We’re off for Memorial Day. Please allow Shonen Knife to get your summer started.
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Romance is in the air. Vacation getaways, cool breezes, and warm nights can set the scene for a good, old fashioned ‘summer fling.’ In celebration of love and the summer, here is some romance-centric science to round out the season:
As the saying goes, beauty is in the eye of the beholder; however, researchers have found beauty may also be in the face of the beholder. In a recent study, researchers discovered that we prefer partners who most resemble ourselves! The authors recruited over 20 couples and morphed each partner’s face in different ways: a morph with a prototypical female, one with a prototypical male, and a morph blending the participants’ faces with that of their mates. Using a ranking system, they found that participants clearly preferred their partner’s face when it resembled their own over all other facial morphs. This research provides insight into what may attract us to our summer flings, but how about their longevity?
Conflict resolution is key to the stability of adult relationships; however, we have little understanding of how conflict resolution affects teen relationships. In a study published this spring, researchers sought to discover if successfully resolving conflicts predicts whether a teen relationship will last. The authors interviewed 80 teenage couples and observed each of them during a confrontation. They then followed up with the couples over the next four years. During this analysis, the researchers discovered that adolescents who successfully resolved conflicts were not more likely to stay together then the couples who struggled through conflict resolution. Factors such as peer-groups, personality changes, and other causes may be more likely to influence the success of an adolescent relationship.
But what becomes of adult couples who can’t resolve conflicts? Researchers found that the quality of a person’s romantic relationship may predict the likelihood of depression. The authors analyzed survey data, including a ten-year follow-up, from nearly five thousand adults. The initial analysis outlined the quality of social and romantic relationships, assessing the individual’s social support and strain. In the follow-up survey, the researchers analyzed the quality of a participant’s relationship with their partners, family, and friends to assess social stress or support. Through this analysis, they found that strained romantic relationships increased the risk for depression more than stressed friendships or family relationships.
From physical preference, to conflict resolution, to depression, these research articles give us a glimpse of what shapes our romantic choices. For more PLOS ONE articles on the topic of love, visit our website
Laeng B, Vermeer O, Sulutvedt U (2013) Is Beauty in the Face of the Beholder? PLoS ONE 8(7): e68395. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0068395
Ha T, Overbeek G, Lichtwarck-Aschoff A, Engels RCME (2013) Do Conflict Resolution and Recovery Predict the Survival of Adolescents’ Romantic Relationships? PLoS ONE 8(4): e61871. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0061871
Teo AR, Choi H, Valenstein M (2013) Social Relationships and Depression: Ten-Year Follow-Up from a Nationally Representative Study. PLoS ONE 8(4): e62396. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0062396
Image: Lovers embracing on the beach at sundown / sunset on Morro Strand State Beach by Mike Baird
One of the easiest ways to find relief from scorching summer heat is a quick dip in the water. Whether tiger, hippo, or seal, many animals also turn to the water to find relief. However, unlike their adult counterparts, newborn Cape fur seals can’t swim, and intense sun exposure poses a threat of overheating. Luckily, according to a recent PLOS ONE study, these seal pups may have built-in air conditioners, in the form of a furry natal coat, to keep them cool until they learn to stay afloat.
Cape fur seals live in the sunny climes of southern Africa, ranging from the north coast of Namibia, south to the Cape of Good Hope and northeast to Alogoa Bay. Temperatures in these regions can soar above 80° F, and adult seals rely on frequent swims to escape the sun. An adult spends half its life in the water, but pups are unable to swim until they’re at least 6 weeks old. At this age, coarse water repellent (read: swim-friendly) coats finally grow in to replace their “baby” fur.
Besides making fur seals extra cute and cuddly looking, fur coats may insulate seals from the harsh sun exposure that they are unable to escape from on land. To gain a better understanding of these unique insulating properties, researchers measured temperature daily in several spots on the baby seals, under varying environmental conditions: on the fur surface, within the fur, on the skin and in the rectum. They found that on the warmest days, at an ambient air temperature around 80° F, the pups’ fur measured a whopping 175° F on the surface; thankfully, this temperature dropped as they measured fur closer to the skin. Within fur, the temperature was a slightly cooler 146° F, and the skin temperature was a more-normal 99.86° F. Internal body temperature remained relatively constant at 98.4° F, indicating that the temperature drastically changed within the fur layer to keep bodies cool. If the seal pups got wet, however, the fur temperature reached 100° F and skin 84° F, showing a reduced ability of fur to insulate when wet. These results support the idea that the furry coat may be an adaptation that provides insulation against overheating during their first six weeks on land.
If you’re interested in reading more about how other animals keep cool, check out this post about African and Asian elephants.
Erdsack N, Dehnhardt G, Hanke W (2013) Coping with Heat: Function of The Natal Coat of Cape Fur Seal (Arctocephalus Pusillus Pusillus) Pups in Maintaining Core Body Temperature. PLoS ONE 8(8): e72081. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0072081
We are well into the summer months so discard those winter doldrums and get active! To help you get in the mood, we’ve assembled a variety of outdoorsy studies from around the world:
With the advent of digital cameras and camera phones, we have all become amateur photographers. Picturesque peaks and beautiful beaches can be captured with the press of a button, tagged, and shared with others instantly via social media. Researchers, like the ones in a recent PLOS ONE study, can now use this user-generated data—these geo-tagged photographs—to find striking vistas and examine how they correlate with environmental factors, such as soil carbon and farming. These researchers used photos of Cornwall, England, uploaded to Panaramio and plotted them on a map to see where users were taking pictures. Photographs that were clustered together indicated that the area was valued for its aesthetic or visual beauty. As you might think, most clusters were found in beaches and sparsely populated coastal towns. Their findings also suggest that agricultural areas were negatively correlated with aesthetic value.
When looking for your next vacation destination, find somewhere picturesque with clean water. In the US, researchers have studied the effect that water quality may have on recreational activities in the Puget Sound. To do so, they used data from the Washington State Parks to determine how many people entered, camped, or moored in the Puget Sound, starting from the late 1980s to the present day. They then plotted this against fluctuations in Enterococcus, a type of bacteria associated with urinary tract infections and meningitis, in the water. Their findings indicate that an increase of Enterococcus corresponded to a recorded decrease in visitation rates.
Feel like getting involved in the scientific process? You can spend your summer taking part in the citizen science movement and enjoy the great outdoors at the same time. Your contributions may help someone with their research! For example, take this recent PLOS ONE study that uses observational data collected by a Turkish ornithological society. The researchers took recorded sightings of 29 songbird species and combined it with climate data (rainfall and temperature) to develop a model predicting how songbirds may be affected by climate change. The model helped them predict the birds’ distribution in 2020, 2050, and 2080.
Fun can also be found closer to home. For those of you with little ones, there is research to indicate that children’s sedentary behavior can be reduced using a few simple methods. The researchers of this study suggest decreasing the amount of time parents watch TV on the weekend, and instead recommend participating in boys’ sports and encouraging girls to play outside. Their suggestions are based on data collected from participants’ accelerometers over the course of a year. Learn more about this study here.
Casalegno S, Inger R, DeSilvey C, Gaston KJ (2013) Spatial Covariance between Aesthetic Value & Other Ecosystem Services. PLoS ONE 8(6): e68437. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0068437
Kreitler J, Papenfus M, Byrd K, Labiosa W (2013) Interacting Coastal Based Ecosystem Services: Recreation and Water Quality in Puget Sound, WA. PLoS ONE 8(2): e56670. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0056670
Abolafya M, Onmu? O, ?ekercio?lu ÇH, Bilgin R (2013) Using Citizen Science Data to Model the Distributions of Common Songbirds of Turkey Under Different Global Climatic Change Scenarios. PLoS ONE 8(7): e68037. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0068037
Atkin AJ, Corder K, Ekelund U, Wijndaele K, Griffin SJ, et al. (2013) Determinants of Change in Children’s Sedentary Time. PLoS ONE 8(6): e67627. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0067627