You might have missed: Mongoose pups, devices that listen to your body, and adding soap to insecticides

Mongoose pups thrive during times of conflict

In the animal kingdom, conflict between competing groups of the same species can lead to serious injury. So it would make sense that reproductive success would also be negatively affected.

But new research suggests that animal offspring might actually survive better when their groups are warring with their rivals.

Looking at a decade’s worth of data from a wild population of dwarf mongoose (Helogale parvula) in South Africa, researchers found that pup survival actually increased when the threat of conflict with rival groups was greater.

“Groups engaged in more intergroup interactions did not produce more young. Rather, a greater threat from outsiders was associated with a higher survival likelihood of pups once they emerged from the breeding burrow,” says Dr Amy Morris-Drake of the University of Bristol, UK, lead author of the study published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B Biological Sciences.

A photo of several mongoose pups drinking milk from a female.
Mongoose pups. Credit: Josh Arbon

They found that when rivals, or indicators of their recent presence, were encountered, adults increase their sentinel behaviour – acting as a raised guard to look out for danger.

Senior author Professor Andy Radford, also from the University of Bristol, adds: “Increased sentinel behaviour is likely an attempt to gather more information about the other group. But sentinels also detect predatory threats and warn groupmates of danger, so vulnerable pups are potentially safer as a consequence.”

Wearable health monitors listen to your body

The sounds inside our bodies can provide important information about our health – from air moving in and out of the lungs, to heart beats, and even digested food moving through the gastrointestinal tract.

Now researchers have developed soft, miniaturised wearable devices that can adhere to skin and continuously track these sounds. The devices perform with clinical-grade accuracy and offer new functionalities.

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A health care worker places the wearable devices across a patient’s chest to capture sounds throughout the lungs that are associated with breathing. Credit: Northwestern University

“Currently, there are no existing methods for continuously monitoring and spatially mapping body sounds at home or in hospital settings,” says Professor John A. Rogers of Northwestern University in the US, who led development of the device detailed in a new study in Nature Medicine. “Physicians have to put a conventional, or a digital, stethoscope on different parts of the chest and back to listen to the lungs in a point-by-point fashion.

“In close collaboration with our clinical teams, we set out to develop a new strategy for monitoring patients in real-time on a continuous basis and without encumbrances associated with rigid, wired, bulky technology.”

Encapsulated in soft silicone, each device is 40mm long, 20mm wide and 8mm thick. 

Need better insecticides? Just add soap!

A team of researchers has found that adding small quantities of liquid soap to some pesticides can boost their potency by more than ten times.

The discovery is promising news as malaria-carrying mosquitoes are becoming increasing resistance to current insecticides.

Protocols from the World Health Organization (WHO) for testing mosquitoes’ susceptibility to some insecticides recommend adding a seed oil-based product to insecticides. Researchers tested whether 3 brands of linseed-oil based soaps would also have this effect by adding them to four types insecticide from a class called neonicotinoids.

“All three brands of soap increase mortality from 30% to 100% compared to when the insecticides were used on their own,” says Ashu Fred Ayukarah, first author of the study and PhD student at Cameroon’s University of Yaoundé I.

The team hopes to conduct additional testing to establish exactly how much soap is needed to enhance insecticides. 

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