Natural history of the present

Natural history of the present

articles 1 to 10 of 85

Sing your little heart out, Mr Superb Fairy Wren. And set your alarm clock early. David Cook/flickr

Early bird gets the sperm … to the egg

What gets you out of bed in the morning? Before morning has broken, and some time before blackbird has spoken, songbirds rise for sex. And a clever new experiment reveals just how important it is for male…
Never speak to survey monkeys! Derek Springer/flickr

The tragedy of the over-surveyed commons

By any metric, Garrett Hardin’s The Tragedy of the Commons article in Science, a copy of his address as 1968 president of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, rates among the most important…
“Spoiling for a Bar Fight” Jonathan Cohen/Flickr

Violence: Blaming the bloke but not the booze

Is alcohol-fuelled violence caused by the booze itself or by the macho culture in which the drinking occurs? If we are to believe a recent study commissioned by the alcohol company Lion, it’s the culture…
Two left hands form a heart-shape. Leon Brocard/ Flickr

Can science finger a philanderer? Not like this!

Are people naturally monogamous, polygamous or promiscuous? It’s one of those questions that most people feel quite confident in answering. Ask a few people and you’re likely to receive a variety of contradictory…
Statue of Genghis Khan at at Tsonjin Boldog near Ulaanbaatar. Enkhbold G/ Flickr

Male sexual despots rewrite history

“Heredity”, opined the pioneering cultural anthropologist Alfred L. Kroeber in 1915, “cannot be allowed to have acted any part in history”. I have yet to encounter a crisper expression of the view that…
A Red Cross burial team retrieves the body of a suspected victim of Ebola in Liberia. EPA/Ahmed Jallanzo

Elections in the time of Ebola

How will the Ebola crisis influence next week’s mid-term elections in the USA? One might expect that an epidemic limited almost entirely to West Africa should be way, way down on the list of factors likely…

Round 2: Ovulatory Cycles and Shifting Preferences

Settle in for a long read. Over the coming weeks you will be bombarded by shorter, snappier pieces about a controversy inflaming the front where evolutionary and social psychology meet. I’ve touched on…

Mutating Ebola viruses not as scary as evolving ones

My social media accounts today are cluttered with stories about “mutating” Ebola viruses. The usually excellent ScienceAlert, for example, rather breathlessly informs us “The Ebola virus is mutating faster…

Economic dependence promotes prudishness

Marriage, according to those who habitually preface the word with “traditional”, is a collaboration. With complementary roles, filled as predictably by one woman and one man as peanut butter fills the…