This is just a short little post about some science that I read in the papers this week. These two stories were interesting for very different reasons.
The first one is something that you've probably seen on Facebook, but just in case you haven't I thought I'd share it. Danish researchers have predicted the distribution of mammals if humans have never existed: http://i100.independent.co.uk/article/what-the-world-would-look-like-if-humans-had-never-existed--WJmrb1dBlHg
This comes hot on the heals of other work that shows we are the most efficient hunter on the planet: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/science/forget-jaws-it-is-humans-who-are-the-worlds-top-predator-say-scientists-10464301.html
But work like this, while interesting, should not be taken as gospel. There are many assumptions that go into a prediction like this. And a big one that many people will probably point out is the assumption that we were the cause of the Pleistocene mega fauna extinction. To my understanding we most likely were, but there is still debate.
The second story is about ants who self medicate: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/science/ants-are-able-to-selfmedicate-by-changing-diet-when-they-are-unwell-in-first-for-insectkind-10467040.html
This is just cool research. It's by Finnish researchers and show that ants infected with a fungus will eat hydrogen peroxide, something that healthy ants won't do. Doing so reduces their risk of dying by 15%, but comes with a 20% risk of death. However, this fungal infection is deadly and can wreck colonies. The ants also dosed themselves. This adds to work showing that animals eat plants when sick or rub specific vegetation on them to reduce parasite load. It's also interesting because it shows a species with very limited cognitive capacity can appear to have such self awareness.
Sorry if the links aren't as easy to use. I'm writing this on my phone!