Primates past their prime, buttressing the butt, and belaboring labor.

Hot Flash News Flash
Gorillas and guppies both undergo menopause, according to two studies released this week concerning the post-reproductive life of animals. Besides humans and some primates, the short-finned pilot whale was thought to be the only animal that lives beyond its fertility window.  Now, a study by David Reznick, of the Department of Biology and Center for Conservation Biology at the University of California Riverside, has explored the evolution of the menopause in Poecilia reticulata (guppies). Researchers compared the life-histories within schools facing strong predation with those experiencing less threat. They found that environment did not affect post-reproductive lifespan, therefore menopause is not key to the fish’s evolutionary fitness.

Also this week, a study spearheaded by Sylvia Atsalis, a primatologist from the Brookfield Zoo in Chicago monitored the hormone levels of aging female gorillas in zoos across the US. About 25% of the female gorillas monitored were menopausal, exhibiting no monthly hormonal cycle. The gorilla study could lend insight into human menopausal health, which will be a significant issue for the 825 million women around the world who will be over 65 by 2025.
(source: PLoS Biology and National Geographic)

Is it Safe to Answer That?
There are seven words a man dreads hearing from his lady: “Does this make my butt look big?” There is simply no way to answer the question diplomatically.  A new research project in Scotland, aims to find an empirical retort.

A team from the School of Textiles and Design at Heriot-Watt University is attempting to quantify the effect of a garment’s material, cut and color on the appearance of a woman’s rear. The team will photograph females wearing many types of clothing and then show the photos to volunteers, who will determine the apparent size of each backside. The hope is that the results of this study will give fashion designers they information they need to create more flattering clothes. While no one will deny that it’s great to look good, a cynic might comment that the goals of this study are not exactly lofty. Have we hit bottom?
(source: the Independent)

No Need for Pushy Coaches
Encouragement to push during contractions makes little difference in the length of a woman’s labor, say researchers at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center.  Women who have a partner “coaching” them in the delivery room had a slightly shorter second stage of labor—when the cervix is fully dilated and the baby begins to descend— than women without coaches (46 minutes versus 59 minutes). Yet, women who push during labor have a slightly increased chance of bladder problems post-birth. The study did not comment on the relative frequency that coaches in each group were angrily told “No, you push, buster!”
(source: University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center)

How To Be a Cheap Date
You can save money and still get your drink on if you order cocktails served in short, squat glasses. Researchers from Cornell University found that people are more likely to pour an extra-generous measure of alcohol in a short, wide glass than a tall narrow glass. Both bartenders and amateur mixologists pour more than a standard shot measure when mixing drinks. 
(source: BBC news)


Micro-notables

Egyptian Dwarves Had it Best: According to a study out of Georgetown University Hospital, dwarfism was not seen as a handicap in ancient Egypt. A genetic study of biological remains and a survey of artifacts showed that dwarves were assimilated into the culture of ancient Egypt and could even achieve stations of high status such as serving the pharoah.
(source: American Journal of Medical Genetics)

Peer Abuse Leads to Drug Use: Children who were bullied during their middle school years are almost three times more likely to use alcohol and drugs during high school, say researchers from the Oregon Research Institute.
(source: Journal of Early Adolescence)

Better to Be Wild: Which is better for you—farmed or wild salmon? Farmed salmon is good for the heart due to its high levels of omega-3 fatty acids, but it does have elevated levels of carcinogenic contaminants. A Cornell University study concludes that wild salmon is a better choice, provided the consumer has a high risk of heart disease. Guess that question’s answered.
(source: Cornell University)

Redheads Rule: Redheaded male Gouldian finches rule over male finches with black or yellow heads. Researchers from the University of New South Wales found that redheaded finches were more agressive than their peers and were dominant even when their heads were temporarily dyed another color. 
(source: University of New South Wales)

Painkillers Could Kill Downstream: A team from the National Institute of Standards and Technology investigated the chemical reactions of acetaminophen—the most commonly used painkiller in the United States—as it enters waste-water processing. They found that acetaminophen reacts in chlorine disinfection to form at least 11 new compounds, two of which are known to be toxic.
(source: NIST Tech Beat)

Originally published January 3, 2006

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