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Luiz Eduardo via Wikimedia Commons // CC BY 2.0
Luiz Eduardo via Wikimedia Commons // CC BY 2.0

Stung by a Jelly? Get Yourself in Hot Water

Luiz Eduardo via Wikimedia Commons // CC BY 2.0
Luiz Eduardo via Wikimedia Commons // CC BY 2.0

Worried about shark attacks at the beach? Don’t be. Shark encounters are extremely rare, and growing rarer as shark populations decline. But while you likely don’t need to worry about sharks, jellies* might a legitimate cause for concern.

Every year, beachgoers report more than 150 million stings by jellies and other cnidarians, yet there’s still a lot of confusion about the best way to treat them. Two researchers from the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa reviewed all of the scientific literature on the subject and came up with one very clear recommendation: use heat. They published their findings in the open-access journal Toxins.

A sting, or envenomation, happens when a person or other animal brushes against a cnidarian’s nematocysts, or stinging cells, which fire tiny harpoons of venom into the hapless swimmer’s skin. Like bee stings, jelly envenomations can result in minor pain or discomfort, but they can also be fatal.

As venom experts and Hawaiians, authors Angel Yanagihara and Christie Wilcox were getting pretty fed up with the amount of bad jelly sting advice on the Internet.

"It’s not too strong to point out that in some cases, ignorance can cost lives," Yanagihara said in a press statement. "We conducted this study to rigorously assemble all the published data in hopes that policy makers will revisit this issue and carefully consider the available evidence. We are also engaged in new experimental work with models looking at vinegar effects, as well as well-designed randomized clinical trials.”

Yanagihara and Wilcox reviewed more than 2000 scientific studies on the use of heat or cold as treatment for jelly envenomation. They found a few studies supporting the use of cold water or ice packs, but most found that cold was ineffective on a sting or even made it worse.

They also found a few reports of people using wine, urine, manure, mustard, ammonia, alcohol, gasoline, or a whole fig. None of these treatments were effective. Only one remedy consistently reduced the pain and other symptoms of envenomation: heat, especially immersing the site of the sting in hot water. And not once did heat treatment make someone’s symptoms worse. Heat treatment is already accepted as the best treatment for stings with other marine venoms, yet somehow it hasn’t caught on for jelly stings.

“I was shocked that the science was so clear, given that there is so much debate over the use of hot water,” Wilcox said. “It’s simple, really: If you’re stung, use hot water or hot packs rather than ice or cold packs.”

And don’t pee on it.

*Scientists prefer the term “jellies” over “jellyfish,” since these invertebrates are not actually fish.

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Why Can Parrots Talk and Other Birds Can't?
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If you've ever seen a pirate movie (or had the privilege of listening to this avian-fronted metal band), you're aware that parrots have the gift of human-sounding gab. Their brains—not their beaks—might be behind the birds' ability to produce mock-human voices, the Sci Show's latest video explains below.

While parrots do have articulate tongues, they also appear to be hardwired to mimic other species, and to create new vocalizations. The only other birds that are capable of vocal learning are hummingbirds and songbirds. While examining the brains of these avians, researchers noted that their brains contain clusters of neurons, which they've dubbed song nuclei. Since other birds don't possess song nuclei, they think that these structures probably play a key role in vocal learning.

Parrots might be better at mimicry than hummingbirds and songbirds thanks to a variation in these neurons: a special shell layer that surrounds each one. Birds with larger shell regions appear to be better at imitating other creatures, although it's still unclear why.

Learn more about parrot speech below (after you're done jamming out to Hatebeak).

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Extinct Penguin Species Was the Size of an Adult Human
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A penguin that waddled across the ice 60 million years ago would have dwarfed the king and emperor penguins of today, according to the Associated Press. As indicated by fossils recently uncovered in New Zealand, the extinct species measured 5 feet 10 inches while swimming, surpassing the height of an average adult man.

The discovery, which the authors say is the most complete skeleton of a penguin this size to date, is laid out in a study recently published in Nature Communications. When standing on land, the penguin would have measured 5 feet 3 inches, still a foot taller than today’s largest penguins at their maximum height. Researchers estimated its weight to have been about 223 pounds.

Kumimanu biceae, a name that comes from Maori words for “monster" and "bird” and the name of one researcher's mother, last walked the Earth between 56 million and 60 million years ago. That puts it among the earliest ancient penguins, which began appearing shortly after large aquatic reptiles—along with the dinosaurs—went extinct, leaving room for flightless carnivorous birds to enter the sea.

The prehistoric penguin was a giant, even compared to other penguin species of the age, but it may not have been the biggest penguin to ever live. A few years ago, paleontologists discovered 40-million-year-old fossils they claimed belonged to a penguin that was 6 feet 5 inches long from beak to tail. But that estimate was based on just a couple bones, so its actual size may have varied.

[h/t AP]

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