June 23, 2024

I, Science

The science magazine of Imperial College

Dietary factors and diet-related deaths; four-legged whale fossil found; and can domestic cats recnogise their own name?

First up, A Global Burden of Disease study published this week found that in 2017, around 11 million deaths and 255 million disability-adjusted life-years, or DALYs, were attributable to dietary factors. The study evaluated 15 dietary risks and found that three of them, high intake of sodium, low intake of whole grains, and low intake of fruit, accounted for more than half of the diet-related deaths and two-thirds of the DALYs. Though data availability was inconsistent across countries, these findings corroborate past research on diet-related mortality and morbidity, and the authors believe they indicate that we should move from promoting dietary restrictions to the promotion of eating more healthy foods. 

Next, The fossil of a whale with four legs and a tail has been discovered off the coast of Peru. While not the first ancient amphibious whale, this 43-million-year-old specimen is the first found in the Southern hemisphere, indicating that these animals spread from South Asia, where they evolved 50 million years ago, to North Africa and then to the Americas in just ten million years. While the journey likely only took a week or two, it is remarkable that these early whales were already able to survive sleeping in the sea and without land for that time.

And finally, a group of scientists at the University of Tokyo claim to have discovered that domestic cats can indeed discriminate their own names from other words. In a series of experiments, the researchers found that cats’ ears prick up and their heads turn significantly more when hearing their own name compared to general nouns or other cats’ names. Interestingly, they also found that household cats were much better at discriminating their own name than those living communally in cat cafes. So there we have it, your own cat does know that you’re beckoning them over – whether or not they choose to respond, however, is another matter altogether. 

This week’s news was presented by Julia Langer and written by Julia Langer and Madeleine Openshaw. They are studying for a MSc in Science Communication at Imperial College London.

Banner image: Cats, Pixabay