What happens when the ocean’s biggest predators start hunting each other? Here are five Frontiers articles you won’t want to miss

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Orcas are hunting more big sharks than previously thought, potentially causing ecosystem shifts

Orcas are one of the ocean’s apex predators, meaning they sit directly on top of the food chain. They feed on fish, marine mammals, and sharks. Until recently, it was believed that the sharks hunted by orcas were smaller species.

Recently, however, recordings of three instances of orcas preying on large sharks in the Gulf of California have been described. Writing in Frontiers in Marine Science, scientists in the US and Mexico said that these three events recorded between 2022 and 2023 include a group of orcas patrolling shark aggregation sites and successfully hunting on bull sharks, a large species known for their aggressiveness.

These occurrences are the first known hunting events between orcas and large sharks in the area. While it could be that these interactions haven’t increased and modern technology is simply capturing more of them, the researchers said that in other regions, for example off South Africa, orcas hunting white sharks caused a shift in shark presence. Determining an ecological impact in the Gulf of California is not possible at this time.

Article link: https://www.frontiersin.org/journals/marine-science/articles/10.3389/fmars.2024.1407379/full

Swearing really can decrease perception of pain

Researchers have known for a long time that swearing can induce decreased sensitivity to pain, a phenomenon known as hypoalgesia. The mechanisms by which swearing influences pain, however, are not so well known.

Now, scientists in the UK and US have reviewed studies examining the hypoalgesic effects of swearing and examined possible underlying mechanisms. Writing in Frontiers in Psychology, they said that these mechanisms can be physiological (for example, through the activation of the fight-or-flight response which can modulate pain) or psychological (through humor or distraction). In addition, the researchers said that how often and long a person resorts to swearing can impact the hypoalgesic effects of swearing, and that habitual swearing can decrease its pain modulating effects.

The researchers, however, also pointed out that their review rests on controlled experiments in a laboratory setting. Future studies should focus on real life situations, diverse participant groups, and variations in swearing dosage, they said.

Article link: https://www.frontiersin.org/journals/psychology/articles/10.3389/fpsyg.2024.1416041/full

Residents of economically deprived neighborhoods more likely to seek treatment for asthma

Asthma, characterized by chronic inflammation of airways that makes it difficult to breathe normally, affects millions of people. Factors like age, gender, and lifestyle choices can influence asthma and how often people seek treatment for it.

Recently, researchers in the US investigated if an additional factor – where people live – also determines how often they seek emergency room (ER) treatment due to asthma. In the Frontiers in Allergy study, they analyzed more than 180,000 asthma-related ER visits in Maryland.

Their findings showed a significant association between neighborhood economic status and ER visits for asthma. People living in more economically deprived neighborhoods not only went to the ER for asthma treatment more often, but as economic deprivation of neighborhoods increased, residents increasingly sought treatment. This direct correlation likely has to do with higher air pollution in these areas. Their findings further highlight the relation of socioeconomic status and health outcomes, the researchers said.

Article link: https://www.frontiersin.org/journals/allergy/articles/10.3389/falgy.2024.1381184/full

Rehomed dogs exhibit lower long-term stress levels than dogs living with the same family since puppyhood

Rehoming is a stressful process for dogs and can impact their stress levels in the short and long term. To better understand how this might affect dogs, researchers in Sweden recently examined short- and long-term challenges that rehomed dogs face. They published their results in Frontiers in Animal Science.

The researchers found that between rehomed dogs, shelter dogs, and control dogs (those, who’d been with the same family since being picked up at the breeder), the first group showed the lowest long-term stress levels.

The owners of rehomed dogs also reported closer emotional bonds with their dogs than the owners of dogs in the control group. The former, however, had previous experience with rehomed dogs, suggesting a strong dedication to the well-being of rehomed animals. This nevertheless indicated that despite a stressful rehoming process, rehomed dogs can build strong relationships with their owners after adapting to their new life, the researchers said.

Article link: https://www.frontiersin.org/journals/animal-science/articles/10.3389/fanim.2024.1384155/full

Scientists use machine learning to forecast volcano eruptions with near perfect accuracy

Volcano eruptions severely impact the environment, but in an effort to minimize damage that can be avoided, successfully predicting them can help to bring people and animals into safety. For decades, monitoring and early warning systems have played an important role in eruption forecasting. Recently, machine learning (ML) tools have emerged as a potentially useful technology to further improve early warning.

In a recent Frontiers in Earth Science article, researchers in Spain demonstrated the potential of a ML tool to forecast eruptions. To do so, the researchers used data about four seismic features that usually change their trend shortly before an eruption. This allowed them to notice patterns in volcanic activity that could easily be missed by human observers.

Using this data, the model could predict eruptions within the next three days with 95% accuracy. The tool could also identify pre-eruptive states with outstanding accuracy. The tool can easily be implemented in real-time volcano observatories, according to the researchers.

Article link: https://www.frontiersin.org/journals/earth-science/articles/10.3389/feart.2024.1342468/full

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