Happy orangutans, vitamins from pollinators and ancient bug eyes in this week's news

Orangutans, too happy to die
Captive orangutans with positive outlooks swing into longer lives. Red apes rated by zookeepers as generally in a good mood, able to interact well with other animals and successful at achieving daily goals lived longer over a seven-year follow-up than those given low well-being ratings, say psychologist Alexander Weiss of the University of Edinburgh, Scotland, and his colleagues. The survival advantage for the happiest orangutans over the gloomiest was equivalent to individuals in the cheery group having been 11 years younger than their actual ages, the researchers conclude in an upcoming Biology Letters. —Bruce Bower

Pollinate those vitamins
More than 90 percent of the vitamin C in food comes from crops that depend on animals for pollination.  As worries have grown over faltering populations of bees and other pollinators, researchers have tallied the number of food crops or the volume of food dependent on animal assistance. Looking at the animal contribution to individual nutrients, though, offers a dramatic picture of what’s at stake, an international research team reports online June 22 in PLoS ONE. Bees and their colleagues supply humans with the majority of food sources of vitamin A, a large portion of folic acid plus virtually all lycopene and considerable amounts of other antioxidants. —Susan Milius

Ancient bug-eyed Australians
The most detailed fossil eyes yet found from the prolific Cambrian period of animal evolution suggest that creatures 515 million years ago had already developed compound optics similar to today’s insects’. The fossils of several detached eyes from Australia’s Emu Bay Shale probably came from some unknown arthropod, an international research team reports in the June 30 Nature.  Trilobite eyes from the same period had at best 100 elements or so. Other Cambrian fossils show either just the basics of size and shape, or the details of simpler organs. The newly described compound eyes had 3,000 or so large, individual lenses packed into an efficient hexagonal arrangement. —Susan Milius

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