Can biomarkers of biological age be used to assess cumulative lifetime experience?

13 02 2019

A nice new paper from Melissa Bateson and her post-doc Coline Poirier has just been published in Animal Welfare. They focus on telomere length and hippocampal volume, but I would add survivorship to the list (an old interest re-ignited by a cool BMJ paper I read for class showing that elected presidents die earlier than their unelected rivals); and in some species or strains, stereotypic behaviour too.



7 02 2019

Screenshot 2019-02-07 12.57.33Amazing new paper in Science Advances, on bees doing maths:

And a nice write up here:



22 01 2019

I learned a new word this week, and it made me disproportionately happy:

Image result for lalochezia

Apparently this phenomenon works by making you more aggressive (since being aggressive in other ways can induce the same effect). Fascinating stuff.

The win-win diet… or is it?

22 01 2019

A Lancet-sponsored group launched new diet recommendations this week, aimed at tackling the twin scourges of obesity-related health problems and agricultural environmental damage. It got a tonne of media coverage, and is ambitious and persuasive stuff (attracting outrage from the beef industry).

But what does it mean for animal welfare? Taking a 3Rs perspective (which I  think is really useful), replacing animal protein with plant-based food is good if it means reducing the number of farmed animals (because this means fewer net welfare problems). But it might not achieve this if the switch from non-recommended red meat (typically from large animals like cows) triggers the production of more individual chickens for white meat.  Worse: it’s likely that, compared to cows, a smaller proportion of chickens are farmed humanely, which means that such a shift would not be a refinement.  I wish someone would do a proper welfare audit of these recommendations and feed that  (pun intended) into the mix. (Or maybe I should just be very brave and become vegan).

Why do we cry?

16 01 2019

Nice little podcast from Dave Baddiel as he tries to unravel the mystery of crying. I learned some interesting new things, for sure, but HOW COULD THEY MISS that the smell of tears shrivels mens’ erections?

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Learning and memory in plants

6 01 2019

screenshot 2019-01-05 21.11.39

Monica Gagliano, the researcher behind the 2016 “learning by peas” paper (see here for some critical commentary) was in the news today, promoting her new book.

I am intrigued but withholding judgment ’til I’ve all the relevant papers. Expect my assessment by about 2025.

Dutch anger management

6 01 2019

The BBC just covered a new method for coping with anger (in a Dutch scrapyard); it involves smashing things (so I love it) and is called ‘destruction therapy‘. Nothing on it in Google Scholar yet though (but it does remind me of how chewing things appears to reduce stress in rodents).

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