Discovered: Pigging out is a bigger health concern than starvation; Christmas trees haven't evolved much in 100 million years; Rhesus monkeys have no rhythm; say hi to this newly discovered primate.
Overeating outstrips undereating. You're unlikely to hear impassioned pleas from celebrities about the plight of the obese, but according to a large new study about the state of world health, overeating causes more health problems than hunger on average. The Global Burden of Disease was compiled by 500 scientists working from 50 countries. They found that between 1990 and 2010, it became more common to develop health problems from being underweight than from being undernourished. "A greater amount of disease burden has occurred because people are fat and have too much to eat, as opposed to having too little to eat," says the University of Queensland's Alan Lopez, one of the project's researchers. [New Scientist]
Rhesus monkeys can't step to the beat. Because they can't hear it. University of Amsterdam and National Autonomous University of Mexico researchers have found that rhesus monkeys can't perceive beat induction, or the ability to notice regular patterns in rhythm. The scientists hooked up electrodes to the rhesus monkeys' brains, finding that they were unresponsive to stimuli that human babies perceived in terms of beat. They conclude that beat induction remains skill unique to humans. [Science Daily]
The more things change, the more Christmas trees stay the same. Christmas didn't exist 100 million years ago—Jesus's birth was still a long way off, historically. But if you had bought one of the conifers commonly propped up in living rooms during December back then, it would be almost genetically identical to one you'd buy today. Université Laval researchers in Canada compared the genomes of current spruce, pine, and fir trees with fossils dating back to dinosaur eras, finding remarkable similarity. Flowering plants have evolved a lot since then, but, "the macrostructure of the conifer genome has been remarkably stable over the ages," according to researcher Jean Bousquet. [Université Laval]