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Honey badger has a penis bone shaped like an ‘ice cream scooper’ that clears out its rivals’ semen

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honey badger has a penis bone shaped like an ice cream scooper that clears out its rivals semen

The honey badger may have evolved a penis bone that can scoop out rivals’ semen and ensure their paternity after mating.

Most mammals – including cats, dogs, mice, and bears – have a bone inside their penis, called the baculum.

Humans are one of only a few primates to have lost their baculum over the course of evolution.

Researchers in the UK comparing dozens of mammal penis bones theorize that, in some species, they help with ‘postcopulatory sexual competition.’

Honey badgers are non-monogamous and females may have sperm from various males vying to fertilize her egg.

The scoop-like baculum could be how a male ensures victory, but scientists hope to film honey badger genitals during copulation to confirm their theory. 

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The honey badger may have evolved a penis bone that can scoop out rivals' semen and ensure their paternity after mating

The honey badger may have evolved a penis bone that can scoop out rivals' semen and ensure their paternity after mating

The honey badger may have evolved a penis bone that can scoop out rivals’ semen and ensure their paternity after mating 

Honey badgers are non-monogamous and females may have sperm from various males vying to fertilize her egg

Honey badgers are non-monogamous and females may have sperm from various males vying to fertilize her egg

Honey badgers are non-monogamous and females may have sperm from various males vying to fertilize her egg 

Strangely, the most complex penis bones were found among mammals considered socially monogamous.

Simpler, straighter bacula were associated with animals that don’t forge long-term partnerships, according to their report in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B.

But many socially monogamous females breed with other males besides than their primary partner, according to lead author Charlotte Brassey, a zoologist at the Manchester Metropolitan University.

If a female breeds with more than one male during a mating season, those males are in competition to fertilize her eggs.

Different animals have developed various strategies to ensure their sperm come out on top, a situation known as postcopulatory sexual competition.

The zebra longwing butterfly, for example, excretes a mating plug that blocks the females from future insemination.

A 3D x-ray image of a honey badger baculum. Researchers at Manchester Metropolitan University examined the bacula of 82 carnivorous species, including dogs, lions, bears, walruses and otters

A 3D x-ray image of a honey badger baculum. Researchers at Manchester Metropolitan University examined the bacula of 82 carnivorous species, including dogs, lions, bears, walruses and otters

A 3D x-ray image of a honey badger baculum. Researchers at Manchester Metropolitan University examined the bacula of 82 carnivorous species, including dogs, lions, bears, walruses and otters

Images of bacula from various mammals, including the honey badger, European otter, meerkat and Golden jackal illustrate their diverse size and shape

Images of bacula from various mammals, including the honey badger, European otter, meerkat and Golden jackal illustrate their diverse size and shape

Images of bacula from various mammals, including the honey badger, European otter, meerkat and Golden jackal illustrate their diverse size and shape

According to Brassey, many mammals have evolved penis bones to help ensure their sperm are the ones that succeed.

Brassey’s team used 3D X-ray imaging comparing the bacula of 82 carnivorous species, including dogs, lions, bears, walruses and otters.

In the honey badger, native to Africa, India and Southwest Asia, the spoon-like shape of the penis tip may be used to displace sperm already in the cervix.

The honey badger’s baculum even looks like an ice cream scoop, Brassey told New Scientist. ‘It really seems to just be designed to scoop out other sperm and then cup the cervix.’

Brassey hopes to film the honey badgers’ genitals during copulation to confirm her thesis.

Brassey hopes to film the honey badgers' genitals during copulation to confirm her thesis

Brassey hopes to film the honey badgers' genitals during copulation to confirm her thesis

Brassey hopes to film the honey badgers’ genitals during copulation to confirm her thesis

Other bacula seem to have evolved to play different roles during mating.

The black bear’s long, thin penis bone may allow for lengthier copulation, according to earlier research by Brassey and her colleagues, while other bacula may induce ovulation in the female. 

Males with wider penis bones, like house mice, have been shown to sire more offspring.

More research needs to be done into how baculum are used during and after sex, Brassey says.

‘Penis bones are notable for being extremely diverse in shape, with species being distinguished by possessing bizarre tips, ridges and grooves,’ she wrote in Newsweek in 2018. 

‘Yet in the past, biologists have only included the most basic metrics (bone length and diameter) into their models of baculum function,’ and ignored the significance of shape. 

WHAT ANIMALS HAVE PENIS BONES AND WHY DO THEY HAVE THEM? 

Most mammals have a unique bone called a baculum – also know as a penis bone, penile bone or os penis – in their penis. 

The only mammal species without baculum are humans, horses, donkeys, rhinoceros, marsupials, rabbits, cetaceans (the marine family that includes whales and dolphins), elephants and hyenas.

Baculum are present in cats, dogs, most primates, rodents and seals.

The bone is kept in the abdomen and, when needed, a set of muscles push it into a sheath in the fleshy part of the penis.

It enters within the erectile tissue, providing rigidness to aid during the copulation. 

The penis bone varies in size and shape by species and its characteristics are sometimes used to differentiate between similar species.

The female equivalent is known as the baubellum or os clitoris, a bone in the clitoris.

 

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Scientists discover cheese is so smelly because it helps microbes ‘talk’ to the bacteria

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scientists discover cheese is so smelly because it helps microbes talk to the bacteria

Many of us can be put off a Stinking Bishop or a gooey Gorgonzola by its strong whiff.

Scientists, however, have found why that smell is so vital – it helps microbes ‘talk’ to the bacteria that ripen cheese.

Researchers at Tufts University in the US discovered the bacteria respond to volatile organic compounds (VOCs) produced by fungi in the rind and released into the air, giving the delicious flavours found on cheese boards. 

Scientists at Tufts University in the U.S. found the bacteria responds to volatile organic compounds (VOCs) produced by fungi in the rind before it released into the air. (Stock image)

Scientists at Tufts University in the U.S. found the bacteria responds to volatile organic compounds (VOCs) produced by fungi in the rind before it released into the air. (Stock image)

Scientists at Tufts University in the U.S. found the bacteria responds to volatile organic compounds (VOCs) produced by fungi in the rind before it released into the air. (Stock image)

The combination of bacteria, yeast and fungi is critical to its flavour so the experts say discovering how to control the microbial ecosystem is a breakthrough in the art of cheese-making.

‘Humans have appreciated the diverse aromas of cheeses for hundreds of years, but how these aromas impact the biology of the cheese microbiome had not been studied,’ said Benjamin Wolfe, professor of biology and one of the authors of the study – published in Environmental Microbiology.

‘Our latest findings show that cheese microbes can use these aromas to dramatically change their biology and the findings’ importance extends beyond cheese-making to other fields as well.’

As bacteria and fungi grow on ripening cheeses, they secrete enzymes that break down amino acids to produce compounds that contribute to the flavour and aroma of cheese. 

They are the reason why camembert, stilton and limburger have their signature smells.

The combination of bacteria, yeast and fungi is critical to its flavour, according to experts. (Stock image)

The combination of bacteria, yeast and fungi is critical to its flavour, according to experts. (Stock image)

The combination of bacteria, yeast and fungi is critical to its flavour, according to experts. (Stock image)

The researchers found VOCs don’t just contribute to the taste and texture of cheese, but also provide a way for fungi to communicate with and ‘feed’ bacteria in the cheese microbiome.

‘The bacteria are able to actually eat what we perceive as smells,’ said Casey Cosetta, who co-authored the study. ‘With VOCs, the fungi are really providing a useful assist to the bacteria to help them thrive.’

Cheese expert Steve Parker, author of British Cheese On Toast, warned not everything can be perfected in a lab, saying cheesemakers believe the environment in the dairy and the maturing room and the moulds and yeasts in there is what gives a cheese ‘unique characteristics’.       

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Birth control hormone is making its way into streams and hindering fish’s ability to reproduce

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birth control hormone is making its way into streams and hindering fishs ability to reproduce

Water polluted with even tiny amounts of human hormones can impact marine life, according to a new study that found freshwater fish exposed to estrogen produced fewer offspring.

Synthetic estrogen from oral contraceptives has been found in waterways near sewage treatment plants.

Biologists looking to see if those hormones affect fish exposed them to trace amounts of a synthetic version of Ethinylestradiol, used in most birth control pills.

They found less than a tenth of the concentration of Ethinylestradiol found in some streams was enough to lead to smaller populations and fewer male offsprings.

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Estrogen has been detected in streams, lakes and even drinking water. To determine its effect, researchers exposed killifish to synthetic Ethinylestradiol, found in most birth control pills. They found the number of offspring reduced and more females born than males.

Estrogen has been detected in streams, lakes and even drinking water. To determine its effect, researchers exposed killifish to synthetic Ethinylestradiol, found in most birth control pills. They found the number of offspring reduced and more females born than males.

Estrogen has been detected in streams, lakes and even drinking water. To determine its effect, researchers exposed killifish to synthetic Ethinylestradiol, found in most birth control pills. They found the number of offspring reduced and more females born than males.

According to a study in the journal Aquatic Toxicology, fish exposed to even 5 nanograms per liter of synthetic Ethinylestradiol produced fewer offspring than those that weren’t and gave birth to more females than males.

Ethinylestradiol has been found in streams at levels higher than 60 nanograms per liter.

In addition to birth control, it’s used as menopausal hormone therapy, to prevent osteoporosis and as a palliative treatment for breast cancer.

Our bodies generally only absorb a small amount of the medication we ingest, the rest – up to 90 percent – gets flushed down the toilet when we go to the bathroom.

'When women on birth control or hormone therapy go to the bathroom, it gets flushed into wastewater treatment plants,' said biologist Latonya Jackson (right)

'When women on birth control or hormone therapy go to the bathroom, it gets flushed into wastewater treatment plants,' said biologist Latonya Jackson (right)

‘When women on birth control or hormone therapy go to the bathroom, it gets flushed into wastewater treatment plants,’ said biologist Latonya Jackson (right) 

‘Our wastewater treatment systems are good at removing a lot of things, but they weren’t designed to remove pharmaceuticals,’ said lead author Latonya Jackson, a biologist at the University of Cincinnati. ‘So when women on birth control or hormone therapy go to the bathroom, it gets flushed into wastewater treatment plants.’

For her experiments, Jackson used least killifish, a relative of the guppy.

Killifish are common, tiny and easy to catch, making them easy to study without taking up a lot of space.

They’re a popular target for predators, which they make up for by giving birth frequently, about every 28 days.

Least killifish produced fewer offspring after being exposed to less than a tenth of the estrogen concentration found in some streams near sewage plants

Least killifish produced fewer offspring after being exposed to less than a tenth of the estrogen concentration found in some streams near sewage plants

Least killifish produced fewer offspring after being exposed to less than a tenth of the estrogen concentration found in some streams near sewage plants 

They’re also rare for fish in that they have a placenta and give birth to live young.

Jackson’s team found that chronic exposure to Ethinylestradiol led to smaller populations and a gender ratio of more females than males.

Next she’ll be working with the Environmental Protection Agency to see if the hormones affected the genetics of the fish’s offspring.

Around 15 million women regularly take birth-control pills in the US alone, most of them using Ethinylestradiol. 

‘Our wastewater treatment systems are good at removing a lot of things, but they weren’t designed to remove pharmaceuticals,’ Jackson said. ‘So when women on birth control or hormone therapy go to the bathroom, it gets flushed into wastewater treatment plants.’ 

While a 2010 study found birth-control pills accounted for less than one percent of the estrogen found in US drinking water, local water systems don’t test for Ethinylestradiol.

And estrogen enters the waterways from other sources, like livestock and dairy products. 

Previous studies have found estrogen in rivers and lakes leads male fish to develop ovaries and other female characteristics. 

A 2015 study from Washington State University found a link between Ethinylestradiol and the growing decline in sperm counts, which have plummeted up to 38 percent in a decade. 

‘There’s every reason to believe that estrogen and the pharmaceutical compounds that we’re ingesting in micro-quantities are having an effect,’ activist Seth Siegel told Business Insider.

‘Why wouldn’t it be possible that a newborn or fetus, or a 3-year-old getting an irregular dosage, might not see some effect on their brain function or brain development?’

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Reckless tourists get too close to a herd of bison Yellowstone Park, sparking a stampede

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reckless tourists get too close to a herd of bison yellowstone park sparking a stampede

Tourists in Yellowstone National Park caused a dangerous stampede by getting too close to a herd of bison. 

The giant creatures were caught on video approaching a river before breaking into a stampede that kicked up dust and threatened to steamroll right over bystanders.

A witness said tourists kept inching closer to the herd, despite their grunting and hoof-stomping – and warnings from others to get away.

According to Yellowstone guidelines, park visitors should remain 25 yards from bison at all times.

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Tourists near a river in Yellowstone's Lamar Valley were filmed inching dangerously close to a herd of bison. Several of the giant beasts plowed passed the visitors as they crossed the river to join the rest of the herd

Tourists near a river in Yellowstone's Lamar Valley were filmed inching dangerously close to a herd of bison. Several of the giant beasts plowed passed the visitors as they crossed the river to join the rest of the herd

Tourists near a river in Yellowstone’s Lamar Valley were filmed inching dangerously close to a herd of bison. Several of the giant beasts plowed passed the visitors as they crossed the river to join the rest of the herd

Lisa Stewart filmed the scene near Yellowstone’s Lamar Valley, where a cluster of tourists had gathered near a river.

At first she assumed it was a wolf sighting, but she soon realized the foolhardy visitors were approaching a herd of buffalo.

‘The people saw them and started walking closer and closer toward the bison,’ Stewart told USA Today.

The animals ‘kept getting more agitated by the minute,’ she added, grunting and stomping the ground with their hooves as they moved down the hill.

Eventually they broke into a stampede, only narrowly avoiding the onlookers as they galloped into the water to join the herd on the other side of the river.

Bystanders warned the tourists to get out of the way, Stewart said, and told them how stupid they were for walking toward the massive beasts.

‘You only see about four to six people on the video, but there were more in the same spot the bison came running from,’ she recalled. ‘It was amazing that they didn’t heed the warning of grunting, snorting and stomping feet!’ 

Stewart said she stopped filming, afraid someone was hurt, and was actually shaking a bit from fear.

‘I could feel the earth rumbling under my feet when it was happening,’ she told USA Today. ‘It was one of those moments your stomach turns over at the split moment you think disaster is about to happen.’ 

There are just under 5,000 bison living in Yellowstone National Park, the largest population on public land. 

It’s not unusual for visitors to see them, though such violent encounters are rarer. 

Last month, KTMF reporter Rachel Louise Just filmed dozens of bison stampeding through traffic in the park.

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Dozens of buffalo stampeding through traffic last month in Yellowstone National Park

Dozens of buffalo stampeding through traffic last month in Yellowstone National Park

Dozens of buffalo stampeding through traffic last month in Yellowstone National Park

The incident happened the weekend of September 17, but Just shared it on YouTube last week.

‘Bison are my favorite animal so this was one of the coolest things I’ve EVER seen!’ she tweeted. ‘No idea what prompted the stampede but WOW.’ 

According to the National Park Service website, bison cause more injuries than any other animal in Yellowstone.

They’re agile, unpredictable and can reach speeds of up to 30 miles per hour. 

Since Yellowstone lifted its coronavirus lockdown in May, two people have been injured by bison, including a woman who was knocked to the ground the second day the park was reopened. 

Also known as American buffalo, bison are the largest land-dwelling mammals in North America, with bulls weighing up to 2,000 pounds and cows about half that.

Before the arrival of Europeans, there were an estimated 30 to 60 million bison in North America.

By the turn of the 20th century, hunting and targeting killing nearly wiped them out, leaving barely 2,000 on the continent.

Eventually a dedicated effort helped restore their numbers, though Yellowstone is the only place in the US where bison have lived continuously since prehistoric times.

Because they’re genetically pure, and not hybrids, the park’s herds behave like their ancient ancestors, according to the NPS, ‘congregating during the breeding season to compete for mates, as well as migration and exploration that result in the use of new habitat areas.’

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