Science briefs: Elephants may top dogs as sniffers

  • Updated: July 26, 2014 - 3:00 PM

Photo provided by European Space Agency ESA shows a very raw image of Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko that was taken by OSIRIS, Rosetta’s scientific imaging system, from a distance of approximately 12 000 km on July 14, 2014 as the space probe approaches the comet. The image suggests that the comet may consist of two parts: one segment seems to be rather elongated, while the other appears more bulbous. (AP Photo/ESA)

elephants may top dogs as sniffers

Elephant noses might be the most discerning mammalian sniffers on the planet. A study published in Genome Research said African elephants may best humans, mice and even dogs on the measure of olfactory receptor genes. But while the number of genes in elephants is impressive — 2,000, which is more than twice the number found in dogs and five times that in humans — scientists say there isn’t a clear connection between having more genes and being a better smeller in every way. Study author Yoshihito Niimura of the University of Tokyo said the advantage for elephants most likely lies in a broader range of identifiable smells. Elephants can recognize other elephants by the smell of their urine, for example. “Imagine having a nose on the palm of your hand,” Niimura said of their trunks. “Every time you touch something, you smell it!”

you may be too tired to tell the truth

Do you consider yourself an ethical person? Chances are you answered “yes,” but research suggests that our ability to act honestly is dependent, in part, on the time of day. A study in the journal Psychological Science finds that early-risers, or “larks,” are more likely to act dishonestly in the late evening hours. Night-owls, on the other hand, exhibit a tendency toward ethical lapses early in the morning. Most of us are hard-wired to go to sleep and wake up at certain times of day. And this internal clock also affects our ability to behave ethically at different times of day. These findings have pretty big implications for the workplace. For one, they suggest that the one-size-fits-all 9-to-5 schedule is practically an invitation to ethical lapses. “Employers could consider this when creating their own work structures, “ said Sunita Sah, one of the authors of the study.

‘Four-Winged’ Dinosaur found

Scientists have discovered a large species of flying, “four-winged” dinosaur that may have relied on a long, feathery tail to prevent crash landings. The species, Changyuraptor, found in China, was 4 feet long and weighed about 9 pounds — by far the largest of the flying nonavian dinosaurs that lived about 125 million years ago. Typically, the microraptors weighed about 2 pounds. “Nine pounds for an early flier,” said Luis Chiappe, a paleontologist and a co-author of a study in the journal Nature Communications about the new find. “That is a pretty sizable beast.” Changyuraptor was able to fly because of its unusual tail feathers. Up to a foot long, they probably helped reduce its speed as it approached the ground and “would be able to control the pitch of the animal,” he said.

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