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No, Scientists Have Not Found a "New Organ"

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Illustration by James Peter Warbasse via Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

 
The human body is an amazing and expansive place, full of strange twists and turns. It’s likely we’ll never discover all its secrets, but we do have a pretty solid grasp on the major parts. So even though new research has convincingly made the case for reclassifying the mesentery—a folded membrane that connects your intestines to the wall of your abdominal cavity and keeps everything snugly in place—as a single, continuous organ, scientists have not, as some headlines proclaim, discovered a “brand-new organ.” In fact, we've known about the existence of the mesentery (pronounced MEH-zun-terry) for centuries; Leonardo da Vinci even included it in his anatomical notes.

The mesentery has historically been seen as a series of unimportant attachments to the abdominal lining. But researcher J. Calvin Coffey of the University Hospital Limerick in Ireland suspected that there might be more to it. He and his colleagues examined the membrane and surrounding tissue under a microscope in 2012. They found that, rather than a group of disconnected but similar pieces, the mesentery was actually all one piece. The researchers published their findings in The Lancet Gastroenterology & Hepatology.

 
Inspired by this realization, Coffey initiated a campaign to reclassify the mesentery as a separate organ. He believes that full organ status is the key to understanding what’s going on in our guts.

“Up to now there was no such field as mesenteric science,” he said in a statement. “Now we have established anatomy and the structure. The next step is the function. If you understand the function you can identify abnormal function, and then you have disease.”

His lobbying paid off; the latest edition of Gray's Anatomy categorizes the mesentery as an organ.

Coffey’s new paper, written with his colleague D. Peter O’Leary, makes a strong case for initiating the mesentery into the organ club. “The mesentery should be subjected to the same investigatory focus that is applied to other organs and systems,” they write.

“This is relevant universally,” Coffey added in the statement. “It affects all of us.”

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Animals
Why Do Female Spotted Hyenas Give Birth Through Their Pseudo-Penises?
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YouTube

At the zoo, you can sometimes tell the difference between male and female animals by noting their physical size, their behavior, and yes, their nether regions. Hyenas, however, flip the script: Not only are lady spotted hyenas bigger and meaner than their male counterparts, ruling the pack with an iron paw, they also sport what appear to be penises—shaft, scrotum, and all.

"Appear" is the key word here: These 7-inch-long phalluses don't produce sperm, so they're technically really long clitorises in disguise. But why do female hyenas have them? And do they actually have to (gulp) give birth through them? Wouldn't that hurt … a lot?

The short answers to these questions are, respectively, "We don't know," "Yes," and "OW." Longer answers can be found in this MinuteEarth video, which provides the full lowdown on hyena sex. Don't say we didn't warn you.

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science
Are Sex, Drugs, and Rock 'n' Roll Really Linked? Researchers Investigate
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Steve Wood/Express/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Around the world, sex, drugs, and rock 'n' roll are said to go hand-in-hand. But do they? As PsyPost reports, a pair of Pennsylvania psychologists recently dove into the empirical evidence tying the three together, asking college students to talk about their drug use, sex lives, and music preferences and talents to suss out whether people who play and enjoy rock music really do have more active sex lives and drug use.

Published in the journal Human Ethnology Bulletin, the study [PDF] of 467 students relied on self-reporting, which isn't typically the most reliable evidence—people are wont to exaggerate how often they've had sex, for instance—but the survey also asked them about their desires, posing questions like "If you could, how frequently would you have sex?" It also asked about how often the students drank and what drugs they had tried in their lifetimes. They also described their musical experience and what kind of music they listened to.

The results were mixed, but the researchers identified a relationship between liking faster, "harder" music and having more sex and doing more drugs. Acoustic indie rock aficionados weren't getting quite as wild as heavy metal fans. High-tempo-music lovers were more likely to have taken hallucinogenic drugs like LSD, for example, and tended to have had more sexual partners in the previous year than people who favored slower types of music. According to the study, previous research has found that attention-seeking people are more likely to enjoy "hard" music.

The study didn't have a diverse enough group either in age or in ethnicity to really begin to make sweeping generalizations about humans, especially since college students (the participants were between 18 and 25) tend to engage in more risky behaviors in general. But this could lay the groundwork for future research into the topic. Until then, it might be more accurate to change the phrase to "sex, drugs, and heavy metal."

[h/t PsyPost]

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