In the Amazon, scientists have teamed up with indigenous communities to create atlases that show how hunting and other activities affect the forest.
Two back-to-back studies on how big-brained animals thrive in new habitats piqued my curiosity about the real implications of relative brain size. If you heard last week’s science podcast, you know that species with big brains relative to their bodies are more successful than small-brained ones in new habitats. That holds true for birds, mammals, amphibians and reptiles—all of which often land in unfamiliar environments due to human trade and travel. Now another study finds that a big brain-to-body ratio helps birds thrive in cities. [...]
Loneliness isn’t just a state of mind. It also affects our bodies. A growing number of studies are showing that a feeling of loneliness is associated with heart problems, viral infections, and an increased risk of death. And those health problems, in turn, are associated with huge differences in gene activity. Some genes, like ones involved in inflammation, are more active in lonely people. Others, such as genes that code for antiviral defenses, are less active.
The most intriguing session I attended at this year’s AAAS meeting was led by Stanford ecologist José Fragoso. In it, Fragoso described how he and his colleagues are working with indigenous groups in Guyana and Brazil to find out how cultural change affects the diversity of species in the surrounding forests and savannas.