Discovered: A new reason for declining childhood obesity rates; this massive goldfish shouldn't have been swimming in Lake Tahoe; flies give alcohol to their babies; bees sense electric flowers.
Our children are consuming fewer calories.. Overeating has gone down amongst American kids in recent years, according to data from a new Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report. Children consumed on average about 4 to 7 percent fewer calories per day in 2010 than they did in 2000. Boys now eat about 2,100 calories a day while girls consume around 1,755. The decline in calorie consumption was most pronounced in boys aged 2 to 11 and girls in their teens. That might go some ways toward explaining why childhood obesity rates — while still high — are appearing to taper off. The numbers are reassuring, but Michelle Obama still has her work cut out for her convincing kids to eat healthier, says R. Bethene Ervin one of the researchers involved in this study: "A harbinger of change is a good phrase. But to see if it’s really a real trend we would obviously need more years of data." [The New York Times]
What's this huge goldfish doing in Lake Tahoe? Just look at that goldfish University of Nevada researcher Christine Ngai is holding to the right. Goldfish shouldn't be that big, and this one shouldn't have been found where it was found. That specimen, recovered from Lake Tahoe, is 1.5 feet long and weighs over 4 pounds. Sudeep Chandra of the University of Nevada and his colleagues found it while studying invasive species in the Lake Tahoe ecosystem. They believe the fish are getting fat on the lake's native species, and that they probably ended up there from home aquarium dumpings. They hypothesize that some frightened pet owner dumped this fish into the lake, perhaps because of its unusual size. That thing is two times heaver than the previous record-holder, Goldie, a goldfish that weighed 2 pounds. [Scientific American]
Flies get their young tipsy to ward off invaders. Fruit flies do something similar to the old wive's trick of dipping pacifiers in liquor. But instead of trying to calm down cranky babies, they're attempting to protect their young from wasps who might try to lay their own eggs inside their developing bodies. That's the conclusion of a new study led by Emory University's Todd Schlenke. Wasps don't like the taste of alcohol, so when female slies sense these parasites nearby, they will lay their eggs in alcohol-soaked food. National Geographic's Ed Yong notes that this technique has important evolutionary advantages, writing, "Throughout the history of these insects, the ability to resist alcohol and to use it as medicine have evolved hand-in-hand many times over." [National Geographic]
Bees buzz along with flowers. Electric fields are everywhere, we just can't sense them. But bees are uniquely equipped to pick up on the electric energy in flowers, according to new research from University of Bristol biologits Daniel Robert. These electric fields attract pollinating bees as much as smell and color, giving bees a kind of sixth to help them with their reproductive duties. This finding could help gardeners attract more bees to their flowers, simply by misting a positively charged aerosol spray over the flora. "I am blown away," comments University of Nevada, Reno researcher Anne Leonard. "I imagine that we’ll all be desperate to spray our flowers down with the aerosol they describe." [ScienceNews]
Inset image: Heather Segale