Feb 4: Dolphins and fishers work together, Arctic foxes' epic treks and more...
On this week's episode of Quirks & Quarks with Bob McDonald:
For a century, dolphins and fishers have been cooperating — and the benefits are now clear
In the town of Laguna in southern Brazil, wild dolphins herd schools of fish inshore where fishers with casting nets can capture them – and the dolphins get an easy feed as well. Mauricio Cantor, a marine biologist from Oregon State University, has quantified the benefits for both, but discovered this fragile partnership may be in decline due to industrial scale overfishing. His research was published in PNAS.
Arctic foxes are tremendous travellers
A long-term study of Arctic foxes has shown that these diminutive predators cover remarkable distances when searching for prey or new territory, running a marathon a day, and up to many thousands of kilometres during their short lives in one of the world's most challenging environments. University of Quebec at Rimouski professor and Canada Research Chair on Northern Biodiversity Dominique Berteaux led the study of 170 Arctic foxes on Bylot Island, Nunavut, with the help of satellite collars. The results of this 13-year research were published in Royal Society Open Science.
Elephant graveyard shows Neanderthals were more cooperative than we thought
Cut marks on 125,000-year-old skeletal remains of giant elephants confirm that Neanderthals in Europe routinely hunted and meticulously butchered these now-extinct 12-tonne animals. Lutz Kindler from The MONREPOS Archaeological Research Center in Neuwied, Germany, thinks that because these elephants required a supreme effort to harvest and yielded so much meat, Neanderthals lived in much larger groups than previously thought. The research was published in Science.
Asteroid sample shows just what we need to deflect a surprise killer impactor
Analysis of a few precious grains retrieved from the asteroid Itokawa by the Japanese Hayabusa mission in 2005 suggests our plans to deflect Earth-killing asteroids may need a revision. Fred Jourdan, a geochronologist from Curtin University, found that this "rubble pile" asteroid is at least 4.2 billion years old, much older than previous models suggested. Its ability to remain intact that long in the asteroid belt means they're shock-resistant enough to really take a beating. We'll need to take that into consideration, Jordan says, to deflect any planet-killing asteroids like this that may sneak up on Earth. The study was published in the journal PNAS.
Read more about rubble asteroids.
A new book looks at the experiments that gave us the modern picture of matter
Protons, neutrons, electrons, quarks, neutrinos, muons, pions and more. In just over a hundred years our picture of what matter can be made of has been populated by a zoo of these subatomic particles. In a new book, physicist Suzie Sheehy, of the University of Melbourne, traces the experiments that built this picture of the world and the many practical applications of this esoteric-seeming science. Bob McDonald speaks with Sheehy about her new book The Matter of Everything: How Curiosity, Physics, and Improbable Experiments Changed the World.