Better to burn out than to fade away: Australia is an evolutionary gold mine including these marsupials who drop dead after mating

Annie Roth of the New York Times writes kalutas live fast and die young — or, at least, the males do. Male kalutas, small mouselike marsupials found in the arid regions of Northwestern Australia, are semelparous, meaning that shortly after they mate, they drop dead.

This extreme reproductive strategy is rare in the animal kingdom. Only a few dozen species are known to reproduce in this fashion, and most of them are invertebrates. Kalutas are dasyurids, the only group of mammals known to contain semelparous species. Only around a fifth of the species in this group of carnivorous marsupials — which includes Tasmanian devils, quolls and pouched mice — are semelparous and, until recently, scientists were not sure if kalutas were among them.

Now there is no doubt that, for male kalutas, sex is suicide.

In a study, published in April in the Journal of Zoology, researchers from the University of Western Australia and the University of Queensland confirmed that kalutas exhibit what is known as obligate male semelparity.

“We found that males only mate during one highly synchronized breeding season and then they all die,” said Genevieve Hayes, a vertebrate ecologist and the lead author of the study.

Dr. Hayes and her colleagues monitored the breeding habits of a population of kalutas in Millstream Chichester National Park in Western Australia during the 2013 and 2014 breeding seasons. In both seasons, the researchers observed a complete die-off of males. Although male kalutas have exhibited semelparity in captivity, this was the first time it had been seen in the wild.

Kalutas evolved independently of other semelparous dasyurids, so the confirmation that male kalutas die after mating suggests that this unorthodox reproductive strategy has evolved not once, but twice in dasyurids.

“It’s really interesting that it would evolve twice in dasyurids because it’s such an extreme mating system,” Dr. Hayes said.


Watching flies: Sex may influence house fly transmission of pathogens

Salmonella Typhimurium is a pathogen that causes gastroenteritis in humans and can be harbored by house flies. Factors influencing excretion of S.Typhimurium from infected flies have not been elucidated but are essential for assessing transmission potential.

We determined the persistence and excretion of a green fluorescent protein (GFP) expressing strain of S. Typhimurium from house flies. Individual male and female flies were fed either sterile Luria-Bertani (LB) broth (controls) or cultures of “high” (~105colony forming units [CFU]) or “low” (~104 CFU) doses of bacteria (treatments). Bacterial persistence was determined over 16 h by culturing whole-fly homogenate. Both sex and dose affected persistence between 6 and 12 h post-ingestion.

In a separate experiment, fly excretion events were monitored during this time interval and excreta droplets were individually cultured for bacteria. Female flies had more excretion events than males across treatments. We observed interactions of fly sex and bacterial abundance (dose), both on the proportion of Salmonella-positive droplets and the CFU shed per droplet (CFU/droplet). In the low-dose treatment, males excreted a greater proportion of positive droplets than females. In the high-dose treatment, males excreted more CFU/droplet than females. High-dose male flies excreted more CFU/droplet than low-dose males, but low-dose females excreted more CFU/droplet than high-dose females. Irrespective of sex, low-dose flies excreted a greater dose-adjusted CFU (CFU droplet/CFU fed) than high-dose flies.

This study demonstrates that both bacterial abundance and fly sex may influence excretion of bacteria from flies, and should be considered when assessing the risk of house fly transmission of pathogens.

Effects of bacterial dose and fly sex on persistence and excretion of Salmonella enterica serovar Typhimurium from adult house flies

11 April 2018

Journal of Medial Entomology

Dana Nayduch Klara Zurek Jessica L Thomson Kathleen M Yeater

Everything you always wanted to know about sex (but were afraid to ask)

After a 10-year hiatus, I’m playing regular hockey again. And, to sharpen my goalie reflexes, I’m playing squash again (the two medical types I ran into today both asked, independently, what part of your body do you want to injure first?).  Better eyesight would help both.

850full-everything-you-always-wanted-to-know-about-sex-*-but-were-afraid-to-ask-screenshotBut what I really need is cardio, and I can’t imagine anything more boring than running. Bicycling is an occupational hazard in Brisbane, but I went for a ride today into town and back, because, driving in downtown Brisbane is just silly.

But I still need that cardio.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control has a better solution: sex.

The percentage of U.S. adults who met the 2008 federal physical activity guidelines for Americans increased from 15.1% in 2000 to 21.5% in 2014. Most of the increase occurred from 2006 to 2010 for men and from 2007 to 2011 for women. During all years, men were more likely than women to meet the physical activity guidelines. In 2014, 25.5% of men and 17.7% of women met the guidelines.

*Based on self-reports of frequency and duration of light-moderate and vigorous leisure-time aerobic physical activity and frequency of leisure-time strengthening activity at levels consistent with federal physical activity guidelines for adults (

†Estimates are based on household interviews of a sample of the non-institutionalized U.S. civilian population aged ≥18 years and are derived from the National Health Interview Survey sample adult component.

I love this exercise stuff.

QuickStats: Percentage of U.S. adults who met the 2008 federal physical activity guidelines for aerobic and strengthening activity,* by sex — National Health Interview Survey,† 2000–2014

Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report; May 13, 2016; 65(18);485


Identification of verocytotoxin-producing Escherichia coli O117:H7 in men who have sex with men, England, November 2013 to August 2014

Between November 2013 and August 2014, nine cases of verocytotoxin-producing Escherichia coli O117:H7 VT1 were confirmed in adult men. Further investigation using semi-structured interviews revealed that eight cases were United Kingdom (UK)-born men who have sex with men (MSM) who had sexually acquired men.holding.handsinfection in the UK. Most were HIV-positive with high numbers of sexual partners. This behavioral profile resembles that associated with the recent rapid increase in other sexually acquired infections in MSM.

Euro Surveill. 2014;19(43)

Simms I, Gilbart VL, Byrne L, Jenkins C, Adak GK, Hughes G, Crook PD

Woman with nut allergy has severe reaction after sex with man who ate nuts

In a new meaning for ‘peanut,’ a U.K. woman has, according to this story, which really needs to be verified, become the first person to suffer an allergic reaction to nuts triggered through having sex.

The boyfriend of the 20-year-old, who has not been named, had eaten a handful of Brazil nuts just before the couple’s passion took hold.

Having recently found out she was seriously allergic to the food, she asked him to take extreme precautions.

The man brushed his teeth, rinsed his mouth out, washed his hands and scrubbed under his fingernails, according to science-technology website io9.

But what happened next has alerted scientists to the fact that the nut proteins can get into the seminal fluid.

After the pair had sex, the lower part of the woman’s body swelled up and she became short of breath.

Doctors at St Helier hospital in Carshalton, Surrey assumed it was a severe allergic reaction to nuts, from kissing or skin-to-skin contact.

But after the pair explained their precautions, researchers doubted that the nut proteins ended up in sweat or saliva, because the allergic reaction would have started earlier, and would have been triggered in other couples.

It is the first recorded case of an allergic reaction to Brazil nuts through intercourse.

To be absolutely certain, doctors brought the man back in and took two semen samples – one before, and one four hours after eating Brazil nuts.

They then performed a test on the girl, where they give a small injection with a needle covered in semen underneath the skin.

This is a common way to test for particular allergies.

It appears that Brazil nut proteins resist digestion, which is why they generally end up in the immune system, triggering immune reactions.

They discovered the woman’s skin swelled up and his semen caused a reaction just three to four hours after eating the nuts.

But because the couple split up after the reaction, scientists were not able to carry out further tests.

Roast chicken for two: cooking and sex and safety

I make a decent roast chicken.

Michael Ruhlman has a recipe, roast chicken for two (when the kids are gone) that’s making the rounds on the Intertubes.

Step 1: Preheat your oven to 425?F or, if you have ventilation, 450?F, and use convection heat if it’s available.

Step 2: Wash and pat dry a 3- to 4-pound chicken. Truss it if you know how, or stuff 2 lemon halves in its cavity. Season it aggressively with kosher or sea salt (it should have a nice crust of salt). Put it in a skillet and slide it into the hot oven.

Step 3: Have sex with your partner. (This can require planning, occasionally some conniving. But as cooks tend to be resourceful and seductive by nature, most find that it’s not the most difficult part of the recipe.)

Step 4: Remove the chicken from the oven after it’s cooked for 1 hour, allow it to rest for 15 minutes, and serve.

Cooking, like sex, is good for your marriage.

Once the kids are regularly gone during the day, carve out two hours (more if you can swing it) to rendezvous at home. The home itself will be strangely, wonderfully peaceful. Neither you nor your partner will be exhausted; instead, you’ll still be fairly fresh and energetic—it’s time for lunch, after all.

I prefer lime over lemon, and stuff the bird with about 30 cloves of garlic and a generous helping of rosemary. Use a meat thermometer for safety (at least 165F).

What should have been the title for this blog post?

Does my food make you randy? Valentine’s edition

Dr. Ruth once famously said, “The most important sex organ lies between the ears.”

Yet people continue to look for a push, pharmaceutically through Viagra and numerous spam e-mail spin-offs, and, with Valentine’s Day approaching, through food.

Sarah Kershaw of the New York Times writes that certain foods with aphrodisiac status, like basil, rosemary, saffron, honey, grapes and pine nuts, were coveted for their great libidinal powers by ancient Greeks and Romans and medieval Europeans. Or, like foie gras, caviar, truffles and Champagne, they were exalted as romantic gifts because of their rarity and luxury.

Others, like figs, asparagus and cucumbers, have long been seen as erotic because of their resemblance to the male and female sex organs (we had asparagus, salmon and sweet potato for lunch yesterday; made Amy a sald with salmon, pine nuts, walnuts and strawberries for lunch today).

Foods with nutrients that could potentially enhance fertility and virility have drawn more interest from researchers, cooks and practitioners of alternative medicine in recent years. Among them is, again, the oyster, which contains zinc, linked to increased sperm production. (However, a zinc-deficient person would have to mow down enormous quantities of oysters before he noticed a difference.) Garlic contains an amino acid that enhances blood flow and could augment erections, according to Meryl S. Rosofsky, a doctor and adjunct professor in the department of nutrition, food studies and public health at New York University.

Rachel S. Herz, an expert in the psychology of smell, wrote in her book “The Scent of Desire” (William Morrow, 2007) that “Asians consider the smell of cheese to be hideous, yet westerners regard it as anything from comfort food to sumptuous indulgence.”

Researchers have uncovered strong links between scent, emotion and sexual attraction. Smell can induce emotion that then triggers neurochemical changes, Dr. Herz said. Of all the senses, she said, it is the only one that bypasses the conscious parts of the brain and goes directly to the limbic system, the region responsible for basic memory, motivation and emotion.

Smell evolved for finding both food and mates, and much research has found that body odor plays a powerful role in human attraction.

This is why I should shower more often.

The nostalgic recall triggered by odors, known as the Proustian Effect, has been embraced by some chefs who believe that eating should be a full-sensory experience, involving taste, smell and even sound.

Heston Blumenthal, of the Fat Duck in Bray, England, invites diners to write down childhood food recollections and uses those musings for inspiration for future dishes.

I’m sure the over 500 people who barfed from norovirus after dining at Blumenthal’s Fat Duck will want to recreate that, especially the sounds, at their next meal.

Leg of lamb from the cheap meat section at the supermarket tonight for dinner, with lots of rosemary. Maybe even some champagne.

But, as Kershaw notes, Shakespeare warned in Macbeth: Alcohol “provokes the desire, but it takes away the performance.”

Is sex in a bathroom in a restaurant a good public health idea?

A Toronto restaurant is inviting diners to inject some sizzle into their Valentine’s Day dinner by promoting sex in their bathrooms.

Chef/co-owner Donna Dooher of Mildred’s Temple Kitchen said,

"We’ve always had little trysts in our bathrooms. We’re taking it to the next level on Valentine’s weekend."

The Toronto Star reports that the restaurant’s four bathrooms light up outside when occupied. Staff have learned to watch the light flicker twice when two customers enter the same bathroom, usually a few minutes apart.

Jim Chan, manager of the food safety program at Toronto Public Health, said as long as there’s no sex in the kitchen and the restaurant keeps its washrooms clean and sanitized, it’s not fussed, adding,

"As far as bodily fluids, it’s pretty much similar to the other human functions going on in there.”

Pork, the other white meat, takes on new meaning: Argentina President says pork better than Viagra for boosting sex

In a move to apparently counteract the negative associations with swine flu, Argentine President Cristina Kirchner told a gathering of business people at a meeting at the presidential palace that eating pork is at least as effective as popping a Viagra pill to spice up your sex life, stating,

"Pork consumption improves sexual activity. This is not a small detail. Besides, some nicely grilled pork is much more gratifying than taking Viagra."

Kirchner said she ate some roasted pork over the weekend with her husband, former president Nestor Kirchner, at the couple’s retreat in Argentina’s bucolic southern Patagonia region, with "impressive" results.
"We were in high spirits the whole weekend," she said, smiling.

The head of the association of pork producers, Juan Uccelli, on Thursday said people in Denmark and Japan, where pork consumption is high, "have much more harmonious sexual lives than us Argentines have."