Studies say: don’t worry, be happy—when expecting

Our semi-regular roundup of findings from the world of academia

British Columbia: Cougars in Pacific Rim National Park on Vancouver Island have stunned researchers, who found the wildcats have been eating seals. Analysis of their scat showed their meals also included river otters and sea lions. Although they’re strong swimmers, there’s little chance the cougars braved the surf to go fishing: likely, they preyed on young or sick animals near the shoreline.

Alberta: Researchers at the University of Calgary have found that bad moods can spike cortisone levels in pregnant women, which in turn can affect fetal development, since cortisone plays an important role in the formation of children’s lungs and brains during gestation.

Ontario: The debate over spanking as punishment is never-ending. New research bolsters those seeking a ban: spanked children tend to become aggressive adults, and they’re more likely to use drugs and alcohol, according to a study co-authored by the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario. The study also found that spanking children can lead to depression and anxiety.

Quebec: Kids won’t ask for fast food if they don’t see it on TV, according to a study of Quebec households by UBC researchers. Junk food purchases were down 13 per cent in Quebec, which bans fast food commercials during children’s programming, the study found. Quebec, researchers noted, has Canada’s lowest childhood obesity rates.

Nunavut: Killer whales eat anything they can catch, according to Inuit hunters, who have dubbed them “wolves of the sea.” And with melting sea ice attracting more and more orcas to the Arctic, local hunters fear they’ll have to compete for food with the fearsome predators, according to new research by the University of Manitoba. The whales often tear into narwhal and “play soccer” with their parts, hunters report, and they’ve seen bowhead whales “rammed” to death by a group of much smaller killer whales.