Lizard venom, kamikaze ants and the voodoo virus

Tim’s blog

This week on radio, Tim Thwaites is talking about lizard venom; fatherhood and testosterone; kamikaze ants; the voodoo virus; and more…

Fatherhood decreases testosterone—Results from a long-term health study in the Philippines show that becoming a father leads to a sharp decline in testosterone levels. This suggests that although high levels of the male hormone may help men win a mate, the traits they accentuate, such as aggression and competition, are less useful when it comes to raising children.—Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences

A Science  story on this topic can be found at

Our ancestors interbred with related species—A computer analysis of the genomes of three modern African groups by US evolutionary biologists suggests that about two per cent of our genetic inheritance originally came from other human species with which our ancestors interbred.—Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences

A Nature story on this topic can be found at

Giving your heart to lizard venom—A Melbourne researcher, who found that venoms were far more widespread in lizards than previously suspected, has now demonstrated their potential as pharmaceuticals, particularly for lowering blood pressure.—Australasian Science

A story on this topic can be found in the September issue of Australasian Science.

Knock out one gene to ease chronic painChronic nerve-related pain could one day be eased by targeting a single gene, British researchers suggest. But first we have to be sure the therapy won’t interfere with closely related genes vital for controlling heartbeat.—Science

A New Scientist story on this topic can be found at

Virus sends caterpillars to a sticky endThe baculo- or voodoo virus injects a gene into its unsuspecting gypsy moth caterpillar host which prevents it from moulting and forces it to climb to the tops of trees. There, the pitiable caterpillars make copies of the virus inside their cells. Then their cell membranes break down, and a rain of viral particles descends on the healthy caterpillars below.—Science

A New Scientist story on this topic can be found at

Kamikaze ants protect the colony—The advent of suicide bombers is not restricted to humans. A species of carpenter ant in Borneo has given over much of its body to storing a deadly, sticky secretion. When enemies invade their colony, the ant defenders grab them and effectively explode, killing both ant and intruder.—Acta Zoologica

A New Scientist story on this topic can be found at

Using Twitter beats the stock market—An analysis of human sentiment, based on Twitter tweets, is being tested by a London-based investment firm to help it predict changes in the stock market. So far, so good—

A New Scientist story on this topic can be found at

Dive-bombing hummingbirds let their feathers do the talkingDuring the mating season, bright-throated male hummingbirds climb high into the air and dive, belting out a series of sharp squeaks or trills to impress the girls. But the high-pitched sounds don’t issue from their mouths, but from the wind whistling through their tail feathers.—Science

A Science story on this topic can be found at

The kraken wakes—Huge king crabs in the deep ocean surrounding Antarctica are on the move. They have begun to creep down the continental shelf wreaking havoc on other sea life. Their movement is attributed to global warming.—Proceedings of the Royal Society B

A Science story on this topic can be found at