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 Jeremy: Why do certain papers in certain journals get more citations? Citation concentration may be due to several factors, including a green beard.

The neat thing about a green beard is that it’s not a signal of intrinsic “quality” or “fitness”. A green beard doesn’t make you more fecund or long-lived or etc., nor is it a signal that you have other traits making your more fecund or long-lived or etc. A green beard is an arbitrary signal, and is only favored because everybody else with green beards favors it.

From Devin: Tom Houslay gives a multi-part recap of the Evolution meeting, going over some of his favorite talks.

In this talk, Kevin presented some research he’s been doing with various collaborators on several species of hump-winged grigs, cricket-like insects living in the Rocky Mountains. As with crickets, male grigs stridulate to create a calling song which attracts females; during mating, the females actually feast on the male’s fleshy hindwings…

From C.J.: The coolest picture you’ll see of trees all day (maybe all year)!

Also from C.J.: From the Anole Annals: Ecomorphs converge on suites of correlated traits.

In other words: is convergence in form across islands reached by evolving the same sets of characters in a similar manner? Do all trunk-ground ecomorphs, for example, achieve relatively long limbs by growing both the femur and the humerus (i.e. those traits covary together)? Or do some trunk-ground anoles achieve long limbs by only growing the tibia and the radius while others grow the femur and radius etc.?

From Noah: Fertilizing the ocean with iron helps fight global warming.

When dumped into the ocean, the iron can spur growth of tiny plants that carry heat-trapping carbon to the ocean floor when they die, the study said. Scientists dumped seven metric tonnes (7.7 tons) of iron sulphate, a vital nutrient for marine plants, into the Southern Ocean in 2004. At least half of the heat-trapping carbon in the resulting bloom of diatoms, a type of algae, sank below 1,000 meters (3,300 ft).

Also from Noah: Take a break from your crappy desk with the Puffin Loafing Ledge.

From Sarah: The thieving nature of rodents may recreate the roles of extinct herbivores in seed dispersal.

One of the seeds passed through the paws of 36 agoutis – half-metre-long rodents common in the forests of Central and South America. The first agouti to get to a seed carried it an average of 8.75m from its parent tree. But after repeated burials and disinterments – usually by different agoutis – it ended up an average of 68m distant.

Also from Sarah: Globally speaking, how fat are you?

And a little more food for thought from ye olde advisor, Bryan Carstens: The importance of supporting scientific societies.

Memberships in societies (e.g.,Sigma Xi) really do directly give back to your community, in addition to getting you a journal.  Subscribing to and publishing in SOCIETY journals (e.g., EvolutionGenetics,Journal of Heredity) brings money back to your students, colleagues, and community, whereas publishing in NON-SOCIETY journals often fails to do so.  Similarly, attending SOCIETY meetings potentially gives flexible funds back to an organized group with similar goals, whereas attending other meetings only does so indirectly, if at all.

If anyone knows how a puffin gets this many fish in his bill at once, please let me know.