Love songs top charts, wandering minds prepare for the future and more in this week’s news

Evolutionary hit parade
A few hit songs are revolutionary, but most are evolutionary. Of the top 10 songs from three 2009 Billboard charts, more than 90 percent mention reproductive themes central to human evolution, say Dawn Hobbs and psychologist Gordon Gallup Jr. of the University at Albany in New York. Reproductive messages include references to courtship, sexual intercourse, promiscuity, rejection, reputation and fidelity, Hobbs and Gallup report online September 12 in Evolutionary Psychology. These themes also appear frequently in operatic and popular songs extending back 400 years, they find. People prefer reproductively oriented songs by virtue of the mind’s evolved interests in procreation, intimate relationships and status, the scientists propose. —Bruce Bower

Minds wander ahead
Minds regularly mosey back to the future as a way to plan for it. Volunteers interrupted and interviewed numerous times during tedious lab tasks frequently reported, during their temporary reprieves, spontaneously thinking about and planning ways to achieve personal goals, say psychology graduate student Benjamin Baird of the University of California, Santa Barbara, and his colleagues. Individuals best able to keep many pieces of information in mind at once were most apt to meander mentally into the future, the researchers report in an upcoming Consciousness and Cognition. Mind wandering often enables people to prepare for future challenges, they suggest. —Bruce Bower

Mussel-bound Neandertals
Shellfish cravings hit Neandertals deep in the Stone Age. Roughly 150,000 years ago, humanity’s close evolutionary cousins gathered mussels and other shellfish along the Mediterranean coast of what’s now southern Spain and consumed their haul at a nearby cave, an international team of archaeologists reports September 14 in PLoS ONE. Until now, evidence of Neandertal shellfish meals was dated to no earlier than 50,000 years ago. Since previous studies found that Homo sapiens gathered and ate shellfish in southern Africa 164,000 years ago, people and Neandertals must have adapted to coastal living at around the same time, the scientists conclude. —Bruce Bower

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