplied with healthy living tips during the course of their treatment.

Undergoing testosterone injections is not a viable option for inducing weight loss in men with normal testosterone levels, though, as there are serious physical and mental side effects to having too much testosterone in the system. The replacement therapy only serves to ‘top up’ the testosterone in the patient to where they should be and no more.

Dr. Saad’s  research team announced their findings at the 94th annual meeting of the American-centered The Endocrine Society in Houston Texas on June 23.

Scientists from the California Institute of Technology (Caltech)have discovered a never-before seen mineral within fragments of the Allende meteorite which was strewn across the state of Chihuahua, Mexico in 1969. The titanium-oxide mineral was named ‘panguite’ in honour of a giant from ancient Chinese folklore called ‘Pan Gu’ who separated yin from yang creating the earth and sky. The name “panguite” had to receive the approval of International Mineralogical Association’s Commission on New Minerals Nomenclature and Classification before it could be used in a publication by the research group.

Chi Ma, a senior scientist at Caltech and was one of the authors of the paper spoke of the discovery. "Panguite is an especially exciting discovery since it is not only a new mineral, but also a material previously unknown to science," 

This was the ninth never-before seen mineral isolated by researchers who use nanotechnology to analyze the contents of the Allende meteorite shards. The extraterrestrial carbonaceous material has yielded a great deal of information on meteorite composition over the last forty years and may be the most studied meteorite on Earth. Using new technologies, such as the nanominerology being employed by the Caltech team has produced results previously unavailable using older methods of analysis.

"The intensive studies of objects in this meteorite have had a tremendous influence on current thinking about processes, timing, and chemistry in the primitive solar nebula and small planetary bodies," stated one of the co-authors of the report, Caltech professor, George Rossman.

Rossman and Ma, along with their research colleagues have been applying nanomineralogical technology to ‘primitive’ meteorite samples such as the Allende pieces since 2007.