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Albatross marriages in hot water

Monogamous albatrosses don’t stay together for the kids when things aren’t working, and warming waters could increase pressure to ‘divorce’, according to a study published in Proceedings of the Royal Society B.

International researchers studied a wild population of albatrosses in the Falkland Islands for 15 years and found that the major trigger for separation was failure to breed, but years with unusually high sea surface temperatures also increased the likelihood of breaking up.

The authors suggest that warm waters create stressful and challenging conditions in which to breed, so pairs split up, highlighting a previously overlooked consequence of climate change.

Mars is like an ogre…

… It has layers, according to research collected by NASA’s InSight lander.

In a study published in Nature Communications, InSight collected seismic data from Marsquakes to map 200 metres below the surface. The study showed that Mars was like an onion (or ogre) because it had so many layers.

At the top was a shallow ‘sandy’ sedimentary layer around three metres thick, then a 15-metre layer of Minecraft-esque blocky rocks from a meteorite impact, and finally 150 metres of lava flows below that.

This geological data could help understand the history and formation of Mars.

Illustration of layers under ground on mars. There are 4 layers
An artist’s concept of the shallow subsurface below NASA’s InSight lander on Mars. Credit: ETH Zurich / Géraldine Zenhäusern

Methane for dinner?

Researchers from Stanford University in the US have found a way to convert methane into a protein that could be a cost-effective meal… for fish, at least.

In the study, published in Nature Sustainability, the researchers described how bacteria known as methanotrophs captured and transformed industrial methane emissions into nutritious fishmeal.

They estimated that this process in the US alone could produce protein equivalent to 14% of the global fishmeal market at the same, or lower, cost of currently feeding fish.

Talk about smelly food…

Handling a trolley problem?

Not that trolley problem. This trolley problem involves those unwieldly behemoths dominating the supermarket.

A study, published in The Journal of Marketing, sought to get a handle on how trolleys affect consumer behaviours. Turns out, shoppers buy less when they have to use a traditional trolley with a horizontal bar compared to another design with parallel, wheelbarrow-like handles.

This may happen because parallel handles utilise the biceps to push, but horizontal bars require the triceps, which means they aren’t as comfortable to push for a long time. In fact, it led to people spending 25% less money in store than people who used trolleys with parallel handles.

“It is shocking to find that making a small change to the position of handles can have such a large impact on shoppers’ spending,” says study author Professor Zachary Estes of the University of London. “Indeed, the handles literally cause us to flex our shopping muscles.”

Four trolleys. Two have a horizontal handle and two have parallel handles
A standard shopping trolley with a horizontal handlebar – such as you would likely find in a supermarket – may result in less consumer spending than that of a shopping trolley with parallel bars – like that of a wheelbarrow. Credit: Bayes Business School

Really baby teeth

According to new research, published in Proceedings of the Royal Society B, the baby teeth of Neanderthals may have grown quickly between four and eight months of age – much earlier than in modern humans – suggesting Neanderthal children experienced rapid growth very young.

The researchers from the Australian National University, University of Queensland and international colleagues reconstructed the development of three Neanderthals who lived 130,000 years ago, using their milk teeth. They found that the ancient chompers grew significantly earlier and faster than modern-day human children.

Potentially, the children required more food energy because they also experienced rapid brain growth – although that surely complicated breastfeeding.

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