Posts tagged with "Australia"

‘Meat and greet’: White sharks meet up with ‘pals’ regularly for dinner parties

November 5, 2019

Ever since the release of the movie, Jaws, in 1975, great white sharks have become a cultural icon—representing vicious, scary manhunters. But at the end of the day, they just want to get together with some friends and socialize like the rest of us, according to results of research recently conducted in Australia.

In fact, Study Finds reports, although they hunt and travel alone, white sharks get together a few times each year with the same group of friends for a hearty meal of baby seals.

Scientists have known for some time that large groups of white sharks feast together on prey sporadically, but up until now they had assumed these dinner parties were a completely random result of individual sharks traveling to areas filled with food.

Now, a research team led by behavioral ecologist Stephan Leu of Macquarie University in Sydney has discovered that many of these sharks actually know each other and have been getting together for years.

Working in collaboration with researchers from Flinders University in Adelaide, the Fox Shark Research Foundation in Port Lincoln, and the French National Centre for Scientific Research in Paris, France; Leu and his team took photographs of nearly 300 white sharks for four and a half years, according to Study Finds.. The sharks were photographed meeting close to a seal nursery off the coast of the Neptune Islands in the Great Australian Bight.

Through the use of photo identification and network analysis technology, researchers were able to identify and keep track of each individual shark that visited the area. To their surprise, they noted that many of the same sharks were observed in close proximity to each other time and time again over the course of the observation period. So much so, that researchers say there is no way it was simply a coincidence.

“Rather than just being around randomly, the sharks formed four distinct communities, which showed that some sharks were more likely to use the site simultaneously than expected by chance,” Dr Leu comments in a release.

“The numbers varied across time, and we suggest that sex-dependent patterns of visitation at the Neptune Islands drive the observed community structure. Our findings show that white sharks don’t gather just by chance, but more research is needed to find out why.”

On a related note, it seems sharks aren’t the only aquatic animals with a penchant for get-togethers; another recent study conducted at Macquarie University found that manta rays regularly form close-knit and structured relationships that could also be described as communities.

The study findings have been published in the journal, Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology.

Research contact: @StudyFinds

‘Sensational’ study: Coffee’s bitter taste gives drinkers a ‘buzz’

November 19, 2018

While the aroma of coffee is enticing and pleasurable, most people find the taste to be bitter. However, a study published in Scientific Reports this month—and covered in a report by NPR—has found that, the more sensitive you are to the bitter taste of coffee, the more of it you tend to drink.

A team of researchers from the Australia, the United Kingdom, and the United States conducted the investigation using data stored in the UK Biobank, a major global health resource established over a decade ago by the Wellcome Trust medical charity, Medical Research Council, Department of Health, and the Scottish Government—and supported by the National Health Service..

More than 500,000 residents of England , Scotland, and Wales between the ages of 37 and 73 contributed blood, urine, and saliva samples to the Biobank between 2006 and 2010—and agreed to have their health status tracked, in order to determine which diseases and health conditions they would develop during the remainder of their lives.

The same volunteers also filled out questionnaires asking a variety of health-related questions—including how much coffee, tea, and alcohol they drank on a daily basis.

Since most of us inherit our taste preferences from our parents, the researchers used genetic analysis of samples from the Biobank to find people who were more or less sensitive to three bitter substances: caffeine, quinine (think tonic water) and a chemical called propylthiouracil that is frequently used in genetic tests of people’s ability to taste bitter compounds.

The objective was to determine whether people sensitive to one or more of these three substances drank more or less coffee than other drinkers. Surprising, NPR reports, people who exhibited greater sensitivity to caffeine reported higher coffee consumption, compared with people who did not strongly perceive the bitter taste. Strangely enough, the researchers said, “opposite relationships were observed for tea consumption.”

Conversely, those who were sensitive to quinine and propylthiouracil—neither of which is in coffee—tended to drink less coffee on a daily basis. For alcohol, a higher perceived intensity of propylthiouracil (bitterness) was associated with lower overall consumption.

How to explain these results? NPR reports that Marilyn Cornelis, assistant professor of Preventative Medicine at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine and one of the study authors, says people may “learn to associate that bitter taste with the stimulation that coffee can provide.” In other words, they get hooked on the buzz.

And it turns out those who drink two or three cups a day just might live longer, too.

Research contact: @joesbigidea

Font of wisdom: A new typeface called ‘Sans Forgetica’ boosts memory

October 5, 2018

Does your memory serve you well? If so, then you probably have what it takes to succeed in school and in many business specialties—where retaining facts, rules, and ideas is an essential skill.  However, if you need a GPS to get down memory lane, then you just might be interested in the latest research findings out of Australia.

At Melbourne-based RMIT University , academics from different disciplines announced on October 3 that they have collaborated on the development, and testing of a text font called Sans Forgetica that is scientifically designed to help readers remember their study notes.

About 400 RMIT students recently participated in a study of fonts that found a small increase in the amount of material they retained, depending upon how it appeared on the page57% of text written in Sans Forgetica compared with 50% in a plain Arial.

Stephen Banham, an RMIT lecturer in Typography, said in a university release, “It was great working on a project that combined research from typography and Psychology; as well as the experts from the university‘s Behavioural Business Lab.

“This cross pollination of thinking has led to the creation of a new font that is fundamentally different from all other font. It is also a clear application of theory into practice, something we strive for at RMIT,” he said.

The new font slants to the left and has gaps in each letter—creating a level of difficulty that jogs the memory. Indeed, the font was developed using a learning principle called ‘desirable difficulty’, in which an obstruction is added to the learning process that requires readers to put in just enough effort, leading to better memory retention to promote deeper cognitive processing.

Senior Marketing Lecturer (Experimental Methods and Design Thinking) and founding member of the RMIT Behavioural Business Lab Dr. Janneke Blijlevens said typical fonts were very familiar.

“Readers often glance over them and no memory trace is created,” she noted.

However, if a font is too different, the brain can’t process it and the information is not retained.

“Sans Forgetica lies at a sweet spot where just enough obstruction has been added to create that memory retention.”

She notes that Sans Forgetica has varying degrees of ‘distinctiveness’ built in that subvert many of the design principles normally associated with conventional typography.

These degrees of distinctiveness cause readers to dwell longer on each word, giving the brain more time to engage in deeper cognitive processing, to enhance information retention.

Banham, who has created about 20 fonts, told the Guardian that the typeface would be best used for short texts.

“God no, you wouldn’t want novels printed in it, it would probably induce a headache,” he said.

The font took about six months to develop and there were three different versions tested.

Now, the university said, Sans Forgetica is available free to download as a font and Chrome browser extension at sansforgetica.rmit.

Research contact: stephen.banham@rmit.edu.au