The quirky sex lives of sea barnacles
National Geographic, January

Barnacles, the hard-shelled crustaceans often found clinging to rocks and ships, really know how to get around. Mostly hermaphroditic, barnacles are famous for their super-long genitalia — longest in the animal kingdom, relative to size — which can change shape and size to fertilize neighboring barnacles. For the times when accessing a potential mate is too difficult, most barnacles rely on self-fertilization to spread their seed. The exception to this behavior is the Pacific gooseneck barnacle. Never observed self-fertilizing, gooseneck barnacles confounded researchers who wondered how the animals reproduced when other barnacles were outside their “penis range,” according to National Geographic. Well, those curious scientists finally have an answer: spermcasting. That’s exactly what it sounds like: Gooseneck barnacles spray out “sticky sperm masses” that are picked up by other barnacles downstream. According to the article, this “seminal” discovery “overturns a century of beliefs about what barnacles can, or cannot, do.”

High Heels
The attractiveness of a woman’s gait
Pacific Standard, January

Many women say they wear cute but uncomfortable high heels because the shoes make them feel more attractive. A new study, reported on by Pacific Standard magazine, suggests the women may have a point, and it may be grounded in evolutionary imperatives.

In the study, a group of men and women viewed videos that showed outlines of women walking in heels and in flats, and were asked to rate how attractive they found the models. People in another group watched the same footage and were asked whether they thought the models (all women) were male or female.

Researchers found that the models in high heels received higher attractiveness scores and that women in flats were more often judged to be male. “It’s not the artificially increased height that turns heads,” Pacific Standard reported. “Rather, it’s how such footwear changes the mechanics of a woman’s gait.”

According to the magazine, by forcing women to take smaller steps and increasing the “feminine” rotation of the hips, high heels stimulate sexual arousal in men and increased attentiveness from other women, who might consider a high-heeled woman a competitor for male attention. “This can happen on either a conscious or an unconscious level, but this evidence suggests the dynamic is real, and transcends fashion fads,” the magazine says.

Maggie Fazeli Fard