Helium-sucking Chinese crocodile wins IG Nobel Prize

The parody IG Nobel Prize award is given each year to dubious, but real research that has been done by researchers around the world and this year’s winners include a bellowing crocodile and a survey that found many entomologists are arachniphobes.

The winner of the IG Nobel Prize for acoustic went to the scientific research team of Stephan Reber, Takeshi Nishimura, Judith Janisch, Mark Robertson, and Tecumseh Fitch. They induced a female Chinese crocodile with helium-enriched air and then had her bellow.

In this study, we sought evidence for formants in crocodilians by comparing bellows produced in air and in heliox by a female Chinese alligator (Alligator sinensis Fauvel 1879). As relatively small but highly vocal crocodilians, Chinese alligators are well suited for such experiments, the study authors wrote.

Journal of Experimental Biology.

The experiment was conducted by inducing the subject to bellow in an airproof chamber using playbacks of its own vocalizations. The alligator breathed either ambient air or heliox (88% helium, 12% oxygen).

Stephan Reber told the BBC that the examination was trying to find out if crocodilians and different reptiles may promote their physique measurement by way of their vocalisations – one thing that mammals and birds can do after they name out.

The resonances in your vocal tract sound decrease total when you’re bigger as a result of it is a bigger house wherein the air can vibrate. We did not know if reptiles truly had resonances. Frogs, amphibians, do not for instance. So we wanted a proof of idea that crocodilians even have resonances,” Prof Reber said.

Another purpose in trying to understand why crocodiles bellow the way they do is to have a better understanding of acoustic indication related to body size.

In the Journal of Experimental Biology, the researchers wrote that this understanding could lead to providing a better understanding of why dinosaurs went extinct.

We suggest that crocodilian vocalizations could thus provide an acoustic indication of body size via formants. Because birds and crocodilians share a common ancestor with all dinosaurs, a better understanding of their vocal production systems may also provide insight into the communication of extinct Archosaurians.

Journal of Experimental Biology

Another IG Nobel Prize winner went to retired arachnologist Richard Vetter from the University of California, Riverside who found proof that many entomologists are afraid of spiders. (Spiders aren’t bugs!)

Professor Vetter surveyed 41 entomologists, who admitted to having an irrational aversion to spiders

As one entomologist who participated in the survey put it:

I would rather pick up a handful of maggots than have to get close enough to a spider to kill it.”

Spiders are not insects. Insects have six legs and two antennae. Spiders have two sections of their bodies while insects have three.


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Peg Fong is also in recovery from newspapers

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