Discovered: Carbo-loading is why we have cute dogs; dung beetles follow the stars; research to resume on H5N1 avian flu; look at this newly discovered Brazilian bird before it goes extinct.
Carb-loving wolves evolved into dogs. We know that at some point in evolutionary history, dogs branched off from wolves and became the cuddly, domesticated creatures we now know and love (and pit against each other in bizarre televised competitions). And a new study led by Erik Axelsson, a geneticist at Sweden's Uppsala University, suggests that a carb-heavy diet helped distinguish modern-day dogs from their protein-hungry wolf ancestors. While toothsome wolves remained faithful to the Atkins diet, early dogs approached human settlements and started eating their carbohydrate-based scraps. "That food was obviously the same kind of food that we were eating," says Axelsson, claiming that these proto-dogs probably subsisted on roots, porridge, and bread much like our human ancestors. [Los Angeles Times]
Dung beetles guided by the Milky Way. Who knew these crunchy insects were such stargazers? Eric Warrant, professor of zoology at the Lund University in Sweden, and his colleagues have found that dung beetles use starlight from the Milky Way to orient themselves when traveling at night. This is the first time an insect has been shown to rely on starlight for mobility—we already knew birds and seals were capable of it. "Even without the moon—just with the stars—they were still able to navigate," says Warrant. "We were just flabbergasted." [Science Now]