Smuggled Dinosaurs, Sick Sea Otters, Hairy Tongues, and More

A roundup of science stories or studies that blow our mind, tickle our funny bone, or generally strike our fancy.

Each week we’ll round up links to science stories or studies that blow our mind, tickle our funny bone, or generally strike our fancy.

Smuggled Dino Goes Home
The skeleton of a Tyrannosaurus bataar that was smuggled into the United States is being returned to Mongolia. The self-confessed “commercial paleontologist” who illegally imported and sold the bones at auction last year for just over $1 million is free on bail and awaiting sentencing.
—New York Times

Related: “Suspected Mongolian Dinosaur Skeleton Seized in New York”
—The World

Holy Hairy Bat Tongue!
Nectar-feeding bats have hair-like structures at the tips of their tongues that help them lap up liquid, the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences reported this week.  Researchers at Brown University collected high-speed video that shows how the specialized structures become flush with blood during nectar feeding, thereby increasing the tongue’s surface area and improving nectar-slurping efficiency.
—Wired (includes video)

Fluffy vs. the Sea Otters
Unleashed cat poop isn’t just gross—it can be dangerous. Between 60 and 70 percent of male California sea otters are infested with Toxoplasma, a potentially deadly parasite typically spread by domestic cats, according to estimates by wildlife pathologist and veterinarian Melissa A. Miller. Cat feces riddled with Toxoplasma eggs can end up in the ocean and pose a health risk to sea otters, manatees, and other marine creatures.
—National Geographic

Related: “How Kitty is Killing the Dolphins”
—Scientific American (subscription required)

Why We Lie to Ourselves
Practicing self-deception—such as cherry-picking information or believing false memories—may help us better lie to others, according to Robert Trivers, a professor of anthropology and biological sciences at Rutgers University. Deceiving ourselves to deceive others may have conferred an evolutionary advantage on our predecessors.

How Do We Hear a Pin Drop?
To understand how the ear detects faint sounds through ambient noise, researchers from UCLA placed bundles of hair cells taken from bullfrogs’ ears in a glass dish and examined how they responded to strong and faint sounds. In response to loud sounds, the hair cells synchronized their oscillations in phase with the incoming noise. For fainter sounds, the cells intermittently lost synchronization but then regained it.
—Physics Central

Meet the Writer

About Leslie Taylor

Leslie Taylor is the digital media manager at Maine Audubon and is a former web editor for Science Friday.