This Week’s BioBites: Why do birds sing? (And other mysteries of life…)

(CC) Gaetan LeeOne thing that fascinates many scientists is the question of behavior. Why do different species act the way that they do? And what about different individuals within species? Is it programmed in their genes? Is it programmed in their brains? Is it determined by their environment and social interactions? This week we report on some amazing behaviors from around the animal (and human) world… and more! Wonder what species can sleep with half their brain at a time? Want to know what species elects their leaders?

Read this week’s BioBites!

Photo provided by Gaetan Lee (cc)

1.) BBC News reports that birds sing because they have songs programmed into their brains.

2.) Another awesome bird behavior? Science magazine reports that birds can sleep with half their brain at a time to avoid predators.

3.) Fish are pretty cool, too. According to a study described in e!Science News, stickleback fish take a vote and elect their leaders, in a way.

4.) Speaking of elections, Science magazine has another feature about what the US elections mean for science.

5.) For male fiddler crabs who want to enjoy the good life with lots of women and few fights, it’s all about having that big… claw, even if it’s fake. From the biology blog The Great Beyond.

6.) Moving farther down the food chain to insects, e!Science News reports that in honey bees, certain social interactions can turn genes on and off in the brain!

7.) What about human behavior? Scientists discover behaviors in infants that could be the earliest predictors of autism yet, as described in e!Science News.

8.) Also in e!Science News: if you think that bully in middle school enjoyed beating you up, you’re right.

9.) While we’re taking a trip down memory lane, let’s take a brief layover in middle school science class. Remember how they taught us that the human tongue is divided into four regions that detect different tastes? Yeah, so they lied, says the NY Times health blog.

10.) Ever wonder WHY bleach kills bacteria? Scientists have figured it out! Read about it on Nature News or e!Science News.

11.) A new report, described in Nature News, refuels the debate about genetically modified crops.

12.) For any Star Trek fans out there, reality is one step closer to fiction as scientists work on creating solar shields.

13.) And finally… want to get a glimpse into the mysteries of your genome and what it might mean for you? Now you can, thanks to Time Magazine’s #1 Invention of 2008: the Retail DNA Test.

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