Flamingo buddies
James Flamingoes at Laguna Colorada, Bolivia 

Flamingo society: Flamingos have friends, enemies, and strong, long-lasting social networks. As published in Science Direct and reported in The Guardian, those big pink birds have complex social bonds and rivalries. Pick out any one flamingo in a colony, and you might be looking at a joker, a philanderer, or a friend. Flamingos, it turns out, have social systems to rival our own. In four species of flamigos, individuals had ongoing romantic partners, same-sex friendships (pictured), and even nemeses. These relationships were stable over time, differing from many other birds that form temporary bonds from year to year.

CO2-drove ancient climate change and extinction. A new study finds that an extinction that wiped out almost half of existing species 201 million years ago was triggered by the carbon dioxide released by volcanoes on what is now the Mid-Atlantic Ridge. The amount of carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere from these volcanic eruptions is comparable to the amount of CO2 expected to be produced by all human activity in the 21st century according to work by Don Baker and colleagues at McGill University. Baker estimated that the amount of carbon emissions released in those eruptions is likely equivalent to the total predicted to be produced by all human activity during the 21st century.

Neanderthals have been stringing us along: Contrary to popular belief, Neanderthals made the first glue, produced art, and now, the earliest-known string! French scientists discovered the first evidence of cord making, dating back more than 40,000 years from the prehistoric site of Abri du Maras in southern France: three bundles of twisted fibers, plied together to create one cord. The strands were made of cellulose, probably from coniferous trees. This discovery highlights unexpected cognitive abilities on the part of Neanderthals, who not only had a good understanding of the mathematics involved in winding the fibers, but also a thorough knowledge of tree growth. The study, led by B.L. Hardy, was published in Scientific Reports.

Rising CO2 may impair human thinking. As the 21st century progresses, rising atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) concentrations will cause urban and indoor levels of the gas to increase, and that may significantly reduce our basic decision-making ability and complex strategic thinking, according to a new University of Colorado Boulder study. By the end of the century, people could be exposed to indoor CO2 levels up to 1400 parts per million -- more than three times today's outdoor levels, and well beyond what humans have ever experienced.

"It's amazing how high CO2 levels get in enclosed spaces," said Kris Karnauskas, CIRES Fellow, associate professor at CU Boulder and lead author of the new study published today in the AGU journal GeoHealth. "It affects everybody -- from little kids packed into classrooms to scientists, business people and decision makers to regular folks in their houses and apartments."

In fact, at 1400 ppm, CO2 concentrations may cut our basic decision-making ability by 25 percent, and complex strategic thinking by around 50 percent, the authors found.

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