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Elephants are friends until there isn’t enough food

Elephants are great cooperators until there isn’t enough food, suggests a study published in PLOS Biology.

The researchers, led by Li-Li Li at the Chinese Academy of Sciences, gave the elephants food challenges to see whether or not they worked together.

When there were enough trays of food, most elephants would work together and share. Some pesky pachyderms snuck food from other cooperating couples, who tried to mitigate the theft by blocking their friend’s tray from the stealer.

However, when there was only one tray, the cooperation broke down and one elephant monopolised the food. Sometimes it even ended in a fight.

“We found that Asian elephants have a diverse repertoire of behaviours to use when cooperating with others, and are careful about how to mitigate competition based on their relationships,” says Li. “This is an exciting demonstration of how flexible and socially intelligent elephants are!”

How to haggle

New research from the University of Technology Sydney shows that the first and intermediate offers in a negotiation have a significant impact on the outcome.

“This experiment allowed us to study whether and how the level of the opening offer influences the beliefs of buyers and sellers, their actions and the final bargaining outcome,” says study leader Lionel Page.

The study involved participants playing a bargaining game to split $10. Interestingly, the offers made during the process signified whether the haggler seemed kind or unkind – a tough offer at the beginning comes across as mean and the outcome likely to be less favourable to this original bidder.

“The intermediary offers made during a negotiation can be interpreted as suggesting either kind and compromising intentions, or unkind and uncompromising ones,” says Page.

“And the perception of these intentions can, in turn, influence the final outcome. Low offers are perceived as disrespectful, so players react negatively and can be spiteful in their counter-offers.

“In a substantial number of cases, the responder chose a ’punishing’ counter-offer that was lower than what he believed was the buyer’s minimum acceptable amount.”

This means it is not the best strategy to always be as tough as possible in a negotiation.

The study was published in Theory and Decision.

Teens need fruit, veg and a good brekkie

Teens who eat lots of fruit and vegetables, especially at breakfast, may be in a better mood, according to a study published in BMJ.

Based on surveys of 11,000 school students, the researchers found that kids who ate fruit, veg, yogurt, porridge or cereal for brekkie had better mental health than kids who only ate a snack or breakfast bar. 

“As a potentially modifiable factor, both at an individual and societal level, nutrition may therefore represent an important public-health target for strategies to address childhood mental wellbeing,” says Sumantra Ray, executive director of the NNEdPro Global Centre for Nutrition and Health.

“This study provides the first insights into how fruit-and-vegetable intake affects children’s mental health, and contributes to the emerging evidence around ‘food and mood’.

“The findings are timely, not only because of the impact the pandemic has had on mental wellbeing, food security and diet quality, especially in school children, but also in light of the recently published National Food Strategy for England, which highlighted gaps in school meal provision.” 

A spoonful of honey helps the battery calm down

Has your kid swallowed a battery? Give them a spoon of honey!

A new study, published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal, has found that more kids in Canada are accidentally swallowing button batteries, but honey might be the best way to help them.

The study suggests that, for children over the age of one, 10 millilitres of honey should be given every 10 minutes for an hour before arrival at hospital.

The child will still require immediate hospital care to extract the battery, but honey significantly improved the outcome for kids under five years of age.

New telescope holds the key to the search for life on planets around M-dwarfs

The soon-to-be-launched James Webb Space Telescope could be the key to investigating the potential for life on planets that orbit ‘tiny’ stars.

M-dwarfs are the smallest and most common stars in the galaxy, but it is currently unknown whether the planets that surround them are suitable for life. Some of these stars are only 8% of the mass of our own sun.

“As a starting place, it is important to know whether small, rocky planets orbiting M-dwarfs have atmospheres,” says author Daria Pidhorodetska, from the University of California Riverside (UCR), US.  “If so, it opens up our search for life outside our solar system.”

The team modelled the types of atmospheres needed on these planets to sustain life so the James Webb Space Telescope knows what to look for.

“It would only take a few transit [observations] with Hubble to detect or rule out a hydrogen- or steam-dominated atmosphere without clouds,” says co-author Edward Schwieterman from UCR.

“With as few as 20 transits, Webb would allow us to characterise gases in heavy carbon dioxide or oxygen-dominated atmospheres.”

The study was published in The Astronomical Journal.

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