Ian Barnett takes a look at this month’s Science news                                                  

Dolphins exhibit gang behaviour

Gang culture is certainly discouraged in the UK but it seems that in the world of the dolphin, gangs rule the deep. Researchers monitored bottlenose dolphins in the Shark Bay area, Western Australia, and found they formed three types of alliance with other dolphins. Males form strong friendships, lasting around a month, with one or two other males. Teams of dolphins can then be formed from several of these groups of males. These teams work to herd females, either taking them from other teams or defending their own. Finally, several teams can form friendships, creating armies, which may pit themselves against each other. Researcher Dr Connor says dolphins must be “incredibly smart” in order to maintain these multifaceted social systems.

Happier to earn less

Research conducted by leading economists, including a duo from the University of St Andrews, has revealed that under 45s are happier earning less than their colleagues. It appears that instead of showing jealousy towards their higher-earning contemporaries, younger people instead feel the incentive to work harder, in the hope of increasing their salaries in the future. Older workers can generally predict how the final years of their careers will evolve, and so comparisons with colleagues earning more usually provoke negative responses. This study highlights both the beneficial opportunities still available in our recession-stricken economy and the importance of providing career progression opportunities for older people.


Pesticides responsible for bee decline 

New research from a team at Stirling University has revealed that pesticides commonly used on crops are killing the humble bumblebee. Neo-nicotoinoids attack the bee’s central nervous system, causing short term memory loss, thus affecting their homing skills. It is thought that the bees lose the ability to navigate home to their hive, and therefore have a much higher chance of perishing. Although these pesticides are tested for toxicity to bees, their behavioural effects are not taken into account. It is hoped that these findings will help to re-evaluate the guidelines for pesticide authorisation in the future.

Malaria resistance rockets

Worryingly high levels of resistance to anti-malaria drugs has been found in mosquitoes on the Thai-Burmese border. Doctors are reporting that the once potent drug artemisinin is now taking longer and longer to take effect; some envisage the treatment becoming completely ineffective. Researchers blame this phenomenon on mistreatment of the medicine, by taking it alone and not as part of a combination of drugs. This discovery is undoubtedly a hindrance to the Gates Foundation’s battle to completely eradicate malaria.


How to spot a liar

A group of psychologists from the University of British Colombia, Canada have revealed sets of expressions indicative of liars. They  found that liars tend to wear a look of surprise, often raising their forehead muscles, causing slight raising of the eyebrows and an involuntary smile; those telling the truth generally furrow their brows, in a look of distress. These results are important in the development of lie-detectors but do not provide enough evidence on their own to correctly accuse someone of lying.


Ian Barnett


Image 1 – Eleutherodactylus

Image 2 – the_azure_world