April 8, 2009

Meat for sex?

Posted: 11:51 AM ET

Have you ever treated a date to an expensive meal in the hope of "getting lucky" afterwards? A new study finds that this may actually work - if you're a chimpanzee.

Sagu, an adult male chimpanzee, holding a piece of meat from an animal he caught.

Scientists studying chimps in the Ivory Coast discovered that males give meat to females in exchange for mating access ­– a win-win exchange for both primates. And in this primitive style of wine-and-dine, it turns out the more meat you share, the more sex you get in return.

Researchers Cristina Gomes and Christophe Boesch from the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropoloy in Germany published their new findings in the journal PLoS ONE on Wednesday.

"Our results strongly suggest that wild chimpanzees exchange meat for sex, and do so on a long-term basis. Males who shared meat with females doubled their mating success, where as females, who had difficulty obtaining meat on their own, increased their caloric intake, without suffering the energetic costs and potential risk of injury related to hunting," said Gomes, lead author of the study.

Male chimpanzees also were more likely to share a piece of meat with random females who displayed signs of being sexually excited, although their mating "score" rate remained high with female chimps who weren't in heat - as long as the females got fed.

This study specifically looked at the long-term (22 months) effects of meat-sharing, which proved more fruitful for both sexes than short-term exchanges.

"These finding are bound to have an impact on our current knowledge about relationships between men and women; and similar studies will determine if the direct nutritional benefits that women receive from hunters in human hunter-gatherer societies could also be driving the relationship between reproductive success and good hunting skills," Gomes said.

For now, though, it's just "monkey business."

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February 20, 2009

Al Gore, stem cells, and the perfect kiss

Posted: 12:32 PM ET

[cnn-photo-caption image=

caption="Former Vice President Al Gore addresses the American Association for the Advancement of Science."]
From former Vice President Al Gore's speech to a slew of fascinating presentations, the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in Chicago, Illinois, was a whirlwind tour of innovative ideas. Here are some highlights of what we did:

-Saw Gore's presentation: Given that pop-culture conferences have concerts as their evening highlights, it makes sense that the AAAS would have America's climate-change rock star - who recently won a Grammy, no less - to get people on their feet. More than a thousand scientists, journalist, educators and students greeted Gore with a standing ovation as he took the stage.

In his speech, Gore identified a common thread between global warming, our national security and the world financial meltdown - our "absurd" dependence on carbon-based fuels. When you pull on the thread, he said, "then all three of these crises can begin to unravel.” The solution: shifting to an infrastructure based on fuels that are free, such as solar and wind power, and bolstering the science of clean and sustainable energy.

Gore seemed optimistic about Obama’s appointments to the Cabinet and the direction our country is taking to address the issue of climate change, which he called "a historic struggle." He emphasized the importance of us all working together as a species in order to prevent further threats to the entirety of human civilization.

Through a series of slides, which included the most recent scientific findings on climate change, Gore communicated his "inconvenient truth" to the audience while urging scientists to get more involved in their communities. He also called on scientists to get involved in politics, to speak out as “civic scientists” and to “find ways to communicate the truth." He concluded by saying, “Keep your day job, but start getting involved in this historic debate. We need you."

P.S. Gore uses an iPhone, too - he had to turn it off during the speech.

-Learned about stem cells: Bone marrow is one important source of adult stem cells, researchers say. And did you know that humans make 10 billion red blood cells every hour of every day? Dr. Will Li of the Angiogenesis Foundation talked about the potential of endothelial progenitor cells in the marrow for treatments of conditions such as diabetes.

-Got in touch with our emotions: People commonly feel better by writing their feelings down, and now scientists are beginning to understand why. Brain-imaging studies indicate that putting your feelings into words has the effect of regulating emotions, said Matthew Lieberman of the University of California, Los Angeles.

-Became kissing experts: Researchers presented their findings on the hormones involved in kissing, and the role of kissing in beginning (or ending) relationships. Full story

More from the conference: learn about a face transplant patient, think about foods of the future, and ponder Darwin's connection to Buddhism.

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