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Crushing bites, crushing politics, and the other “Twitter”

Extinct giant short-faced kangaroos had massive jaws and cheekbones, enabling a powerful bite that could have crushed tree branches, describes a new PLOS ONE study

But don’t let this scare you–the study authors compare this massive beast’s eating habits to that of our own modern giant panda, gentle giants who only crush bamboo.

Lead author Mitchell says: “The skull of the extinct kangaroo studied here differs from those of today’s kangaroos in many of the ways a giant panda’s skull differs from other bears. So, it seems that the strange skull of this kangaroo was, in a functional sense, less like a modern-day kangaroo’s and more like a giant panda’s.”

(And if that doesn’t soothe you, hopefully the friendly little grin on this reconstruction image will!)

The short-faced kangaroo, Simosthenurus occidentalis – an artistic reconstruction. © N. Tamura

Read more at CNN, the New Scientist, ABC News Australia, and Newsweek


In other potentially crushing news, check out the next two PLOS ONE studies: 

A new PLOS ONE study titled “Friends, relatives, sanity, and health: The costs of politics” describes the physical and emotional toll recent politics has had on US adults via a series of surveys run in 2017. Survey participants described emotional costs and lost friendships due to politics–and one in ten also noted that their physical health has been harmed by exposure to politics.

Take a closer look (and get some tips on how to stay informed while minimizing ill effects) on NPR, Newsweek, Fast Company, and Scribd.  

“White House” by Diego Cambiaso 

Another recent PLOS ONE article, “Stylistic variation on the Donald Trump Twitter account: A linguistic analysis of tweets posted between 2009 and 2018,” takes a look at how Trump’s rhetoric has changed over time, with special focus on how his presidential campaign used Twitter to propel him to the White House. 

Authors Clarke and Grieve add: “Regardless of one’s political persuasion or one’s opinion of Donald Trump, we believe it is of critical importance to understand the unique and ultimately effective communication strategy Trump and his team implemented on social media during the 2016 campaign”.

Read more in Scientific American.

And in much cuter news, it turns out  grey squirrels use their own version of “Twitter” by eavesdropping on birds to make sure their surroundings are safe, as described in new PLOS ONE study “Eavesdropping grey squirrels infer safety from bird chatter”. Apparently, hearing birds return to casual chatter after a predator’s call helps these squirrels relax post-threat.

The authors add: “We knew that squirrels eavesdropped on the alarm calls of some bird species, but we were excited to find that they also eavesdrop on non-alarm sounds that indicate the birds feel relatively safe. Perhaps in some circumstances, cues of safety could be as important as cues of danger.”

“Listening Grey Squirrel”: Illustration based on the photograph (Emma C. Lucore ) by Marie V. Lilly (2019)

Read more on the Guardian, the Independent, the Daily Mail, and NPR


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