Top Stories: Mathematical Monkeys, Complex Sex Switches, and the Male Libido

(Left to right): Nicolasboivin/iStockphoto/Thinkstock; UNSW Translational Neuroscience Facility; Andrew Syred/Science Source

Top Stories: Mathematical Monkeys, Complex Sex Switches, and the Male Libido

Y Chromosome Is More Than a Sex Switch

The male sex chromosome is often shrugged off as doing little more than determining the sex of a developing fetus—but it may actually impact human biology in a big way. Two studies have concluded that the Y chromosome, which shrank millions of years ago, retains the handful of genes that it does not by chance, but because they are key to our survival. The findings may also explain differences in disease susceptibility between men and women.

Panel Says U.S. Not Ready for Inevitable Arctic Oil Spill

As eagerness to explore the Arctic’s oil and gas resources grows, the threat of a major Arctic oil spill looms ever larger—and the United States has a lot of work to do to prepare for that inevitability, says a new report from the National Research Council. The report recommends beefing up forecasting systems for ocean and ice conditions, infrastructure for supply chains for people and equipment to respond, field research on the behavior of oil in the Arctic environment, and other strategies to prepare for a significant spill in the harsh conditions of the Arctic.

Implant Injects DNA Into Ear, Improves Hearing

Many people with profound hearing loss have been helped by devices called cochlear implants, but their hearing is still far from normal. Now, researchers have found a clever way of using these implants to deliver new genes right into the ear—a therapy that, in guinea pigs, dramatically improves hearing.

Pain No Deterrent for Male Libido

It takes a lot to deter a male from wanting sex. A new study has found that male mice keep trying to copulate even when they are in pain, whereas females engage in less sex. But when given drugs that target pleasure centers in the human brain, the females again became interested. The findings could shed light on the nature of libido across various animal species.

Does the Sky Have a Faulty Filter?

Just when scientists thought the ozone layer’s worst days were behind it, it turns out they may have been missing a big threat to its health. Soon-to-be-published findings suggest that a natural mechanism that filters air rising to the top of the sky may not work as well as previously thought. If subsequent studies confirm the findings, the faulty filter could also have big implications for global climate.

Monkeys Can Do Math

Researchers have shown that rhesus macaques can do basic arithmetic with numbers and symbols. The finding doesn’t just reveal a hidden talent—it also helps show how the values of numbers are encoded in the mammalian brain, including our own.

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