Comb Jelly Brains, Dancing Bees, and Pig Sperm: Nature’s Messaging Systems in Our Picks of the Week

[19 – 23 May 2014] The editors’ note about your science week

This week was all about passing messages, be it a bee dancing out an environmental report, the unspoken but powerful message of ritual tattoos, international ways to communicate science, the magnificently different nervous system of the comb jelly, or a female pig listening to the sperm of her mate!

This week was all about passing messages, be it a bee dancing out an environmental report, the unspoken but powerful message of ritual tattoos, international ways to communicate science, the magnificently different nervous system of the comb jelly, or a female pig listening to the sperm of her mate!


(Credit: Wikimedia / Steve Jurvetson)

On the MyScienceWork Menu:

This week, for three days in various cities around the world, science fans were relaxing together in bars—and learning—over a Pint of Science. This festival-gone-global is one example of a science communication initiative, but how can research and society best interact in different parts of the world? The Science & You event coming next year hopes to provide answers.

[Video] Science & You 2015: International approaches to communicating science

 

Also this week, fans of Space Tuesday, or les Mardis de l’espace of France’s space agency, gathered to talk with the experts about the role of satellites in studying and preparing for climate change.

Global Warming, As Seen from Space

 

Particularly at risk from rising sea levels are the world’s island nations. This may include the archipelago of Samoa, but, in a very different kind of story, MyScienceWork looked at the long Samoan tradition of ritual tattooing. An exhibit devoted to the tattoo is now running in Paris, and the pieces are quite extraordinary.

Tattoos at the Museum: Paris’ Musée du quai Branly reconciles art & ethnology

 

Some favorites from around the web:

Just as the tattoo carries meaning and symbolism via its form and its ritual, the dance of honeybees carries a message – and it’s richer than we thought.

Dancing honeybees assess the health of the environment

 

While the bees back at the hive are interpreting the signals of this dance, female pigs, it seems, may be able to receive messages deep inside…from sperm!

Female Pigs May Sense Sex of Sperm

 

The study suggests that, if true, this ability of the reproductive tract to react differently to X or Y chromosome-carrying sperm could be common to mammals in general.
Not at all common to mammals, or any other branch of the animal kingdom that we’ve studied, are the brains of comb jellies, it turns out. Their neural messages don’t even make use of the same neurotransmitters! "Our concept of nature was that there was only one way to make a neural system. We oversimplified evolution," said the head author of a new study sequencing the creatures’ genome.

Comb jellies have evolved totally different brains


Although your brain might now seem quite ordinary next to a comb jelly’s, why not exercise it on this task:

Develop Code to Study the Higgs Boson and Win Cash Prizes

 

And, finally, some other brains have been put to good use developing a way to charge batteries wirelessly. If it works in humans, the applications for implanted medical devices could be great.

Wireless Charger Could Power Implants