Science Briefs: Giant rodents thrive on islands, physicians via Facebook, road noise can be harmful

Some wood mice off the coast of Wales have evolved to nearly twice the size of their counterparts on the European mainland.
Some wood mice off the coast of Wales have evolved to nearly twice the size of their counterparts on the European mainland. Rasbak via Wikimedia Commons

Duke biologists: Huge rodents more likely to evolve on islands

Duke University researchers have analyzed size data for rodents worldwide to distinguish the truly massive mice and giant gerbils from the regular-size rodents – and found that the furry animals with chisel-like teeth are 17 times more likely to evolve to nightmarish proportions on islands than elsewhere.

The study, by biologists Paul Durst and Louise Roth, appears online in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B. They analyzed data from more than 1,000 rodent populations representing more than 60 species across the globe. The data set included mice, rats, squirrels, hamsters and porcupines, ranging in size from the tiny 0.2-ounce harvest mouse to the nearly 50-pound North American beaver.

Calling Dr. Facebook! We need to talk briefly

If it were up to Internet-savvy Americans, more of them would be emailing or sending Facebook messages to their doctors to chat about their health. That's the result of a national survey at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health; the findings appear in the Journal of General Internal Medicine.

Surveys were sent to more than 4,500 customers of a retail pharmacy. The replies of the 2,252 respondents were included in the analysis. Respondents tended to be well-educated, in good health, and frequent users of Facebook.

The results show that the people who responded are very interested in using email and Facebook to communicate with their physicians, and to manage their health. In the six months prior to the survey, 37 percent of patients did, in fact, contact their doctors via email, and an additional 18 percent through Facebook.

Noisy road traffic may reduce life expectancy

Research led by the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine has found a link between long-term exposure to road traffic noise and deaths, as well as a greater risk of stroke, particularly in the elderly.

The results, published in the European Heart Journal, were based on data for 8.6 million people living in London between 2003 and 2010. Adults living in areas with the noisiest daytime traffic – more than 60dB – were 5 percent more likely to be admitted to a hospital for stroke compared with those who lived in quieter areas. Among the elderly, the likelihood rose to 9 percent. (According to, 60 decibels is comparable to the noise of an outdoor air-conditioning unit at 100 feet.)

The researchers say the deaths are most likely to be linked to heart or cardiovascular disease. They say this could be due to increased blood pressure, sleep problems and stress from the noise.