PLOS ONE News and Blog Roundup

This January, PLOS ONE papers caught the media’s eye for research on shark embryos, trustworthy brown eyes, acts of kindness, and more! Here are some of the month’s highlights from our Media Tracking Project:

Researchers studying the brown-banded bamboo shark, or Chiloscyllium punctatum, have discovered that the baby sharks of this species can detect potential predators from inside their egg cases. Once detected, these sharks go very still and stop moving their gills to escape the predator’s notice. According to the researchers, similar ability to detect bioelectric stimuli is used by adult sharks to sense prey. If you would like to know more about this study check out the BBC, Discovery News, and the New York Times.

What makes a face look trustworthy? According to new research, eye color and face shape play important roles in the perceived trustworthiness of one’s face. Among their results, the researchers found that study participants perceived faces with brown eyes as more trustworthy than faces with blue eyes. Additionally, faces with a broad chin and mouth, large eyes, and closer-set eyebrows were perceived as more trustworthy than narrower faces with smaller eyes and more widely spaced eyebrows. For more about the study, visit the Huffington Post, Wired, and Scientific American.

Brrr! January can be quite chilly, but spring is on its way – and it might be coming earlier than anticipated. In a recent study, researchers used the historical records of Henry David Thoreau and Aldo Leopold, a noted conservationist, to trace the history of spring flowering times in the eastern United States. Beginning with records from 1852 and ending in 2012, researchers found that plants are flowering earlier now than in the past as spring temperatures continue to rise. According to their findings, there is a linear relationship between rising spring temperatures and flowering times. The researchers posit that as the climate continues to change, this relationship may be tested. To learn more about this study, read National Geographic, MSNBC, and NPR.

Being a kid can be rough sometimes, but according to this research, acts of kindness may increase happiness and lead to greater social acceptance from peers. In the study, participants aged nine to twelve were asked to perform three acts of kindness each week for four weeks. Participants who performed acts of kindness, or what the authors called “pro-social activities”, were happier and were selected by their peers as someone with whom they would like to work with at school. Read more about this study at the Washington Post, Wired, and the BBC.

Citations:

RM, Hart NS, Collin SP (2013) Survival of the Stillest: Predator Avoidance in Shark Embryos. PLoS ONE 8(1): e52551. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0052551

Kleisner K, Priplatova L, Frost P, Flegr J (2013) Trustworthy-Looking Face Meets Brown Eyes. PLoS ONE 8(1): e53285. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0053285

Ellwood ER, Temple SA, Primack RB, Bradley NL, Davis CC (2013) Record-Breaking Early Flowering in the Eastern United States. PLoS ONE 8(1): e53788. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0053788

Layous K, Nelson SK, Oberle E, Schonert-Reichl KA, Lyubomirsky S (2012) Kindness Counts: Prompting Prosocial Behavior in Preadolescents Boosts Peer Acceptance and Well-Being. PLoS ONE 7(12): e51380. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0051380

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