Friday Coffee Break



Every Friday at Nothing in Biology Makes Sense! our contributors pass around links to new scientific results, or science-y news, or videos of adorable wildlife, that they’re most likely to bring up while waiting in line for a latte.

From Noah: Ornithologists find that city-dwelling white-crowned sparrows change their songs to be better hear in the midst of urban noise.

“It shows a strong link between the change in song and the change in noise,” says David Luther, term assistant professor in Mason’s undergraduate biology program. “It’s also the first study that I know of to track the songs over time and the responses of birds to historical and current songs.”

From Sarah: New fossils reveal that an evolutionary ancestor of Tyrannosaurus Rex was the largest known animal to be covered in feathers.

With a Latin and Mandarin name translating to “beautiful feathered tyrant,” Yutyrannus huali was found in the Yixian Formation, a fossil deposit in northeastern China that over the last two decades has yielded dozens of dinosaur skeletons so finely preserved that it’s possible to discern feather-like structures.

Those discoveries have fundamentally changed how dinosaurs appear in our imagination’s eye. Contrary to traditional artistic interpretation, many — perhaps most — of the great reptiles were not covered in scales, but rather with feathers. [Link sic.]

From CJ: Hybridization between two species of blacktip shark may be helping one of the species adapt to climate change. (But what’s up with that headline?)

Australian blacktips confine themselves to tropical waters, which end around Brisbane, while the hybrid sharks swam more than 1,000 miles south to cooler areas around Sydney. Simpfendorfer, who directs the university’s Centre of Sustainable Tropical Fisheries and Aquaculture, said this may suggest the hybrid species has an evolutionary advantage as the climate changes.

From Jeremy: To overcome imposter syndrome—the nagging worry that you’re not as smart or skillful as your peers—maybe science should try to be more like sports.

Sure, I have as many bad days training and racing as I do in the lab, and I’m probably competing against WAY more people, but then, failure in running just doesn’t seem to hurt as much, there’s always the feeling in running that you can pick yourself up, work a little harder, come back a little stronger, and try again. Of course, there’s the fact that this isn’t my career, but still, even so, a bad race just doesn’t mess with my head. It rolls right off, I feel bad for a day, and then I get back up driven to do better at my next one.

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