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Uploaded:2017-04-07
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We knew that badgers weren't exactly picky about what they eat, but we were surprised by what happened when one came upon a rather large meal.

Special Thanks to Evan Buechley and the University of Utah.

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Sources:

https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2017-03/apa-csf032717.php
http://www.apa.org/pubs/journals/releases/hea-hea0000467.pdf
http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/pon.4059/abstract
https://unews.utah.edu/a-badger-can-bury-a-cow-by-itself/
http://scholarsarchive.byu.edu/wnan/vol77/iss1/13/
Hank: Admit it: if you have someone to make you chicken soup and give you tissues, having a cold is almost a little bit fun. Yeah you’re sick, but you don’t have to go to work and you can just sleep all day or watch Sherlock. If you’re on your own, though, you still have all the mucus and headaches, but no extra pampering. So being sick sucks.

A new study published in the journal Health Psychology has even found scientific evidence of this! It turns out, being lonely can actually make a cold feel worse. To kick off this experiment, 213 volunteers answered a bunch of questions to measure how lonely they felt and how strong their social networks were -- basically, how many connections they had with family, friends, coworkers, and everyone else they might interact with in a typical week.

Then, researchers used nasal drops to expose them to a strain of rhinovirus, the culprit behind the common cold. The participants stayed in quarantine for five days, where they reported their symptoms daily using a scoring system that’s standard for these kinds of studies. They rated how bad they felt on a scale of zero to four.

After the researchers statistically analyzed all the data, they found that loneliness and social ties didn’t seem to affect how likely someone was to get sick after squirting viruses up their nose. But feeling lonely was a strong predictor of how bad people’s self-reported cold symptoms were -- even after accounting for a whole bunch of things like age, sex, education level, income, marriage, body mass, and even the time of year.

The actual size of people’s social networks, measured by the survey they took, didn’t have this effect. Only how lonely they felt seemed to matter! In other words, your perception of loneliness can impact how crappy you feel during a cold, regardless of how many friends you actually have. So, the psychological toll of social isolation can have some serious physical effects.

Past studies have suggested that it can increase your risk of heart disease, for instance, and might even worsen the effects of breast cancer. And the researchers suggest that this is more evidence that doctors need to consider their patients’ emotional well-being, not just their vital signs, to really understand sickness.

Meanwhile, in Utah, some animals probably felt pretty great when tons of food appeared out of nowhere in their backyard. And the scientists that left the treats got a surprising new peek into American badger behavior, which they reported in a paper published this week.

Bird researchers from the University of Utah were hoping to learn more about vultures and other scavengers, so they set out seven baby cow carcasses in the mountains west of Salt Lake City. Animals would visit the tasty decomposing meat, and motion-activated cameras automatically snapped photos of them.

That way, the scientists could download the image files and see what kinds of scavengers turned up. At least, that was the plan. But when a student went back to check on the carcasses a week after they were set out, one had gone missing.

At first he was bummed because he thought a large predator dragged it away from the cameras, which wouldn’t be that great for the study. But then he noticed that the dirt was all dug up. And the photos from the camera trap revealed the real culprit -- a badger had dug a pit under the dead calf and then buried the entire thing over the course of five days.

That same badger spent weeks visiting the site, feasting on aged veal tartare. And a second badger partially buried another calf carcass nearby, so this wasn’t just one weirdly creative animal. It looked like it could be pretty normal badger behavior.

So when an American badger is hungry it will bury a whole dang cow We already knew that badgers like to cache, or bury, smaller food like rabbits. Caching keeps the meat cool so it stays fresh longer, and it keeps other hungry animals from finding it. But this is the first time anyone has observed badgers burying animals bigger than themselves, that they can’t like drag around!

In the tough environment of the Great Basin desert, this behavior could have a big ecological impact. Normally, a large carcass would be a feast for a whole range of scavengers, from vultures to coyotes. But if American badgers are hiding these hunks of meat and monopolizing them, like any good American, then that resource isn’t available to other animals.

And that’s a big deal in an ecosystem where food can be hard to come by. Not only that, but badgers could unintentionally be helping out ranchers by burying dead cattle. This would keep the carcasses from spreading disease or attracting predators that might attack other cows in a herd.

So while bigger is usually better when it comes to sample size in research papers, even two little badgers showed that there’s a lot we still have to learn about animal behavior, even right here in America.

If you’d like to learn more about human behavior, or more ways your mind can affect your body, then you should check out our new channel which we have, SciShow Psychology at youtube.com/scishowpsych. And don’t forget to go to youtube.com/scishow and subscribe for more of this!