Maybe it’s the sluggishly moving fish, maybe it’s the slowly waving seaweed. Whatever it is, aquariums have the power to reduce stress, research has found.

“Even watching a normal tank — the light and the movement of the artificial seaweed — was quite relaxing for people,” said Deborah Cracknell, lead researcher at the National Aquarium. “But when we added fish, it definitely did make a difference.”

Aquariums are known to be calm and enchanting places. But the latest research adds to the vast body of research that says people can physically improve stress levels by escaping the grind and observing nature.

Loads of studies have shown that green space — like gardens or parks — has similar physiological effects, and there have been other studies done to show that visitors to dentist offices and elderly homes will have lower blood pressure and reduced anxiety if there are fish tanks present. “I can see that this could be used in a hospital setting,” Cracknell said. “Even if you couldn’t have a physical tank, maybe you could have a video or a link to a real tank.”

 

Wild chimpanzees using clay as food

Wild chimpanzees in Uganda have begun eating clay, which furnishes dietary minerals to them, a study reports.

“I’d never seen this, and I’ve been observing them since 1962,” said Vernon Reynolds, a professor emeritus of biological anthropology at Oxford University and an author of the study, published in PLOS One. “Now, just recently, they’re really going for it in a big way.”

The researchers studied chimpanzees living in the Budongo Forest. Reynolds and his colleagues believe the chimps have turned to clay because of the widespread destruction of local raffia palm trees.

The trees are being killed by tobacco farmers, who strip the trees of leaves for use in curing and drying tobacco.

The chimpanzees used to eat the decayed pith of the tree, which contains minerals. The clay they have begun eating has “plenty of aluminum in it, high concentrations of iron, lots of manganese, magnesium and potassium,” Reynolds said. “It’s a cocktail of minerals.”

 

Lithium in stars may be confirmed

Astronomers believe that the metal lithium was created during the Big Bang 13.8 billion years ago. Yet old stars often have less lithium than might be expected, while young stars seem to have much more.

Some scientists have speculated the source of extra lithium in young stars may be stellar explosions, or novae, expelling matter into space. Now lithium has been found in material ejected by the younger star Nova Centauri 2013, which may confirm the theory. The observation was made by telescopes at La Silla Observatory, the European Space Organization’s site near Santiago, Chile.

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